Thursday, February 19, 2009

Prayer for Peace Tree and Ahmad-Shah Abed

If anyone still reads this, I ask you to be in prayer for our good friends at Peace Tree and their friend Ahmad-Shah Abed who was murdered in Perth earlier this week. Details are still a bit sketchy but the news services are carrying the story.

Articles are here, here and here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

they can't be serious

I wrote to a number of politicians and senior officials about Talisman Sabre 09, and got a reply today from the Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon...I noticed the paper is quite heavy gauge, and when I held it up to the light I noticed this watermark on the first page.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Opinion piece

So like I said I have a new role at Urban Seed, so I've been thinking about articles I could write.

The other morning I was on my way to work when I saw my neighbour, and we stopped and talked. I asked how she coped in the heat last week - three 44 degree days in a row - and she said not so well. Then she started to talk about global warming, and how she thought that might be the cause because we've never had heat like that before that she can remember (and she's been in that house for more than 50 years). And then she threw up her hands and said, "What can you do? Nothing." And I immediately thought "no! that's terrible! we can't think like that!" but then I thought "but what can I suggest that would be useful to an elderly lady?" and basically said something feeble about having to do something. And then on the way to work I remembered the Wendell Berry quote and the article was born. Enjoy.

Fostering a dangerous climate of addiction

MY OLDER Italian neighbour was lamenting the recent hot weather. "I think it might be climate change," she said, and threw up her hands despairingly. "What can we do?" She sighed. "Nothing really." I could sympathise, of course. Despair about the future of our planet is in no short supply. But I couldn't help feeling that despair is a luxury we cannot afford.

As Wendell Berry, the Kentuckian agrarian poet and essayist says of the climate crisis, "The great obstacle is simply this: the conviction that we cannot change because we are dependent on what is wrong. But that is the addict's excuse, and we know that it will not do."

The science is overwhelming. Greenhouse gases, caused largely by our insatiable appetite for cheap, abundant energy, are heating the planet, melting ice caps and altering the climate, and we are nearing the dangerous tipping point towards catastrophic runaway climate change. Yet we continue to rely on unsustainable fossil fuels and our water use ignores the reality of this dry continent.

If this is the reality, why do we continue living as we do?

I work for Urban Seed, a community that has made a home in the heart of the city of Melbourne for about 15 years. We offer a free lunch, and often share it with the city's most marginalised, many of whom struggle with long-term drug, alcohol and gambling addictions. Over the years we've learned a thing or two about addiction — how insidious it can be, how destructive of wellbeing. But most of all, we've learned that addiction is not confined to someone shooting up heroin in a back laneway.

Often the executive on Collins Street buying the latest technological wizardry to "keep up" or the person shopping for this season's designer handbag are equally addicted — though some addictions are more socially acceptable than others.

Often I would sit with Luke as he slumped, defeated, over his lunch.

His addiction to the pokies had seen him blow his entire pension cheque at the casino — again. He would speak of how he had told himself just the night before that this time he wouldn't do it. But the human capacity for self-delusion is immense. His denial of the odds led him to believe that this time it would all be different.

Such is our problem with climate change. We are addicted to the very things that accelerate global warming. We know the problems but remain in denial about what it is going to require of us to fix them. Like an addict who thinks they can control their addiction or stop any time they like, we cling to the train as it hurtles towards the abyss.

Addictions often develop because of a need to escape a reality that is too difficult to face. Whether it's a heroin user escaping childhood abuse or an insatiable society escaping the reality of a world of finite resources, the same dynamic is involved.

Rudd's recent "consume our way out of recession" policies are a perfect example. Despite the fact that we know our overconsumption is accelerating global warming, this Government, which was elected on taking "real action on climate change", is encouraging us to buy more, consume more. The desalination plant is another exercise in contradiction — the logic of replacing one problem (lack of water) with another more destructive one (pollution, massive energy consumption). Yet without the Earth there is no human life and no economy.

Perhaps what we need is a 12-step program to rid ourselves of our addiction to destructive habits. Our experience at Urban Seed is that addictions are not cured by government policy or one-size-fits-all solutions. They are cured by slow, costly, patient, local, personal work. So it will be with climate change.

We need prophetic communities of imagination who can lead us to an alternative future — one that does not deny the realities of the ecologies in which we live but co-operates with their processes and yields to their limits.

But as any addict knows, the first step is admitting you have a problem — first to ourselves and then to each other.

So let me begin with this: My name is Simon and I am an addict.

Reverend Simon Moyle is public engagement co-ordinator for Urban Seed.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Washed up at 31

So I've started a new role at Urban Seed doing public engagement and advocacy, and as I work on the ideas for a newly developed Seeds website I'm discovering that I'm about 3 years behind technology and social practice. And now I'm wondering if I can catch up.

Isn't 31 a little young to be too old?

He's really not the Messiah

"I guess when Obama says this stuff...I don't think he really means it. And that gives me hope."
Jason Jones.

Monday, February 02, 2009

More on the vigil and NCYC

Here's Shane Claiborne's take on what we did (sure he gets a few details wrong, but whatever).

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Vigil at BAe

Spent early January hanging out at the National Christian Youth Convention where they asked Jess and I to provide one of 32 practical activities for the young people to try (called 'Submersion Day'). It was a day of social action, so other groups planted trees, helped out in people's gardens, made slums on the steps of Parliament House, did flash mobbing for Stop the Traffik etc etc. We decided to stage a vigil outside the Melbourne offices of BAe Systems (formerly British Aerospace), the third largest weapons manufacturer in the world (after Lockheed Martin and Boeing).

We ended up with about 120 young people (!), most of whom had never so much as participated in a march or protest before. They were pretty apprehensive (that would be an understatement) but we offered a range of options for them to take up or they could do whatever they wanted so no one was forced to do something they weren't comfortable doing.

BAe helped us out by parking elsewhere for the day so we had the entire carpark to ourselves (they barricaded themselves inside with the shutters drawn...scary Christian peace people). So we spent about 3 1/2 hours there, starting with a liturgy (attached) then encouraging people
to do their own thing...we covered the carpark with chalked messages, made banners, some went over the road to the shopping centre and leafletted people, wrote letters to the PM, chalked the bike path behind the building, held silent vigils outside the door, staged a die-in, and then finished by marching around the building seven times to the sounds of chanting and a conch shell being blown by the Pacific Islanders. Highlights included people in the office building next door putting up a sign in their window saying, "Make Love Not War", a tourist from Queensland who was so inspired walking past that she stayed and vigilled with us for an hour, and an Islander elder who belted out the Beatitudes like I've never heard them before.

The joy and freedom was palpable - we were just gobsmacked by how the fear and apprehension of the day before gave way to excitement and exuberance (despite the three squad cars waiting for us outside the building). Going in I'd been concerned about tokenism and 'protest tourism' but I reckon all of that was blown away by the breaking down of barriers and the inspiration it provided for a really diverse and generally conservative crew. Jess used the parable of the sower to describe how it had affected people - probably some not at all, others it might take a while to sink in or bear fruit, and others who were just instantly changed and into it.

And having established relationships with BAe security, it might have good potential for a regular vigil, especially as they're building a huge new office/factory over the road from their current one (Victoria St Abbotsford).

Who's the clown up the tree?

Chalking the carpark

Speaks for itself

Finished the day with a big rally at Fed Square where all 1500 NCYCers (plus extras) gathered for music, etc. Here's a couple of our crew on stage belting out one of our chants.