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We are often urged by politicians to ‘Be
aler t , not alarmed’, in their effor ts to
alert us to some threat to our safety and
wellbeing and that of our countr y, usually
emanating from some foreign source.
The Catholic parishioners at St Joseph’s ,
Gloucester, could well pass the aler tness
test but probably fail miserably on not
This condition of ‘alarm’ in our group
relates less to the threats from foreign or
local terrorists, and more
to what has been occur ring
in our beautiful vale of
Gloucester; with the threat
to the wellbeing of ourselves
and our countr y posed by
inappropriate mining; both
coal seam gas (CSG) and
open-cut coal. This threat
is repeated again and again
across Australia, and in many
other parts of the world.
Should we in Gloucester be alone in
having feelings of disquiet and alar m?
Perhaps a reading of the Encyclical
Laudato Si, just released by Pope Francis,
might help us. Cer tainly his call, “ to ever y
person living on this planet”, could hardly
be more inclusive. We are all called to
the “Care of our common home”; the
world we all share, Mother Earth, “who
sustains us all [but who] – burdened
and laid waste, is among the most
abandoned and maltreated of our poor ”.
Clearly then, the Gloucester parishioner
group is inextricably linked with the
r est of humanity in its relationship and
interdependence with the natural world,
and has the same moral obligation to
nur ture and sustain the world God has
given us .
Pope Paul VI also warned of “ill-
considered exploitation of nature,
[where] humanity runs the risk of
destroying it, and becomes in turn, a
vic tim of this degradation”. We have,
then, not only an obligation to care for
and cherish the environment , but a ver y
pr ac tical need to maintain the systems
upon which we depend for our daily
bread. And Francis reminds us that the
poor will always be the first to feel the
effects of hard times.
Francis goes on to
XVI and Patriarch
as well as
Paul VI, which
a continuu m of
papal pleading for
a solution to the
present parlous and
deteriorating state of the
world environment brought
about by careless, wasteful and greedy
exploitation of its natural resou rces .
Caused in par t by denial of the problem
and indifference to its causes, this reality
is a problem to be solved not solely by
technology, but by a change in humanity.
For, as Francis says (and I believe), we
have been entrusted by God to care for
this wonder ful world.
What then does our Christianity mean,
if those of us who benefit financially
from this int rinsically destruc tive and
outmoded industrial model, turn our
backs on those who suffer the physical,
psychological, medical and financial
consequences of standing in the way
of the all-power ful mining juggernaut?
Examples of this can be found close to
AS WE KNOW IT?
the poor will
always be the first
to feel the effects
of hard times
home , where Hunter Valley communities
like Camber well and Bulga have felt the
full weight of the power of King Coal,
and large swathes of valuable agricultural
land have been reduced to a
Cer tainly, coal mining has been a
mainstay of Hunter employment over
a long period of time. Many a hard-
working miner has made a life for
himself and his family in the industr y
and many communities are dependent
upon coal at the present time. However,
the negative impac ts of widespread
mining, par ticularly in regions of great
agricultural value such as the Hunter and
where large areas have been
permanently scarred by open - cut mining
and threatened by CSG developments,
indicate that mining on such a scale is
not sustainable. Our food bowls cannot
sustain the present level of destruction.
Simply put, the ever- expanding mining
footprint cannot be matched by some
imaginar y never- ending supply of fresh
land to accommodate it.
What you see now is what we have
forever; there ain’t no more ! And when
our gover nments continue to approve
new mining development like the massive
Shenhua mine on the magnificent and
ir replaceable Liverpool Plains , the nature
and ex tent of the threat to the land, and
thus to each of us, is surely cause for
urgent change to our pr ac tices.
Is this then a question solely of mor ality
or is it also a question of practical self
interest in t reating our planet in a manner
that will sustain life for us all?
It is, I believe, quite simple : look after the
planet and it will look af ter you. Treat it
with contempt and it will respond in kind.
Pope Fr ancis has told us what he thinks,
will we listen ?
Greg Doepel is a parishioner of
St Joseph’s Parish, Gloucester.
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