11 episodes

Dr Byron Smith and guests unearth neglected news stories about forces and trends shaping our world.

The Good Dirt with Byron Smith Byron Smith

    • Politics

Dr Byron Smith and guests unearth neglected news stories about forces and trends shaping our world.

    11. Brooke Prentis: political vs partisan, bushfire smoke, burning rainforests, humpback recovery, cashless welfare cards, civil liberties narrowing, persecution of Uyghurs

    11. Brooke Prentis: political vs partisan, bushfire smoke, burning rainforests, humpback recovery, cashless welfare cards, civil liberties narrowing, persecution of Uyghurs

    A conversation with Brooke Prentis, Waka Waka woman, Aboriginal Spokesperson for Common Grace, Coordinator of the Grasstree Gathering. Brooke is currently a Senior Fellow at Anglican Deaconness Ministries, Director of PEACEtalks here at Paddington Anglican, and in a delightful piece of news, Common Grace have recently announced that Brooke will be their next CEO, starting in February.
     
    Episode Outline
    I. What's the big idea?
    Byron chats with Brooke about the difference between being political vs being partisan, arguing that the former is inevitable but that the latter needn't be. Being political in this broad sense is a neutral term to do with the distribution and application of power in society. Being partisan means to take actions that are intended to benefit or advance the agenda of a particular organised political party. People's aversion to being partisan sometimes leads them to seek to avoid being political, but this turns out to be impossible since even the attempt at neutrality is itself a political move, one that upholds the status quo in its various injustices.
    Byron and Brooke also consider some of the ways that the current Australian government has been deliberately trying to erode this distinction, trying to subsume everything within the framework of partisan conflict.
     
    II. What's going on?
    1. Sydney set to keep wheezing through 'longest period' of bushfire air pollution on record - SBS
    Longing to Breathe - Byron's Advent reflection for Common Grace
    PM Scott Morrison Rejects Calls for More Assistance to Firefighters - SBS
    'I don't see a contradiction' - Albanese backs coal exports - The New Daily
    Note that the statistics quoted were accurate at the time of recording. At the time of publication, the area in NSW burned by bushfires has increased from 2.7m ha to over 5m ha, with more than double that also burned in other states. Sustained periods of hazardous air quality have also since been experienced in Melbourne, Canberra and many more regional areas.
    2. Gondwana burning: the ecological catastrophe hidden by the bushfires - ABC
    Revealed: Monumental NSW bushfires have burnt 20% of Blue Mountains World Heritage Area - Guardian Australia
    Bushfires in the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia - UNESCO
    Note that these statistics were accurate at time of recording. At time of publication, the fires have now burned an estimated 80% of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. As for the Gondwana Rainforests World Heritage Area, more than half of those forests, previously too wet to burn at all, have been damaged (perhaps permanently) by the fires.
     
    3. Humpback whale population on the rise after near miss with extinction - Science Daily
     
    4. Cashless welfare card could unfairly target thousands of Aboriginal people in the NT, Senate committee hears - ABC
    Cashless Welfare Card: Honest Government Ad - Juice Media
     
    5. Australia’s civil rights rating downgraded as report finds world becoming less free - Guardian Australia
    Australia’s democracy has been downgraded from ‘open’ to ‘narrowed’ - SBS
     
    6. 'Allow no escapes': leak exposes reality of China's vast prison camp network - The Guardian
    Apology to Australia's Indigenous People: PM Kevin Rudd - Parliament of Australia
    Bringing them Home: Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families: April 1997 - AHRC
     
     
    III. What do we do?
    i. Immediate: Consider air quality: NSW Air Quality Index.
    ii. Podcast recommendation: The Eucatastrophe by Joel Harrison and David Taylor.
    iii. Film recommendation: Top End Wedding.
    iv. More ambitious: #ChangeTheHeart prayer services, called by Aunty Jean Phillips with the help of Brooke Prentis and Common Grace. NB At the time of recording, these services were still some weeks ago. Apologies for the delay, meaning that the opportunity to participate in the

    • 1 hr 16 min
    10. Adam Wood: intergenerational injustice, bushfires and coal in NSW, electric vehicles in Australia, climate strike

    10. Adam Wood: intergenerational injustice, bushfires and coal in NSW, electric vehicles in Australia, climate strike

    A conversation with Adam Wood, a secondary school teacher at a large well-known private school in Sydney, teaching Legal and Christian Studies. Adam used to be a corporate lawyer, until he decided to use his powers for good. He is married to Emma and they have two small children. 
    Episode Outline
    I. What's the big idea?
    Byron chats with Adam Wood about intergenerational injustice, particularly as it relates to climate disruption. As a complex, global, cumulative crisis with a significant lag time between combustion and climate disruption, it is easy for each generation to enjoy the immediate benefits of burning fossil fuels while passing on to coming generations the full costs of that combustion. This creates a fundamental structural injustice by creating a gap between the beneficiaries of an activity and those who suffer from its consequences. How do we connect empathetically and ethically with those downstream from us, whose future suffering or flourishing is dependent upon our choices today?
    Byron reads from the epilogue to Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine (1990).
     
    II. What's going on?
    1. NSW laws proposed to prevent scope 3 being considered in mining approvals - National Resources Review
    Huge Bylong coal mine blocked due to long term environmental impacts - Renew Economy
     
    2. This is not normal: what's different about the NSW mega fires - SMH
    Ex-emergency chiefs sound climate alarm - Canberra Times
    Former fire chiefs warn Australia unprepared for escalating climate threat - The Guardian
     
    3. Australians worry about the environment but are wary of electric cars - SMH
     
    4. 'Climate Strike' named official word of the year - Independent
    7.6 million people demand action after week of climate strikes - 350.org
     
    III. What do we do?
    i. Immediate: Donate to help people fighting and affected by the bushfires. Also to support wildlife rescue.
    ii. Immediate: Consider committing to making your next (new) car purchase an EV. Use an online map to check what range you actually need in your regular life.
    iii. Book recommendation: The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann
    iv. More ambitious: identify a young person in your life and ask them how they feel about climate disruption, being emotionally available to really hear their answer.
     
    Credits
    Host - Byron Smith
    Producer - Simon Bunstead
    Sound - Byron Smith
    Music - Francis Preve

    • 1 hr 13 min
    9. Mick Pope: Anthropocene, 11,000 scientists, bad climate ancestors, profiting from destruction, and secondary boycotts

    9. Mick Pope: Anthropocene, 11,000 scientists, bad climate ancestors, profiting from destruction, and secondary boycotts

    A conversation with Dr Mick Pope, who has a PhD in Meteorology from Monash University and is completing a Masters in Theology at the University of Divinity. He is a lecturer in Meteorology at the Bureau of Meterology, Professor in Environmental Theology at Missional University, and a member of the Centre for Religion and Social Policy (RASP). Mick is the author of three books on climate and faith.
    A Climate of Hope: Church and Mission in a Warming World, co-authored with Claire Dawson
    A Climate of Justice: Loving your Neighbour in a Warming World
    All Things New: God’s plan to renew our world
    Byron and Mick are moderators of the Australian Christian Environmental Group on Facebook. Mick also has an author's page on Facebook.
     
    Episode Outline
    I. What's the big idea?
    Byron chats with Mick Pope about the Anthropocene, the proposed new geological epoch named after the most dominant force shaping the planet: anthropoi, i.e. us humans. They explore the history of the term and the debates over its extent, as well as whether it is the right term to describe the recent transformation of the planet's surface and ecosystems. Finally, they ask how this concept helps to illuminate the present moment and contextualise so many of the news stories we seek to understand and respond well to.
    Mick mentioned the following two books:
    Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World by Marcia Bjornerud
    The Human Planet: How we created the Anthropocene by Simon L. Lewis and Mark Maslin
     
    II. What's going on?
    1. Climate Crisis: 11,000 Scientists warn of 'untold suffering' - The Guardian
    Original paper: World Scientists' Warning of a Climate Emergency
     
    2. Bad ancestors: does the climate crisis violate the rights of those yet to be born? - The Guardian
    How Germany closed its coal industry without sacking a single miner - SMH
     
    3. Bank of England boss says global finance is funding 4C temperature rise - The Guardian
    Six Degrees videos - National Geographic
     
    4. Scott Morrison slams environmental groups 'targeting' businesses with 'selfish' secondary boycotts - ABC
    Scott Morrison's maiden speech to federal parliament (14th Feb 2008) - Hansard
    We need an apartheid-style boycott to save the planet - The Guardian
     
    III. What do we do?
    i. Immediate and simple: Join one or more of these - Frontline Action on Coal; Stop Adani; Market Forces; Extinction Rebellion; Common Grace; Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network; Lock the Gate, or various others.
    ii. Book recommendation: All Things New: God's plan to renew our world by Mick Pope
    iii. More ambitious: join one of the groups mentioned in (i) and get involved in their actions, activities or administration.
    Bonus recording: All Things New book launch - PEACEtalks event with Byron Smith, Hwvar Khoshnow, Kylie Beach and Mick Pope recorded at Paddington Anglican Church, 18th November 2017.
    Credits
    Host - Byron Smith
    Producer - Simon Bunstead
    Sound - Byron Smith
    Music - Francis Preve

    • 1 hr 10 min
    8. David Clough: humans and other animals, live export, Australia's extinction crisis, climate emergency, role of faith communities

    8. David Clough: humans and other animals, live export, Australia's extinction crisis, climate emergency, role of faith communities

    A conversation with Prof David Clough, Professor of Theological Ethics at the University of Chester and who has just finished a term as President of the Society for the Study of Christian Ethics. Prof Clough co-wrote Faith and Force: A Christian Debate about War (2007), debating just war and pacifism in a 21st century context, and has recently completed the landmark two-volume monograph On Animals (2012, 2018), on the place of animals in Christian theology and ethics. He is the founder of CreatureKind, a project aiming to engage Christians with farmed animal welfare, and Principal Investigator for a three-year UK Research Council funded project on the Christian Ethics of Farmed Animal Welfare in partnership with major UK churches and Compassion in World Farming. He is a Methodist lay preacher and has represented the Methodist Church on national ecumenical working groups on the ethics of warfare and climate change. 
     
    Episode Outline
    I. What's the big idea?
    Byron chats with David Clough about humans and other animals, exploring David's recently completed two-part text On Animals. For the last couple of months, Prof Clough has been on a book tour promoting this new work and sharing the ideas and arguments in it. The first part, published in 2012 is "a project in systematic theology: a rigorous engagement with the Christian tradition in relation to animals under the doctrinal headings of creation, reconciliation and redemption and in dialogue with the Bible and theological voices central to the tradition." The second part, which came out a few months ago, is a theological ethics, exploring the implications of such a theology in our contemporary context, where there exists an abyss between the beliefs about animals Christians are committed to and widespread contemporary practices, especially in the food industry. In it, Clough "surveys and assess the use humans make of other animals for food, for clothing, for labour, as research subjects, for sport and entertainment, as pets or companions, and human impacts on wild animals".
     
    II. What's going on?
    1. In first, Agriculture Ministry admits to cruel conditions on animal transports - Times of Israel
    2. Extinction Nation: Australia's biodiversity crisis - ABC Four Corners, Monday 24th June
    Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe
    3. The City of Sydney has officially declared a climate emergency - SBS
    Extinction Rebellion Australia
    Support for Extinction Rebellion soars after Easter protests - The Guardian
    Christian Ethics, Climate Emergency and Nonviolent Direct Action - Ethicists Without Borders
    Climate protesters storm Garzweiler coalmine in Germany - BBC
    Pope Francis declares 'climate emergency' and urges action - The Guardian
    Governments of Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Canada, France and the UK Parliament, along with dozens of cities and hundreds of local councils around the world, all declare a climate emergency - various sources
    4. 'No faith in coal': Religious leaders urge Scott Morrison to take climate action - The Guardian
    Full text of the open letter and list of signatories - ARRCC
    Laudato si': On Care for Our Common Home - Encyclical letter by Pope Francis
     
    III. What do we do?
    Immediate and simple: reduce animal products and source more ethical products. See Creaturekind for more information and resources.
    Book recommendation: On Animals: Volume I - Systematic Theology; On Animals: Volume II - Theological Ethics.
    More ambitious: DefaultVeg, changing the hospitality and catering practices of churches and other organisations.
    Bonus lecture: Eating More Peaceably: The Christian Ethics of Eating Animals - PEACEtalks lecture by Prof Clough, recorded at Paddington Anglican Church, 29th June 2019, immediately after this episode.
    Credits
    Host - Byron Smith
    Producer - Simon Bunstead
    Sound - Byron Smith
    Music - Francis Preve

    • 1 hr 1 min
    7. Jason John: identity protective cognition, existential risks, election analysis, Adani update, islander rights

    7. Jason John: identity protective cognition, existential risks, election analysis, Adani update, islander rights

    Rev Dr Jason John is a eco-theologian working for Uniting Earth. With a background studying zoology, environment and theology, Jason's PhD explored the interconnections between evolution, ecology, environmentalism and faith. He has been a university chaplain, an environmental officer, a researcher and a congregational minister. He has started a couple of ecofaith outdoor worship communities with the Uniting Church, has written three books, hosted a radio show that ran for over 100 episodes (Ecofaith on the Air), has a few talks on his YouTube channel and is an active part of Common Grace's Creation and Climate Justice team.
    He lives with his family on the edge of a forest near Bellingen on the NSW north coast.
     
    Episode Outline
    I. What's the big idea?
    Byron chats with Jason John about some of the tricks our brain plays on us when we get news we don't like, a phenomena psychologists call identity protective cognition. When we come across new information that threatens our sense of self or the narratives we use to orient ourselves in the world, we all have a defensive tendency or bias to somehow render that information toothless. Whether through ignoring it, reinterpreting it into a less threatening form or outright denying it, this identity protective cognition forms a series of patterns that appear whenever we stumble upon certain kinds of bad news.
    When it comes to the climate crisis, there are multiple ways that our planetary diagnosis undermines some of the common basic assumptions we make about ourselves and our society. So our identity protective cognition gets to work making sure we find excuses not to take this diagnosis too seriously.
    What can we do about this?
     
    II. What's going on?
    1. World Environment Day and existential climate risk
    "Happy" World Environment Day - by Jason John
    Existential climate-related security risk - by David Spratt & Ian Dunlop
    Human civilisation faces "existential risk" by 2050 according to new Australian climate change report - CBS
    Stronger air pollution standards needed to protect poorer Australians - ACF
    2. Of mice and misdirection: attributing responsibility in the recent election
    Full text of Byron's commentary.NB The discussion briefly references dozens of stories, which can be made available upon request, but would excessively clutter these notes to include them all.
    3. Adani Carmichael coal mine update
    Adani's numbers don't add up - Bloomberg
    Explaining Adani: Why would a billionaire persist with a mine that will probably lose money? - The Conversation
    4. National Reconciliation Week and taking Australia to the UN Human Rights Commission
    Common Grace's series for National Reconciliation Week, including Byron's post on stolen wages.
    Torres Strait Islanders ask UN to hold Australia to account on climate 'human rights abuses' - The Conversation
     
    Poem: The 'C' Word
     
    III. What do we do?
    Immediate and simple: Our Islands, Our Home - A petition for Torres Strait Islander justice case, discussed in the final story.
    Film recommendation: 2040. This new Australian documentary is currently sitting at 100% fresh on film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
    More ambitious: Read Common Grace's series for National Reconciliation Week and commit to taking some of the suggested actions.
     
    Credits
    Host - Byron Smith
    Producer - Simon Bunstead
    Sound - Byron Smith
    Music - Francis Preve

    • 1 hr 20 min
    6. Ben Thurley: the Overton window, Coalition budget priorities, climate policies compared, how change happens

    6. Ben Thurley: the Overton window, Coalition budget priorities, climate policies compared, how change happens

    Election special! With Ben Thurley. Ben is CEO of International Nepal Fellowship Australia. He has spent years working in Nepal with villages facing poverty, harsh and remote conditions in the Himalayas, and worsening climate impacts. He is also a keen and insightful observer of Australian politics and he joins Byron Smith for a discussion that remains timely ever after the election.This episode with Ben Thurley was recorded a month or so ago, when the government's budget was still merely a campaign document, but the discussion has become all the more relevant after the recent election result. Given the election context, this episode is more directly party political than usual as we discuss budgets and policies. But with a new government freshly elected, it is worth spending some time considering their priorities and in particular casting a critical eye over their climate policy.
     
    Episode Outline
    I. What's the big idea?
    The Overton Window is a concept in political theory that names the space (or window) of acceptable thought when it comes to a given issue or area. There can be competing ideas within the window, but any ideas falling further to either side out of it are deemed too radical or simply ludicrous. Crucially, that window is not fixed...
    Ben and Byron discuss the ways that we can identify this window, notice it moving and even contributing to pushing or pulling it in situations where what is necessary for justice falls outside it.
     
    II. What's going on?
     
    In the main part of this episode, we discuss first the Coalition's proposed budget - what it prioritises, what it omits, the message it is trying to send, the assumptions that drive it - and then explore the major parties' climate policies. Here are some relevant links.
    2019 Australian budget overview
    $185m of political theatre: the opening and closing of Christmas Island
    Ending Australia's Green Climate Fund contribution
    Climate Solutions Fund cut
    Why the claimed surplus is a mirage
    Those with high income are the biggest winners in this budget
    Foreign aid cut for sixth year in a row
    Are the Coalition good economic managers? (FB post by Byron)
     
    III. What do we do?
    Renew Economy - Australian energy and climate news and analysis
    Climate Code Red - Climate news and analysis
    Inside Climate News - International climate news
    Climate activist organisations:
    350.org Australia
    Extinction Rebellion Australia
    Front Line Action on Coal
    Australian Conservation Foundation
    Greenpeace Australia Pacific
    Australian Religious Response to Climate Change
    Common Grace: Climate and Creation Justice
    Book recommendation: Duncan Green, How Change Happens
     
    Credits
    Host - Byron Smith
    Producer - Simon Bunstead
    Sound - Byron Smith
    Music - Francis Preve
    PS We're still working on getting sound quality optimised. Once again an apology: this time Byron is a bit too soft. Next time Gadget...

    • 1 hr 34 min

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