AURORA - AUGUST

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Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle August 2021 | No.215

Care for our common home


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50 shades of green

On the cover

In a tradition dating back to 1940, the Australian Catholic Bishops release a social justice statement each year in time for Social Justice Sunday. The Social Justice Statement 2021-22: Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor, released just days ago, affirms that “we human beings need a change of heart, mind, and behaviour”.

Featured f Cry of the Earth, of the Poor

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f A partnership that pays-off

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f Delivered to Country

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f We need environmental laws that work

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f Steps towards sustainability

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f Is greenspace the answer to better grades?

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f How green can your city be?

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f Blooming benifits

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f Humanitarian goals

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f Bee the change

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f On behalf of environmentalists, I apologise for the climate scare

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f A change of heart

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f Of faith, flowers and fertiliser

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f Sowing the seeds for success

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f Tracking change overtime

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Regulars f First word

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f My word

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The Statement, which you can read more about in this edition of Aurora, provides theological foundations to ground and inspire efforts to care for Creation, while responding to the needs of the disadvantaged and excluded. The notion of caring for Creation can, for many, lead to a robust discussion around the changing climate. There is a saying that you should not speak about politics, religion or money in polite company, yet the environment, it would seem, intersects all three. This edition of Aurora has been a poignant reminder that while we may all care for the environment and each other, opinions about how we are best to achieve this can at times cause division. It is true; I often get overwhelmed by news of the ‘climate crisis.’ You see, thoughts of leaving my son with a depleted planet are alarming, but at the same time, I am aware that we live in a community that relies heavily on coal mining. And as the CEO of the Diocese, Sean Scanlon, recently pointed out, “These are decent, hardworking people with mortgages, mouths to feed and dreams for the future. So, a just transition away from coal sounds like a fancy way to

Contact Aurora Next deadline 10 August, 2021

f Frankly spoken

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f Alumni 18 f Care talk

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f Community noticeboard

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Aurora editorial and advertising enquiries should be addressed to: Elizabeth Snedden P 0404 005 036 E elizabeth.snedden@mn.catholic.org.au

FIRST WORD

Lizzie Snedden is Editor for Aurora.

say ‘unemployment’.” However, far from being a climate change denier, Sean has overseen the implementation of many sustainability outcomes across the Diocese. One of these initiatives is the development of Catherine McAuley Catholic College in Medowie, which was recently announced as one of the first schools in NSW to be energised by 100% accredited GreenPower. Sean has gone on to say that as humans, we cannot avoid our impact on the planet, but that we must continue to work out how to live here in a way that manages that impact sensibly. “Pope Francis is right that pointless consumption is not the answer, but we have to use technology and the ingenuity of our human brains to lift up our fellow citizens,” he said. In this edition you will also read a reflection from Michael Shellenberger, an environmental activist with more than three decades of experience. When it first came across my desk, I was confused. I thought to myself, ‘could it really be that a person who has spent their entire career on championing the environment is apologising for the alarmism in the community about the state of our planet?’. I called a friend, who also has 30 years in the environmental game, and he agreed with Shellenberger’s sentiments. My friend drew a correlation between reports of the “climate crisis” and the unbalanced attention that the media is giving the often, Editor: Lizzie Snedden Graphic Design: David Stedman Regular contributors: Liz Baker, Alex Foster, Brittany Gonzalez, Sarah James and Elle Tamata.

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ill-informed opinions of a few opposed to the COVID-19 vaccine. He explained that while some statistics are in their favour, the pros of the vaccine outweigh the cons. He affirmed that we need to listen to scientific experts rather than the hysteric cries of a minority, focusing on what good when can do when we work together rather than fear mongering. Like Sean, my friend is hopeful. “As a species, we have harm to the planet, no doubt, but we have made enormous progress. We have turned many things around for the better. We need to continue that progress – continue it in a way that reaches out to others and pulls them up with us,” Sean said. As someone with no science degree but one who keeps a watchful eye on the media, it can be hard to determine what to believe and how to act. Explaining this, my friend reminded me of the “Think globally, act locally” phrase, which reached immense popularity in the 1980s and 1990s. Many organisations took this phrase and turned it into a campaign that urged people to consider the entire planet's health and to act in their own communities and cities. I hope that as you read this edition of Aurora, you find yourself inspired to “think globally, and act locally.” We cannot ‘save’ the Earth on an individual level, but we can all certainly do our bit to care for Creation. The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle is located on traditional lands of Awabakal, Biripi Darkinjung, Kamilaroi, Wiradjuri, Wonnarua, and Worimi peoples. We honour the wisdom of and pay respect to, Elders past, present and emerging, and acknowledge the spiritual culture of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Australia. We have much to learn from this ancient culture.

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MY WORD

A U R O R A C AT H O L I C D I O C E S E O F M A I T L A N D - N E W C A S T L E

Grounded in appreciation I am pleased to have been asked to submit a column for this month's edition of Aurora. Ordinarily, this is a space reserved for the Bishop's reflections. However, the Bishop is currently taking time to recover from being unwell, so I have taken over the reins and in doing so, thank the many people who are thinking of him and holding him in prayer. With this month's Aurora focusing on the environment, I pondered when I first became aware of our natural environment. In my early years, growing up as part of a large family, my parents needed to self-produce as much of our basic foods as possible. We had goats, chickens, fruit trees and grew our own vegetables. Mum sewed from hand-me-downs, which we now call up cycling and, waste of any sort was never tolerated. At the time, compared to other children, I thought of us as being 'poor', and it certainly meant that all of us worked hard in the home and around the yard. However, we were a self-sufficient unit.

It was a real team effort to sustain the family unit, but it meant we were wellnourished, healthy and our home food was basic but delicious. At school, I first became aware in Year 5 when we learnt the poem by Joyce Kilmer, "Trees", which I can still recite: I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree. A tree whose hungry mouth is prest Against the earth's sweet flowing breast; A tree that looks at God all day, And lifts her leafy arms to pray; A tree that may in Summer wear A nest of robins in her hair; Upon whose bosom snow has lain; Who intimately lives with rain. Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree. I am sure many of your recall this poem and may have even learnt to sing it. Then while teaching, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, we became aware of our need to care for the environment and our ecological systems. I sense that this was

the real beginning of recognising our need to be responsible citizens and to care for our planet. Some of this came from the images of Earth, our home, from space. This certainly fitted with our understanding of the Creation stories in Genesis, especially in Chapter 1 in which we hear five times that Creation was good and then it was very good. We are being called to steward our earthly resources, to care for Creation and to look after our planet. But I must admit, we do not really know how to responsibly manage this because of the fast pace of change in so many aspects of our lives – economically, socially, technologically, spiritually, academically, philosophically, politically, anthropologically etc. he Social Justice Statement 2021-22: Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor, will invite us to once again reflect on Pope Francis' Encyclical Letter Laudato si' – On Care for our Common Home, which he wrote in 2015. This encyclical has had a profound impact, scientifically, religiously and politically.

In less than 100 days, world leaders will gather in Glasgow, at the United Nations COP26 climate conference. In addition, the Vatican has announced that scientists and religious leaders from around the world will come to Rome in early October for a Church-sponsored meeting on climate issues. The Vatican wishes to emphasise the importance of the approach of believers in the ecological debate and our need for conversion. The imperative is to care for our home and each other. There is evidence that our ecological systems are changing at a rate that is threatening life, as we know it, on our planet. We live in a fragile and precious place, and as people of faith, we are being called to live simply and to protect and look after our home. I look back and am grateful for my journey of appreciating the natural world.

Teresa Brierley Director Pastoral Ministries

Frankly Spoken We are faced with the moral imperative, and the practical urgency, to rethink many things: how we produce, how we consume, think about our culture of waste, the short-term vision, the exploitation of the poor, the indifference towards them, increasing inequalities and dependence on harmful energy sources.” Excerpt from Pope Francis’ video message, shared as part of the 2020 TED Countdown summit on climate change.


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Cry of the Earth, of the Poor DR SANDIE CORNISH

Right now, the Earth and the poor are calling out for help, and we cannot ignore this call. Whether it be bushfires across our country, flooding rains flowing into our towns and cities, rising sea levels pushing our neighbours from their lands, prolonged and extreme droughts destroying crops, stock and livelihoods, or the extinction of thousands of native animals, the call to listen to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor has never been louder. We are facing a global emergency. Here, and around the world, the most disadvantaged people and communities are feeling the effects of climate change the most. The Australian Council for Social Service explains people with fewer resources have less money, choice, power and social connections to cope, adapt or recover from the impacts that climate change is already having on their lives. We can change this, but we need to act urgently. In Australia, and internationally, we need a just transition to a sustainable economy that leaves no one behind. That is why this year the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference is focussing on the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor in their annual Social Justice Statement. They write, “We are being called to a new way of thinking, feeling, understanding, and living.”

The Statement calls on the Australian community to listen to the First Peoples of our land as the first teachers on how to care for country. In it the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council ask for “a seat at the table and an opportunity to communicate in our own language” in order to “participate more fully in discussions around the care for our country and to share our knowledge”. They have noticed “changes in our environment through the behaviours of certain animals and the changes in our landscapes”. Some changes are obvious “like the loss of our homes in the Torres Strait” while others are more subtle “like the changes in our seasons.” They declare they “want to help save our Earth”. The Statement also commits the Australian Catholic Church to join a worldwide effort to pursue a set of ecological goals – the Laudato si’ Goals – named after Pope Francis’ major document on caring for the earth as our common home. These goals are the destination of a seven-year journey undertaken as a historic global choice to create completely sustainable communities that protect all life and Creation. The goals are global signposts to be worked towards over time, putting integral ecology into practice. Actions speak louder than words, so the Bishop's conference is encouraging their own faith communities to put their

beliefs into practice in a very concrete way. Religious beliefs matter in an ecological crisis because they can either encourage or discourage exploitative attitudes towards the earth and unsustainable lifestyles. The Statement offers four faith foundations for care for creation: creation in and through the Trinity; the sacramentality of all created things; wonder and beauty; and the need for conversion and change of life. Some of these ideas will make sense to people of various faiths and those without faith. The wonder and awe that we experience at the beauty of this precious planet is a common human experience. It moves our hearts to care for our world, to want to protect it, and to pass it on to future generations. Being in nature can be a spiritual experience whether you are a believer or not. Many people see signs or sacraments, if you will, in the more-than-human world of animals, plants and elements – of the transcendent of a higher power. Or perhaps we feel a sense of connectedness with the web of being at certain times and places? And, of course, we know that things must change – that we must change. The Statement notes that an ecological

conversion means converting our hearts and actions to align “with the loving presence of God at the heart of all reality” and that “by calling us to a humbler, more sustainable way of living, our ecological conversion entails an economic conversion”. In fact, “whether planned and managed by governments or not, a transition away from a carbon-based economy is already underway” and “rather than delaying a commitment to sustainable energy sources, concern for the future of communities that have been reliant on extractive industries should be built into the transition”. Anyone who wants to join the journey to complete sustainability can make use of a global online platform that is currently being built. Known as the Laudato si’ Action Platform, it will provide a vast depository of action ideas and membership in a worldwide community of action. Check it out at laudatosiactionplatform.org Dr Sandie Cornish is the Director of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Office for Justice, Ecology and Peace.


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Ranger Sarah Barkley interviewing senior elder John Clark during. | Photo: Supplied by Aboriginal Carbon Foundation.

A partnership that pays-off JESSICA STONE

An increasing number of communities throughout Australia are set to reap the reward of a partnership that’s been struck between Caritas Australia and the Aboriginal Carbon Foundation. The Aboriginal Carbon Foundation’s vision is to catalyse life-changing, community prosperity through carbon farming. It achieves this by supporting the ethical trade of carbon credits between communities, large corporations and government organisations across Australia that are seeking to be carbon neutral. Over the past decade, growth in the carbon farming industry has seen a significant increase in carbon offset projects on offer. Through carbon farming, local communities carry out traditional fire and land management practices and earn an income by generating carbon credits. One of the most common forms of carbon farming projects across northern Australia is the savanna burning method. This approach uses traditional burning practices, early in the dry season, to reduce the severity of bushfires and the large-scale emission of greenhouse gases generated by severe fires. In 2019 the Aboriginal Carbon Foundation finalised a nationally accredited training

course to enable Aboriginal carbon farmers to manage and lead their own carbon projects. This training course was developed to respond to the knowledge and build on the skills of Aboriginal rangers and supports them to verify the environmental, social and cultural benefits of carbon farming for a community. Participants in the Foundation’s training courses have described dry burning as "cleaning the area, getting rid of the old stuff, so the new stuff can grow back, just like taking a broom and mop and sweeping the floor." As a result of the dry burning, more wildlife returns, new green shoots, and different breeds of plants regenerate the whole area. Chief Executive Officer of the Aboriginal Carbon Foundation, Rowan Foley explained the course enables Aboriginals to own the whole process, from the beginning to end, and generate income for their specialised expertise and knowledge of the land. "The communities we work with are very proud of the work they're doing in terms of looking after Country, but also knowing that it's a viable carbon economy," Mr Foley said.

One of the former participants in the program, Sarah Barkley, has seen the positive effects of the training course on her own life. Ms Barkley is a senior ranger with significant experience in land and sea management and education. She has deep knowledge of the land and describes it as "my fridge and freezer, we can live off of the land, and we've been doing that for years." Ms Barkley worked with the Foundation to formalise her cultural knowledge on dry burning to enable her community to generate an income through carbon farming. She also trained to become a certified verifier, which means that she travels to other communities to assess and verify their carbon farming projects, helping them generate an income. Through the training process, Ms Barkley's skills were strengthened, which led to her applying for and securing a senior role in her ranger team. In addition, she became a spokesperson on cultural burning, presenting at the Fire Forum in Darwin and joined an Australian Research Council project to be launched in Timor-Leste once overseas travel is possible again. Caritas Australia, which has been committed to tackling poverty and inequality in Australia and overseas for

more than half a century, joined forces with the Foundation to amplify their efforts in supporting communities to utilise their skills to generate income and revitalise cultural practices. Over the first year of funding with Caritas Australia, the Aboriginal Carbon Foundation hopes to reach an additional 100 people through increased training opportunities. Using a peer-to-peer strengths-based training approach, individuals will qualify to become verifiers and lead to opportunities for them to work with other carbon farming projects, just as Ms Burkley has. First Australians Program Manager for Caritas Australia, Stephanie Lalor, explained she respects the Aboriginal Carbon Foundation for taking a strengthsbased approach to addressing Indigenous disadvantage and the impacts of climate change. "It's all about working with what is already there and listening to people and their vision for their communities so that programs are sustainable and make a real difference," she said. Jessica Stone is the Media Coordinator for Caritas Australia.


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Emme Porter and Cristiano Multari suppport Rachel McPhail's campaign for traditional place names on address labels. | Photo: Peter Stoop

Delivered to Country LIZ BAKER

, To Rachael

or ter from e Emme P y a g n Moree dhi. rr y a t dhi and Yaama g et lg a W ari and I y, from Gamilaraa stiano Mult ri C is e m a y n Moree. Yamma m oi boy from er om G a am e ations wher ming the N a is a n t to a th ed il being ma We believe re a es g a pack te people letters and only educa ot n l il e w is . Th ill help mor great idea lture, it w and cu l on a in re ig d they a n la about Abor t a h w erstand e land. people und eoples of th p e th t ec to resp people do ay be that m es su ail is in ma on their m One of the of the Nati es d m n a a n s e th town not know ng a list of ay . By creati e towns m to m g so n s oi a g e is on y er ev l help Nations wil ons. e two nati g d le ow ackn s and estate ew streets n s t ce a n a th tr ve ie e and en We also bel e al languag m in ig co el or b W A a should use should have . nd suburbs of Country to towns a ledgement ow n ck A to or is erspective boriginal p A shows n d a n g a in es d is Inclu recogn it se u a om that ec b fr e people impor tant th d n a d over the lan re of it for respect to ve taken ca a h o h w Nation rs. 50,000 yea this. for voicing Thank you ari, stiano Mult ter and Cri f or if P e rd a m C m l, E choo Primary S St Kevin’s

During this year’s NAIDOC Week (4-11 July), Australia Post unveiled new parcel packaging that includes a dedicated space for the inclusion of traditional Aboriginal place names. The move was the result of more than a year of petitioning by Gomeroi woman, Rachael McPhail. Ms McPhail told ABC Radio, "For every town, for every place in this country, we have an original name, and it's important to use them as a celebration and to recognise the history and the connection of First People to country." She said the next step is to compile a comprehensive database of all traditional place names, so people can easily work out where to send their mail. The campaign launch and commentary during NAIDOC Week highlighted what a meaningful outcome this was for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. School captains from St Kevin’s Primary School Cardiff penned a letter to Ms McPhail and proudly included the traditional place name on the address label. Pope Francis’ Laudato si' reminds us, “It is essential to show special care for indigenous

communities and their cultural traditions. They are not merely one minority among others, but should be the principal dialogue partners, especially when large projects affecting their land are proposed. For them, land is not a commodity but rather a gift from God and from their ancestors who rest there, a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values. When they remain on their land, they themselves care for it best. Nevertheless, in various parts of the world, pressure is being put on them to abandon their homelands to make room for agricultural or mining projects which are undertaken without regard for the degradation of nature and culture.” Inclusion of traditional Aboriginal place names on mail is not a ‘tick-box’ or abstract concept. Like Pope Francis writes, this care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions indicates to all Australians that to care for land is to care for Aboriginal people and show respect for their harmony with Creation.


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We need environmental laws that work ANNE WALKER AND EMMA CAROLAN

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is understandable that the federal government desires to balance environmental protection with economic growth. Still, the crisis facing the natural world now arguably poses an even greater risk to the health, wellbeing, and prosperity of Australians. Therefore, our nation's policies and legislation must safeguard all Australians and future generations against an impending environmental catastrophe. Australia's Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) should be our fundamental legislative means of ensuring assessment and approval processes for all major projects protect, and manage threats to Australia's flora and fauna. The EPBC Act contains a statutory requirement to review the operation of the Act every ten years. Accordingly, in October 2019, the Minister for the Environment appointed Professor Graeme Samuel AC to conduct an independent review. Professor Samuel’s Final Report, released in October 2020, presents 38 recommendations. The Report states, "Australia's natural environment and iconic places are in an overall state of decline and are under increasing threat. The country is not on a trajectory to achieving the fundamental objective of the EPBC Act to protect the environment, conserve biodiversity and ensure that future

development is ecologically sustainable. Nor is the Act set up to do so." Professor Samuel's dire warning should have prompted the government to overhaul the Act as a matter of urgency. The proposed recommendations would lead to more robust and legally enforceable National Environmental Standards. These Standards would ensure protective mechanisms, such as climate change considerations, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engagement and participation, environmental monitoring, restoration, and off-sets. However, the reality is that the Minister for the Environment introduced the amended Bill to Parliament in August 2020, almost two months before the Final Report was complete. The Bill cherry-picks recommendations from the Final Report and includes a rehash of the current, insufficient National Environmental Standards. Although a 2021 Senate Inquiry into the Bill recommended that the re-hashed Standards be subject to review and only be interim, it left room for the interim Standards to remain in place if Parliament could not agree on a new set of Standards. The continuation of weak Standards will pose a significant risk to already threatened species and ecological communities. We cannot afford this. Under the current EPBC Act, 18 species

of Australian fauna have this year been confirmed as extinct. Furthermore, a recently published paper by 35 scientists found that 19 Australian-Antarctic ecosystems are at risk of collapse. Biodiversity provides functioning ecosystems; when these are threatened, so too is food production, safe drinking water, clean air and national security. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee is currently planning to classify the Great Barrier Reef as an endangered World Heritage site. The Laudato si’ Action Platform has been launched at this crucial juncture in Australian history. As many lament the lack of solid leadership from the government to halt and reverse the ecological crisis we face, paralysed by the seeming enormity of the task ahead, the Platform has the potential to reinvigorate the Australian Catholic Church and subsequently, lead to a much broader impact. Through the many sectors of the Church committing to ecological action from the ground up, we not only renew our own ecological approach but can become witnesses of hope for all Australians. Our actions will serve as a reminder that we are all "a single family dwelling in a common home" (LS, 17) and that hope prevails as "God continues to sow abundant seeds of goodness in our human family" (FT, 54). As a witness of this hope, Catholic Religious Australia recently took the

opportunity to respond to the 2021 Senate Inquiry into the Bill. In our submission, we urged the Government to seriously reconsider the proposed Bill. We called for stronger National Environmental Standards; greater Federal support of States and Territories to implement the Standards; and, the appointment of a genuinely independent National Environment Assurance Commissioner who has strong regulatory powers to enforce compliance. Fortunately, key Senate crossbenchers remain opposed to parts of the proposed Bill, and the Senate will continue to debate the legislation in the first week of August. The Australian Church must continue to speak up, sending an urgent message to our leaders to protect our natural environment. As we approach Social Justice Sunday on 29 August, we must heed the "cry of the Earth" and the "cry of the poor," taking seriously the Catholic Bishops' call to the whole church community to take up Pope Francis' invitation of a seven-year journey towards total ecological sustainability Anne Walker is the National Executive Director of Catholic Religious Australia Emma Carolan is the Justice Research Officer of Catholic Religious Australia This article originally appeared on IMPACT and has been republished with full permission.


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Catherine McAuley Catholic College Princial steps towards a sustainable furure with students and the Diocese's Sustainability Manager. | Photo: Peter Stoop

Steps towards sustainability LIZZIE SNEDDEN

As one of the largest organisations in the region, the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle is in a unique position to lead by example. No matter where you sit on the issue of climate change, one thing that is hard to argue with is the importance of care for the environment. Accordingly, the Diocese continues to demonstrate tangible commitment to sustainability practices. Its newest school, Catherine McAuley Catholic College in Medowie, is also one of the first schools in NSW to be powered by 100% accredited GreenPower. The college has also been designed to include advanced technologies, high-grade finishes, and environmentally conscious design elements, contributing to ongoing energy and cost efficiencies. The Chief Executive Officer of the Diocese, Sean Scanlon, explained the transition to renewable electricity at the school reduces

its carbon footprint and aligns with Pope Francis’s Laudato si’ message. “We looked very closely at the financial implications of green energy, as this is a key part of our sustainability journey," he said. "Ultimately, the Diocese was comfortable to proceed due to the reduction in carbon emissions that would result (approx. 400 tonnes over 12 months) and the strong message it sends to the parents and students of the College regarding its commitment to sustainable resources. The Catholic Diocese of MaitlandNewcastle viewed developing a purposebuilt college as an opportunity to create ecologically sustainable development outcomes, which links the site’s natural environment to students’ education. Catherine McAuley Catholic College is located on a greenfield site, selected due to its proximity to large-lot housing sub-

divisions that are home to many young families requiring access to education facilities. College buildings are situated on previously cleared sections of the site, leaving a buffer to the ecologically significant portions of land, while also providing the bushfire asset protection zones (APZ). Mr Scanlon said the College has been designed to inspire future generations to be stewards of the environment. “The site layout ensures clear sightlines from the buildings to the surrounding environment, with a vision to engage learners and educators in the local ecosystem.”

Their support is reflected in student enrolments at the College, which reached capacity months before its doors opened in January 2021. It’s a trend that has been mirrored in 2021, with enrolments for 2022 already at capacity for Years 7 & 8, and Year 9 only accepting a further 30 students. In fact, the College has received expressions of interest for enrolments up to 2029. The Diocese has responded to the strong community support for the development by fast-tracking the subsequent development stages.

The College’s surrounds include a koala habitat, wetlands, and endangered ecological communities. The Port Stephens community has enthusiastically embraced Catherine McAuley Catholic College.

Is greenspace the answer to better grades? Greenery around primary schools may boost academic performance in young children while exposure to traffic-related air pollution may be detrimental, a new Australian Catholic University (ACU) study revealed. Researchers at ACU’s Mary Mackillop Institute for Health Research mapped greenery and traffic exposure around 851 primary schools across Melbourne to examine how they were associated with average academic scores for children in Years 3 and 5. The study, published in the journal Environmental Research, looked at the average NAPLAN scores in reading, writing, spelling, grammar and

punctuation and numeracy for 2018. NAPLAN data already accounts for any between-school differences in socioeconomic factors such as parental education and occupation, making it possible to compare schools in different locations. Study lead Dr Alison Carver said the research found that school-level academic performance in reading, numeracy, grammar and punctuation was better on average for schools located in areas with more greenery, while poorer performance was associated with higher levels of trafficrelated air pollution surrounding schools. “Our findings show preliminary evidence

that greener environments with low traffic levels around primary schools may promote children’s academic performance,” Dr Carver said.

“There is a growing body of evidence supporting the importance of children’s environments to their health and development.”

The study compared the NAPLAN scores of similar socioeconomic-status schools and found higher scores in greener areas. For example, when comparing schools with the highest and lowest levels of green within 300m, it found statistically significant differences of an average 20 points in reading scores for Year 5.

“We know that greenery in urban areas can boost mental health amongst older adults and lead to better cognitive development in primary-aged schoolchildren however, there is still debate on whether greenery around schools can boost academic performance.”

Dr Carver said access to greenspace – which included parks, trees, shrubs and grass – was an important environmental exposure linked to children’s healthy development.


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How green can your city be? MENIOS CONSTANTINOU

In a small community on the outskirts of Freiburg – an eco-friendly city in southern Germany – people young and old can walk and cycle in the middle of the road without worrying about being hit by a motorist. Most streets in the neighbourhood of Vauban are completely car-free. This has made Vauban one of the world's greenest city districts, with better air quality, less noise pollution and more active residents. Professor Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, a professorial fellow at Australian Catholic University's (ACU) MacKillop Institute for Health Research, said it's an entirely different way of living. "Nowadays, for most people, it's very hard to imagine cities without cars," Professor Nieuwenhuijsen said. The lack of cars and street parking frees up space to add splashes of green to the urban landscape, cooling the surrounding area and increasing biodiversity. "There's a lot of sustainable housing, and there are community gardens and places where people gather and meet," Professor Nieuwenhuijsen said. "Most of the time, there's not a car in sight and it's quiet enough to hear the birds." In research that drew on nine longitudinal studies involving more than eight million people in seven countries, Professor Nieuwenhuijsen and his colleagues found living near green

space can boost longevity.

taken up by green space.

The study, published in The Lancet Planetary Health, is said to be the largest analysis of the relationship between green space and mortality. It found that for every 10 per cent increase in greenery within 500 metres of a person's home, their probability of early death dropped by four per cent.

Meanwhile, their neighbour, the Netherlands, has pioneered the woonerf, a "living street" where pedestrians and cyclists have legal priority over motorists and where shrubs and gardens often take the place of street parking.

"Over the last five or 10 years we've seen more evidence coming to the surface that shows the benefits of green space on people's health – that it reduces the risk of premature mortality, the risk of poor mental health and things like cardiovascular disease," Professor Nieuwenhuijsen said. Exactly why those with access to green space tend to live longer is not yet clear. But the research team does have a theory, simply looking at plants and trees helps lower the level of the stress hormone cortisol in the blood. "This seems to be an important mechanism because when we're around green space, we tend to relax," Professor Nieuwenhuijsen said. "That results in a significant amount of stress reduction and restoration, which we know has a whole range of health benefits." Cleaner, greener cities As well as the Vauban neighbourhood in Freiburg, Germany boasts some of the world's greenest urban areas, with almost 70 per cent of its largest cities

But there's more to a green city than plants and trees. Eco-friendly urban areas need a range of transport options that take cars off roads, resulting in better air quality and a more mobile population. This is where Australia's larger urban centres fall short, Professor Nieuwenhuijsen said. Our sprawling cities are way too car-focused, with not enough public and active transport. "When a city is built with a lot of infrastructure for cars, like parking and roads, that creates a range of problems like air pollution, noise and heat island effects, which are all associated with poor health outcomes," he said. The compact and walkable nature of some of Europe's greener city neighbourhoods gives them a clear advantage over our spread-out urban areas. Vauban, for example, has a population density of 136.5 people per hectare. Compare that to Melbourne, where just 3.1 per cent of residents live at a density of over 100 people per hectare. For better or worse, rising urban density is

still viewed with great suspicion amongst Australian city-dwellers, with talk of "shoeboxes" or "urban slums". "I think there is definitely a perception in Australia that compact and dense cities are all about people living in skyscrapers, and that's not what I'm talking about when I say 'compact'," Professor Nieuwenhuijsen saids. "I'm talking about buildings that are only five or six floors high, and they're built in a sustainable way, with lots of trees planted around them and in between, and communal gardens as well." Cities of the future The case for "urban greening" has been building for several decades, but it's only in recent years that the evidence has stacked up to support its links to better health. "Doing these large-scale studies and having the numbers to put on the table is quite powerful when you're speaking to planners in different levels of government," Professor Nieuwenhuijsen saids. "We didn't have that before, and if you're suddenly able to say, 'Hey, if you put green space here, you can prevent 100 premature deaths per year', people say, 'Wow, that's important, we must do that', and it's very hard for them to ignore." Menios Constantinou is a writer for the Australian Catholic University's IMPACT news website


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Calvary Cessnock Retirement Community resident, Marlene, with her sister Margaret. | Photo: Peter Stoop

Blooming benifits FRANCES HOLZ

Marlene strolls around the new garden at her home at Calvary Cessnock Retirement Community. Her younger sister Margaret is visiting, and arm in arm, they meander along the paths, around the recently planted lemon and lime trees, under an arbour and past the raised garden beds ready for planting and succulents growing in their vertical planter boxes. As they round a bend, they brush past lavender and scented pelargoniums, rosemary and thyme, the aromas wafting up and around. They pass a vine-covered wall and walk between water walls trickling raindrops that glisten as they catch the early winter sun. Friends for life, the sisters stop at the memory box wall to see items on display and chat and laugh at memories of this and that it conjured up. They cross a lawn to rest on a bench in the dappled light of a shady tree before taking a path back to the start, a large patio where morning tea is being served. The sensory garden has been designed with people living with dementia in mind. It is part of a recent $2.4 million refurbishment of Hebburn Lodge, one of

10 households at Calvary Cessnock and the latest in a rolling schedule of major works and upgrades as part of Calvary’s multi-million investment at its Cessnock residential aged care site. Most of the 22 residents have a room with a view of the garden spaces. Research has shown that physical and visual access to nature positively impacts everyone and particularly benefits people living with dementia. It can help people recover from illness quicker, helps reduce stress and lower blood pressure, and is a natural way to absorb vitamin D, an important ingredient for maintaining strong bones. Then there is the simple beauty of a garden or outdoor space and its capacity to help us relax and support our mental and emotional wellbeing. For people living with dementia, it can increase activity levels, maintain mobility and flexibility, encourage use of motor skills, provide stimulation and interest, and opportunities for increased social interaction. Dementia describes a collection of symptoms caused by disorders affecting the brain and is not one specific disease.

The condition affects thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks. Calvary’s National Executive Advisor for Aged Care, Luke Sams, said outdoor spaces and gardens like the one at Hebburn Lodge can play a big role in supporting and improving quality of life for people living with dementia. “We needed to work with the space that was already there but have extended the pathways and added plantings and fixtures that will stimulate residents’ senses of sight, sound, touch, smell and taste,” Mr Sams said. “For people with dementia, increased opportunities for casual socialising with other residents or staff or spending time with family and visitors are really important, as is increasing meaningful activity in their lives. “Having this sort of garden space also creates ready-made opportunities for our staff or families and visitors to tap into when providing support or care. It might be inviting a resident to take a stroll, or look at a flowering shrub, or changing colours, or to see what’s in the memory boxes. Or the person might want to help with everyday chores like racking leaves or planting.

All of these can prompt conversation, movement, engagement and, very importantly, memory and reminiscence.” Dementia Australia, which represents the 472,000 Australians living with dementia and the almost 1.6 million Australians involved in their care, says dementia is one of the fastest-growing conditions in Australia, with the incidence expected to rise steadily in coming years. Its figures suggest that the number of Australians living with dementia will increase to 590,000 by 2028. Without a medical breakthrough, that number could reach more than 1 million by 2058. Creating purposeful therapeutic spaces and gardens is likely to become even more important. You can find out more about dementia at www.dementia.org.au. Frances Holz is the Communications Lead for Calvary - Aged Care.


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Students attending St Pius X Primary School, Windale, are excited to be taking part in Catholic Mission’s Socktober campaign. | Photo: Peter Stoop.

Humanitarian goals DAVID McGOVERN

As a child growing up in Argentina, Pope Francis did what many other lads his age did when playing their favourite sport of soccer – they made do. A love for the round ball game sometimes means you have to settle for a ball that may not always stay entirely round. Even as the highest official in the Catholic Church today, Pope Francis shares the experience of playing soccer with a ball that is a far cry from those being kicked around on the pitches of Japan during the Olympic Games. Discarded clothes, such as socks and t-shirts, plastic bags, some tape – these are the elements that allow children to engage in a game of soccer, on dusty plains, unpaved streets or in makeshift school playgrounds. If necessity is the mother of invention, then a recycled soccer

ball is proof that children sometimes display a maternal touch themselves. As described in the first module of Catholic Mission’s Socktober resources, a recycled soccer ball is borne out of a need to be innovative and creative. Students attending Catholic schools across the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle will engage in Socktober later this year. When they do, they will be exposed to not just the challenges faced by their peers in other countries, but they will also be introduced to the creativity and problem-solving those children display when it comes to keeping themselves entertained and amused. The Socktober campaign is a way for schools to bring their students, parents and staff on a journey of solidarity, empathy and compassion. National Co-ordinator for Socktober, Matt

Poynting said, “When we create our own sock ball, made of recycled materials and bound together with string, we are joining millions of other children from other cultures, past and present, and forming a clearer comprehension of what it means to ‘have’ and ‘have not," he said. "The empathy that comes with this is what drives our desire to make a difference.” “No other sport in the world has such metaphorical power to represent the bonds we can form with our brothers and sisters with whom we may share little else in common,” Mr Poynting said. W-League soccer star Sarah Willacy is a Socktober Ambassador. “The soccer elements of the Socktober program offer a lot of fun for students, but it is the tangible lessons about the importance of serving those less fortunate that will stay with them through their life,” she said ,

Once the program kicks off in a school, students will be encouraged to kick goals for kids in need during a six-module journey of learning and formation, which is packed with activities and resources, including a popular penalty shootout activity held on a school’s mission day. As students kick their goals, they seek sponsorship from friends and family, with all funds raised supporting mission projects in Thailand. David McGovern is the Director of Mission for Catholic Mission in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. For more information about Socktober, visit socktober.org.au or contact the Catholic Mission office in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle on 0431 481 731.

World faces most significant increase in hunger in decades A report recently released by the United Nations shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the most significant increase in world hunger in decades. Global hunger increasing last year by an astonishing 18 per cent compared to the year before. The report estimates that 690 million people are undernourished or going hungry, and a staggering 2 billion people are unable to access enough food or adequate nutritious food year-round.

Chief Executive Officer of Caritas Australia, Kirsty Robertson, explained the pandemic's impact has been devastating on communities that were already living close to the edge.

crops, which means that not only do they not earn enough income for that season, but they can’t invest in seeds and fertilisers for next season.”

"We’ve seen how easy it is for food systems to fail – and the devastating longterm impacts for low and middle-income countries,” she said.

“When this happens to enough farmers, entire regions that were previously food secure are put at risk of food shortages and famine because nobody can afford to grow crops.”

“When farmers can’t get to market because of lockdowns, they can’t sell their

An alarming 418 million of those who were malnourished lived in Asia and were

impacted by problems with the supply of local produce in markets, which drove up food prices. Organisations such as Caritas Australia and Catholic Mission Australia work with local communities in Asia, Africa and the Pacific to support them to maintain food supplies and earn an income. To find out how you can help, visit their websites for more information.


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Children attending St Nicholas OOSH, New Lambton have been excited to take part in Cardiff Area Sustainable Neighbourhood Group’s Pollinator Project. | Photo: Peter Stoop

Bee the change ALEX FOSTER

The devastating bushfires of 2020 and extensive flooding of 2021 left Australian landscapes bruised, battered, and burned. Unfortunately, these events also caused the loss of hundreds of billions of natural plant pollinators like birds and insects. In response, the Cardiff Area Sustainable Neighbourhood Group (CASNG), that had formed a Pollinator Project in 2019, ramped up its efforts in asking community members to ‘spare a square.’ The square, they stated, could be in the form of a garden bed, pots, or a vertical garden and would be used to plant flora that would increase habitat for local pollinators. Using funds secured through the Lake Macquarie Community Environments Grants program, CASNG acquired hundreds of local bird and insectattracting plants to populate the nominated garden squares. Since the initiative launched, many residents have taken up the call to spare a square in support of urban pollination, as have community groups.

Among the conscientious green thumbs is St Nicholas OOSH New Lambton, a provider of before and after school care and vacation care operating out of St Therese’s Primary School. Steph, an educator at the service, said she is excited to be working alongside the children, families, and school community to create an environment that supports pollinators. “The idea that our service could contribute much-needed habitat, alongside other community members was very exciting,” she said. “We were able to do this with the help of St Therese’s Primary School, who provided a large space for planting, and CASNG who generously provided our service with over 40 plants.” In addition to the environmental improvements, Steph explains the Pollinator Project has benefits for children. She says the project has provided the children attending the OOSH service with an opportunity to further their hands-on learning about the significance of flora and

fauna and the active role that they can play in taking small, but essential, steps in caring for nature. “It is important children are connected with and contribute to their world. We encourage children to respect our environment and the animals with whom they share this space,” she said. “We are all custodians, regardless of age, and it is never too early or too late to take positive action. “By sparing a square, our children are learning about the importance of supporting our pollinators. “Our involvement in the Pollinator Project has been a great forum for the children to ask questions, further their knowledge about pollinators, and of course dig and plant in the earth.” CASNG’s environmental engineer, Jennifer Maverick, echoes St Nicholas’ enthusiasm for their involvement in the project. “All of us at CASNG are so happy to partner with St Nicholas OOSH New Lambton. They have shown such

great leadership and commitment to our environment.” To get in touch with CASNG about the Pollinator Project email pollination.org@outlook.com There are over 20,000 species of bee that exist globally and Australia is home to around 2,000 species of native bee. Native bees have co-evolved with our unique native flora over thousands of years. Some species of plant can only be pollinated by a particular species of bee. In the absence of pollination, the plant species cannot reproduce so if that bee species dies, so too will the plant. Bees are important to our livelihood as they help to pollinate most of the crops we eat and many that feed farm animals. Nearly two-thirds of Australia’s agricultural production benefits from bee pollination. Without bees, biodiversity is at risk. Source: Worldbeeday.org.au

War on waste comes up roses "We want everybody to work together to have a really good world to live in."

provider with a grant worth $2,561 to support its sustainability initiatives.

the centre's programs which promote the concept of sustainability.

These were the wise words shared by Muswellbrook Shire Council's Sustainability Officer, Mick Brady's, when he recently visited the township's ecologically designed St Nicholas Early Education centre.

Funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, the council's Community War on Waste (WoW) program aims to bolster community efforts to divert waste from landfills and reduce the amount of waste produced.

"We reduce our waste and care for our environment in a variety of ways, including a food waste education program, worm farm and composting system," Ms McKenzie said.

Mr Brady's visit to the centre was on the back of the council awarding the environmentally conscious childcare

St Nicholas Early Education's Muswellbrook Centre Director, Nicole McKenzie, said that the funds support

The environmentally focused concepts, she hopes, will be adopted by the entire St Nicholas community during their time in the centre and transferred into the homes of

children and staff as well. "The earlier we introduce and teach about being sustainable, the better the outcomes," she said.


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On behalf of environmentalists, I apologise for the climate scare MICHAEL SHELLENBERGER On behalf of environmentalists everywhere, I would like to formally apologise for the climate scare we created over the last 30 years. Climate change is happening. It’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem. I may seem like a strange person to be saying all of this. I have been a climate activist for 20 years and an environmentalist for 30. But as an energy expert asked by US Congress to provide objective expert testimony and invited by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to serve as expert reviewer of its next assessment report, I feel an obligation to apologise for how badly we environmentalists have misled the public. Here are some facts few people know: f Humans are not causing a “sixth mass extinction.” f The Amazon is not “the lungs of the world.” f Climate change is not making natural disasters worse. f Fires have declined 25 per cent around the world since 2003 f The amount of land we use for meat—humankind’s biggest use of land—has declined by an area nearly as large as Alaska. f The build-up of wood fuel and more houses near forests, not climate change, explain why there are more and more dangerous fires in Australia and California. f Carbon emissions are declining in most rich nations and have been declining in Britain, Germany, and France since the mid-1970s. f The Netherlands became rich, not poor, while adapting to life below sea level. f We produce 25 per cent more food than we need, and food surpluses will continue to rise as the world gets hotter. f Habitat loss and the direct killing of wild animals are bigger threats to species than climate change. f Wood fuel is far worse for people and wildlife than fossil fuels. f Preventing future pandemics requires more, not less, “industrial” agriculture. I know that the above facts will sound like “climate denialism” to many people. But that just shows the power of climate alarmism. In reality, the above facts come from the best-available scientific studies, including those conducted by or accepted by the IPCC, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and other leading scientific bodies. Some people will, when they read this, imagine that I’m some right-wing antienvironmentalist. I’m not. At 17, I lived in Nicaragua to show solidarity with the Sandinista socialist revolution. At 23, I raised money for Guatemalan women’s cooperatives. In my early 20s, I lived in the semi-Amazon researching with small farmers fighting land invasions. At 26, I helped expose poor conditions at Nike factories in Asia.

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I became an environmentalist at 16 when I threw a fundraiser for Rainforest Action Network. At 27, I helped save the last unprotected ancient redwoods in California. In my 30s, I advocated renewables and successfully helped persuade the Obama administration to invest $90 billion into them. Over the last few years, I helped save enough nuclear plants from being replaced by fossil fuels to prevent a sharp increase in emissions. But until last 2019, I mostly avoided speaking out against the climate scare. Partly that’s because I was embarrassed. After all, I am as guilty of alarmism as any other environmentalist. For years, I referred to climate change as an “existential” threat to human civilisation and called it a “crisis.” But mostly, I was scared. I remained quiet about the climate disinformation campaign because I was afraid of losing friends and funding. The few times I summoned the courage to defend climate science from those who misrepresent it, I suffered harsh consequences. And so, I mostly stood by and did next to nothing as my fellow environmentalists terrified the public.

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based on two decades of research and three decades of environmental activism. At 400 pages, with 100 of them endnotes, Apocalypse Never covers climate change, deforestation, plastic waste, species extinction, industrialisation, meat, nuclear energy, and renewables.

an end, have diminishing cultural power. The coronavirus pandemic is an actual crisis that puts the climate “crisis” into perspective. Even if you think we have overreacted, COVID-19 has killed millions* of people and shattered economies around the globe.

Some highlights from the book.

Scientific institutions, including the World Health Organisation and IPCC have undermined their credibility through the repeated politicisation of science. Their future existence and relevance depend on new leadership and serious reform. Facts still matter, and social media is allowing for a wider range of new and independent voices to outcompete alarmist environmental journalists at legacy publications.

f Factories and modern farming are the keys to human liberation and environmental progress. f The most important thing for saving the environment is producing more food, particularly meat, on less land. f The most important thing for reducing air pollution and carbon emissions is moving from wood to coal to petroleum to natural gas to uranium. f 100 per cent renewables would require increasing the land used for energy from today’s 0.5 per cent to 50 per cent f We should want cities, farms, and power plants to have higher, not lower, power densities.

I even stood by as people in the White House and many in the news media tried to destroy the reputation and career of an outstanding scientist, good man, and friend of mine, Roger Pielke, Jr., a lifelong progressive Democrat and environmentalist who testified in favour of carbon regulations. Why did they do that? Because his research proves natural disasters aren’t getting worse.

f Vegetarianism reduces one’s emissions by less than 4 per cent.

But then, in 2019, things spiralled out of control.

f Greenpeace dogmatism worsened forest fragmentation of the Amazon.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said “The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.” Britain’s most high-profile environmental group claimed “Climate Change Kills Children.”

f The colonialist approach to gorilla conservation in the Congo produced a backlash that may have resulted in the killing of 250 elephants.

The world’s most influential green journalist, Bill McKibben, called climate change the “greatest challenge humans have ever faced” and said it would “wipe out civilisations.” Mainstream journalists reported, repeatedly, that the Amazon was “the lungs of the world,” and that deforestation was like a nuclear bomb going off.

In the final three chapters of Apocalypse Never I expose the financial, political, and ideological motivations. Environmental groups have accepted hundreds of millions of dollars from fossil fuel interests. Groups motivated by antihumanist beliefs forced the World Bank to stop trying to end poverty and instead make poverty “sustainable.” And status anxiety, depression, and hostility to modern civilisation are behind much of the alarmism.

As a result, half of the people surveyed around the world in 2019 said they thought climate change would make humanity extinct. And in January of 2020, one out of five British children told pollsters they were having nightmares about climate change. Whether or not you have children, you must see how wrong this is. I admit I may be sensitive because I have a teenage daughter. After we talked about the science, she was reassured. But her friends are deeply misinformed and thus, understandably, frightened. I thus decided I had to speak out. I knew that writing a few articles wouldn’t be enough. I needed a book to properly lay out all of the evidence. And so my formal apology for our fearmongering comes in the form of my new book, Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All. It is

f Greenpeace didn’t save the whales; switching from whale oil to petroleum and palm oil did. f “Free-range” beef would require 20 times more land and produce 300 per cent more emissions.

Why were we all so misled?

Once you realise just how badly misinformed we have been, often by people with plainly unsavoury or unhealthy motivations, it is hard not to feel duped. Will Apocalypse Never make any difference? There are certainly reasons to doubt it.

Nations are reverting openly to selfinterest and away from Malthusianism and neoliberalism, which is good for nuclear and bad for renewables. The evidence is overwhelming that our high-energy civilisation is better for people and nature than the low-energy civilisation that climate alarmists would return us to. The invitations from IPCC and Congress are signs of a growing openness to new thinking about climate change and the environment. Another one has been to the response to my book from climate scientists, conservationists, and environmental scholars. “Apocalypse Never is an extremely important book,” writes Richard Rhodes, the Pulitzer-winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb. “This may be the most important book on the environment ever written,” says one of the fathers of modern climate science Tom Wigley. “We environmentalists condemn those with antithetical views of being ignorant of science and susceptible to confirmation bias,” wrote the former head of The Nature Conservancy, Steve McCormick. “But too often, we are guilty of the same. Shellenberger offers ‘tough love:’ a challenge to entrenched orthodoxies and rigid, self-defeating mindsets. Apocalypse Never serves up occasionally stinging, but always well-crafted, evidence-based points of view that will help develop the ‘mental muscle’ we need to envision and design not only a hopeful, but an attainable, future.” That is all I hoped for in writing it. If you’ve made it this far, I hope you’ll agree that it’s perhaps not as strange as it seems that a lifelong environmentalist, progressive, and climate activist felt the need to speak out against the alarmism. I further hope that you’ll accept my apology.

The news media have been making apocalyptic pronouncements about climate change since the late 1980s and do not seem disposed to stop. The ideology behind environmental alarmism— Malthusianism—has been repeatedly debunked for 200 years and yet is more powerful than ever.

Michael Shellenberger is a Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment,” and president of Environmental Progress, an independent research and policy organisation. He is the author of Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All. This article originally appeared on quilette.com on 30 June 2020 and has been republished with permission from Shellenberger.

But there are also reasons to believe that environmental alarmism will, if not come to

*Death toll updated to reflect the number of casualties up to 2021.


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A change of heart SARAH JAMES

"God gave us a garden. Are we going to give our children a desert?" Council for Mission co-chair, Lawrie Hallinan posed Pope Francis’ question as we sat down to discuss the launch of the Vatican’s Laudato si' Action Platform, a space for institutions, communities, and families to learn and grow together. There is certainly no shortage of examples which would cause you to answer his question in the affirmative. The City of Newcastle reports that Stockton Beach is slowly disappearing, losing 112,000 cubic metres of sand every year. Additionally, a study by the Journal of Rural Health found residents living in the Hunter Valley are being exposed to higher levels of air pollution than those in inner-city Sydney due to the ongoing effects of the coal mining industry. Globally, Madagascar is experiencing its worst drought in 40 years, which the UN World Food Programme has warned will push 400,000 people into famine. At the other extreme, nearly 200 people in Europe have lost their lives in unprecedented floods.

The degradation of our environment and the rise of poverty are inextricably linked. As our planet continues to be battered by worsening natural disasters and experiences the full brunt of climate change, the world's poorest citizens suffer the harshest of consequences. Livelihoods are increasingly becoming endangered, water and food sources depleted, and an ever-growing number of people are being dislocated from their homes. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI both called for an ecological conversion. However, it was not until Pope Francis' Laudato si' was published that the protection of all of God's creations was formally brought to the forefront of Catholic social teaching. Mr Hallinan said, "Pope Francis has brought all of the Vatican's previous statements on the environment together in a much more integrated way. I think because he comes from a developing country, he sees that the poor are the ones who suffer most when the environment is degraded."

"We're polluting; we're poisoning; we're robbing this place of nutrition," Mr Hallinan said.

"Pope Francis talks about needing an integral ecology where we see people and all of the environment as interconnected."

"I think what God is saying is, if you look at what has happened, you will appreciate that He had a different plan. So, we need to start healing the Earth."

Historically, the understanding of Creation was that God put humans in charge of all of Creation. Throughout Laudato si', Pope Francis challenges this point of view by

emphasising that we are interconnected and that we are brothers and sisters with Creation. Mr Hallinan notes other creatures have value, not simply because of their use to human beings, but in themselves. "It's about understanding each other and appreciating the perspective of the other, whether the other is a slug, seal or student in a school. If we take this seriously it has implications beyond the environment." "It also invites us to organise our social structures on the same principles of mutual respect, supporting a diversity of voices and expressions, and advancing each others welfare. "God is saying, ‘you need to convert, you've gone on a wrong track. If you really want to be with me in bringing about a better world, a world where you are closer to me, then you need to be working in harmony with the natural world’." The Laudato si' Action Platform, launched by Pope Francis in May 2021, is a unique collaboration between the Vatican, an international coalition of Catholic organisations. Taking a truly ground-up approach, it is rooted in the strengths and realities of communities around the world, empowering all to take “decisive action, here and now” as we journey towards a better future together. (LS 161)

Mr Hallinan believes that if the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle were to take part in the seven-year action plan, it would be nothing short of transformational. With the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor having never seemed louder, what can we do on a local level to help? According to Mr Hallinan, it all begins with changing our mindset. "The action platform is for the whole Church. Parishes, schools, welfare ministries, and families sign up for a sevenyear commitment to work at implementing Laudato si'. It isn't just about doing practical things – it is about a change of heart, and a change of mind as well." "The cry should not just be understood as 'I'm hurting – you need to stop hurting me'. The cry is also, 'I am your brother. I am your sister. You and I are of the same stuff' and have the same Creator." "We're not the boss of Creation. What we do impacts others. Once we take that to heart as a Church, it changes how we do everything."


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Of faith, flowers and fertiliser DAVID McGOVERN

Relocating from Brisbane to Barrington, to live on the same property as my parents, has offered many blessings. The move coincided with the increased incidence of working from home, so I have been surrounded by Mum and Dad's expansive gardens on the 2.5-hectare property they have called home for nearly two decades. As with the family of six that they raised over the past 54 years, these flower beds and native trees didn't take shape overnight. It has taken diligence, patience and a lot of love. To mark my late daughter's 21st birthday in May, I sought Mum's (Cath) advice on an array of plants to transfer into pots, to bring some life and colour to the front verandah of my new home. With spring just around the corner, I also sought some maternal advice on preparing garden/s for a season of new life. "The perfect spring garden needs to be prepared long before spring," Cath says. "Weeding and cutting back plants which might be frost-prone has to be done when the danger of frost has passed.

preparing her flower beds, lawn, and gardens beyond the colder days of winter.

f revitalising the soil with cow manure or other fertiliser; and

"For several weeks now, I have been renewing all my gardens by digging in a mixture of fresh soil and compost," Anne said.

f applying mulch, such as sugar cane, to gardens.

"I added some fertiliser, either blood and bone or pellets and topped it with mulch, usually sugarcane, ready for new growth and plantings.” Another focus for Anne has been on clipping old growth on shrubs to allow new shoots to thrive, planting seedlings that will flower in spring and dealing with unwanted weeds such as onion weed and oxalis. For those who like to grow roses, both Cath and Anne urge pruning in late July. "Roses need to be looked at, cut back and fed – they will flower sixty days after feeding," says Cath. One of her tips, borne from years of experience, is to try and prune and feed when you know you will be receiving some rain. Some other tips from Cath and Anne include:

"Then, walk around and prune your hedges, ready for the spring growth."

f pruning and re-potting flowers, such as geraniums;

Anne Fell, an avid gardener and fellow parishioner in my new Catholic community of St Joseph's, Gloucester, is also busy

f cleaning and sharpening rusty, blunt or neglected garden tools, to improve their efficiency;

Both women are adamant that praying for rain also must be part of the plan of any Christian gardener. Cath says gardening is not dissimilar to raising children. "If you feed them and tend to with loving care, and keep it wellgroomed, your plants and flowers will grow into something quite beautiful and unique." For Anne, there is much to be celebrated and learned from being out in her garden beds. "It is a joy to be part of an evolving, dynamic process which reflects life's path of silence, hope, decline and death, and then new life again. David McGovern is the Diocesan Director for Catholic Mission in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. He welcomes the chance to visit you in your garden and discuss planting seeds of life around the world.

I was reminded of an item I read in a small tract called 'The Busy Person's Guide to Practicing (sic) Catholic Devotions'. Author, Danielle Bean encourages the creation of a garden to honour Mary, the Mother of our Lord. "A Mary garden is…filled with plants, trees and flowers named for Mary," she writes. Some of the plants or flowers listed, with their medieval names included, are: f Amaryllis (Beautiful Lady) f Baby's Breath (Lady's Veil) f Bachelor's Buttons (Mary's Crowns) f Begonia (Heart of Mary) f Geranium (Lady Beautiful) f Daffodil (Mary's Star) f Buttercup (Mary's Locks) Roses can also be added, with white roses representing Mary's purity, gold or yellow her glory and red marking her sorrow. "You can complete your Mary garden with a small statue or another image of Mary…include a place to sit and pray," Bean suggests.

Sowing the seeds for success With the Australian dream of living on a quarter acre block increasingly out of reach for many, unfortunately few of us have the space to fully indulge our horticultural ambitions. Thankfully, community gardens are bridging the gap between our collective love of gardening and lack of land. Community gardens are flourishing across the country, there’s nearly 20 in the Hunter-Manning region alone! These shared spaces are a wonderful opportunity to cultivate green spaces in urban areas,

meet new friends, and get in touch with mother nature. The latest addition to the crop is CatholicCare’s Taree Community Garden, which operates out of the grounds of the town’s PCYC, Volunteer coordinator, Michelle Robinson, explained that CatholicCare jumped at the opportunity to get involved in the community gardens and further the great work of the Taree Community Garden group, who first established the space. “CatholicCare was looking for ways it could

build upon the success of our Community Kitchen and family services, so expanding into community gardens seemed like the natural next step,” she said. “We’re looking at utilising the community garden in a few ways. The Taree Community Kitchen serves about 50 meals per day, so we’re constantly relying on food donations from local businesses. Now, we will use the produce grown at the Community Garden to contribute to our meals and feed those in need.” The work of any community garden isn’t

possible without a team of hardworking volunteers who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. In addition to supplying the Taree Community Kitchen with produce, volunteers will also be able to take home what they grow! If you’re keen to get involved, contact Michelle Robinson on mrobinson@ catholiccare.org.au.


ALUMNI

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A U R O R A C AT H O L I C D I O C E S E O F M A I T L A N D - N E W C A S T L E

"Stories are best told as they unfold; Longitudinal stories more accurately reflect change, growth and impact." Conor Ashleigh

Tracking change overtime BRITTANY GONZALEZ

In 2004 Conor Ashleigh studied Year 11 at St Francis Xavier College, Hamilton, when he took part in a school immersion trip to Cambodia. It was an experience that brought together many Catholic social teachings he learned during his formative schooling years and as part of his upbringing in a 'strong Catholic family'. Following the trip, Conor realised his potential to be the change he wanted to see in the world. After school, he completed a Bachelor of Development Studies at the University of Newcastle and later completed further studies in Sweden. Nowadays, Conor uses his camera to document and share the rich breadth of stories of marginalised communities throughout the world. Storytelling, he says, is a medium that has allowed him to exercise his natural-born curiosity and love of people to incite education, awareness and ultimately, change. Conor's work has taken him to more than 40 countries, and it has been documented in prestigious publications worldwide, including The New York Times. Until March last year, it had been more than a decade since Conor had slept in the same bed for a stretch longer than 2.5 weeks. But whilst the COVID-19 pandemic has halted his international travel, it has not dampened his spirit to tell stories of local communities. f What Catholic school(s) did you attend? Holy Trinity Primary School, Wagga Wagga St Brigid's Primary School, Kyogle St Therese's Primary School, New Lambton St Pius X High School, Adamstown and

St Francis Xavier's College, Hamilton. My father was a school principal in the Catholic system, so we moved around a bit! f Why did your parents choose a Catholic education for you? I was raised in a strong Catholic family. My Mum and Dad have only ever worked for Catholic agencies in social work and education, respectively. My Dad now serves as an assistant director of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Brisbane; my brother is a Marist school teacher, and about a quarter of my work is for faith-based organisations. Catholic social teachings underpin our family's identity, so it made sense that my siblings and I would attend Catholic schools. f What is your fondest memory from your schooling years? When I reflect on my early years, my time in the tight-knit Kyogle community really resonates. However, my senior years at St Francis Xavier's College were also particularly significant. The principal at the time was Marist Brother, Brother Hubert Williams, who remains a good friend and mentor today. After I returned from an immersion to the Lavalla Primary School, Cambodia I came back with this real passion for changing the world. At the time, I thought that it had to be out in the streets, protesting and marching or doing something for the forests in Tasmania, but Brother Hubert said, “no, you can do it here”. I then decided that I would give up my half-baked attempt at a teenage football career and, with his encouragement and blessings, set up a social justice group at the school.

This memory of Brother Hubert supporting me to make a change and take action is close to my heart. f You describe yourself as a storyteller. What has been your favourite story to tell? I'm most interested in telling the stories of people who want their stories told and who probably have never felt their story mattered or was of value. Many of the people I work with are individuals or groups who are marginalised or have experienced discrimination and stigma. Since returning to Australia, a lot of my work has revolved around people experiencing homelessness, drug overdose, substance use – who are quite often a very marginalised community. They are typically stories not told positively, but I choose to focus on these people's strengths. I am confident that if Jesus was walking on earth today, he would be in solidarity with these communities. f You have worked with organisations such as UNICEF, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Australian Red Cross, the World Health Organisation, World Vision, Australian Aid and the Centre for Social Impact, helping them to educate the community. How do you think awareness helps to mobilise change? The reality is that change is not an easy thing to create. I studied community development due to my interest in working with people. I realised that publishing in the media was not going to be a medium that would achieve the personal goals I had of creating impact through my work.

When World Vision engaged me, I had the opportunity to revisit communities in South Africa every six months. It provided a chance to follow people’s journey, their ups and downs. We were able to show the people their series of interviews to demonstrate how they had changed. This process underpins what I love to do: working with people, rather than simply making beautiful stories. I believe that's where the power in storytelling lies. f Having worked with people from diverse backgrounds promoting environmental campaigns across the globe, how does this influence your perception on the importance 'on care for our common home?' Being a steward of the planet means taking on the responsibility of being accountable for the environment. In my work, I use a strengths-based approach. When I think about the environment, I can feel that we have depleted many natural resources. I recognise a lot of cultures have been negatively impacted by globalisation and colonisation. I understand we cannot turn back time. But, looking to the future, we must use our energies to think of ways of giving increased value. In the past, climate change, caring for the environment and valuing cultures more equally were fringe concepts. However, I am impressed that today there is a huge uptake amongst young people that are making these issues more mainstream. To hear younger people discussing these topics inspires me to try to do more.


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ALUMNI

1- After two days of steaming from Darwin Port, we arrived at Ashmore Reef off North-Western Australia. Arriving is a strange feeling when you realise your location is a view of the ocean in every direction. On a glassy calm morning with permission from the Captain, I headed out on a small workboat to catch the sunrise, after being on a such a large ship for a few days, it felt strange to be sitting so close to the water and watch the sun bounce off its surface. 2- Outside Bangui the capital of Central African Republic, a child helps push her mother in a hand-powered wheel chair. During the civil war of 2015 the family had travelled and waited for hours to see one of the few health professionals left. 3- A group of women carry plastic water containers to a set of taps that were installed by the CBHR project installed. The Australian Red Cross in partnership with Myanmar Red Cross has been carrying out a Community Based Health & Resilience project in Yin Ywa and a number of other villages in central Myanmar, an area known as the Dry Zone. Known as one of the driest, and food insecure areas in the country. The CBHR project is working to educate and ensure sustainable changes to water and sanitation practices in these communities. A major part of the project is community education. Red Cross Volunteers from each community regularly run awareness campaigns throughout their village and regularly visit school where they use songs and poems to educate children about water and sanitation, first aid and disaster risk reduction. 4- Dr Richard Stirzaker has dedicated his life to providing affordable and easy to use water monitoring technology fo the world’s small holder farmers. Dr Stirzaker is the founder and chief scientist of the Virtual Irrigation Academy an enterprise born out of CSIRO. 5- A lightning strike in Juba, South Sudan as a man walks through sporting fields and seeks to avoid the oncoming storm. 6- A child labourer working in the brick kilns of Bhaktapur, Nepal, stands for a portrait.


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CARE TALK

A U R O R A C AT H O L I C D I O C E S E O F M A I T L A N D - N E W C A S T L E

Care talk The sphere of control KELLY PAVAN

The Rosewood Centre’s registered psychologists address a new issue each month. The advice provided is general in nature and does not replace ongoing support and advice from your health professional. To talk to someone about counselling support, call: The Rosewood Centre P 1800 613 155 or Lifeline 24/7 on P 131 114.

Do you have a question for us? Email your question to aurora@mn.catholic.org.au or write to Aurora-CareTalk PO Box 756 Newcastle 2300.

I remember a time when we needed to buy a newspaper or wait until a 6pm television broadcast to hear the news of the day. Now we are bombarded by 24hour media running on repeat cycles and an equal mix of information and misinformation circulating on social media, accessible on computers, tablets, phones, even pop-up headlines on our watches. However, something that hasn’t changed is the problem-focused lens through which news tends to be filtered. As a result, we receive a skewed version of the world that emphasises the worst possible (and undoubtedly highest rating) current events. When those current events consistently include catastrophic fires, floods, plagues and political feuding, it makes sense that psychologists are starting to deal with new and emerging types of mental health concerns. Chief amongst these problems is anxiety related to the global climate crisis – referred to as climate anxiety, eco-anxiety, or climate distress. There are now even “climate psychologists”, so we know that this is an area of support on the rise. The Australian Psychological Society (APS) has issued online resources describing how people may feel seriously concerned, frightened, angry, pessimistic, or guilty in response to climate change. The APS describes some people as being deeply affected by feelings of loss, helplessness and frustration due to their inability to feel like they are making a difference in stopping climate change.

For some, these feelings can extend into fears about the future, anxiety, bringing children into the world, safety and security. For others, the impact is more immediate with loss of assets and livelihood as a direct result of climate change. While this is a new area of research, we know that young people are particularly impacted by these worries. In March 2019, an estimated 1.6 million schoolaged protestors in 125 countries demanded action to combat climate change (The Lancet, 2020). That year, the articles on social media that gained the most traction related to the climate. Feelings that your future is out of your control can heighten anxiety, and there is no bigger picture problem than the fate of the entire globe being at stake. The psychology community recommends some practical coping strategies to keep these worries from overwhelming you. f Take actions big or small in your sphere of influence – from re-usable cups onwards, there are many things you can do to create a sense of agency and impact. These tangible steps are a potent way to manage and reduce anxiety. f Social support seeking – if you’re reading about anxiety-provoking issues on social media, direct your attention to credible and evidencebased, solution-focused resources. Headspace.org.au facilitates group chats where young people can discuss actions they can take to make a difference. There are also discussion groups for carers and parents to gain advice on supporting young

people to manage these feelings. The ch¬¬ats are moderated by mental health professionals who ensure the discussions are on the right track. At a local level sustainableneighbourhoods. org.au details positive environmental initiatives and volunteer opportunities in the region. f Tap into your values – mindfully consider what is personally important and try to live by those values. Living your values could include empathy and tolerance to the idea that not everyone will agree with your position. For many people, day-to-day survival supersedes the luxury of worrying about bigger picture concepts; they could be preoccupied with meeting their family’s basic needs and unable to prioritise positive climate action changes at this stage. It can be helpful to suspend judgement in those cases and refocus your attention on what you can do within your space to make a difference. f Look at positive outcomes – Several species were brought back from the brink of extinction in 2020, demand for renewable energy technologies such as solar, wind, smart grids, and electric vehicles has surged. Wind and solar generation accounted for one-tenth of global energy production in the first half of 2020. Without minimising the fact that we are dealing with a real crisis, we can recognise that some positive changes are being achieved, and those changes are under-reported in the news. This can also create a sense of hope and purpose around taking individual and local action to make a difference.


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Seasons of Creation- Film competition

aMeN caMiNo 2022: Information Session

Do you love making TikTok videos or short films? Amidst the climate crisis and the coronavirus pandemic, our sisters and brothers are clamouring for hope and restoration. Now is the time to come together and take action!

The aMeN caMiNo takes place over five consecutive days. The pilgrimage starts at St John’s Chapel, Maitland and concludes at the Sacred Heart Cathedral, Hamilton. Pilgrims walk an average of 20km per day through the beautiful landscape of bush, beach and beyond, which we are blessed to have in our backyard.

You are invited to participate in a film contest which involves creating a 2-minute film that explores the 2021 Seasons of Creation theme – A Home for All. #SeasonOfCreation. For more information, visit www.mn.catholic.org.au/ church-mission/catholic-life/adult-faith-formation/ upcoming-events/ or contact rose.mcallister@mn.catholic.org.au

Praying the Gospels You are invited to connect and pray with others across the Diocese, from your own home. God speaks to us through the words of the Gospel and through artist's images of the Gospel message. Join us each Wednesday 5pm-5.45pm. Zoom link: https://mncatholic.zoom. us/j/96144217758 Password: pray For more information contact: rose.mcallister@mn.catholic.org.au

Live stream Live stream Mass every Sunday at 9.30am from the Sacred Heart Cathedral at www.mn.catholic.org.au/places/live-stream

For those interested in finding out about the 2022 aMeN caMiNo experiences, an online information session will be held on Saturday 28 August at 2pm. https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/amen-caminoinformation-session-tickets-162230268099

CatholicCare August Appeal 2021

COMMUNITY NOTICEBOARD

Were you part of the 1970s Young Christian Workers? Kevin Parsons has written to Aurora advising thatin the early 1970s the Diocese created a group called the Young Christian Workers (YCW). The group was for young people inthe Newcastle region andas part of this group, a rugby league competition was conducted on a Sunday afternoon against other parishes. In 1972, the team from Lambton was the minor and major premiers. 2022 will be 50 years since they won the competition against Cessnock and Kevin would like to get in touch with any members of the team. If you, or someone you know was part of team, please contact Kevin at kfpars574@gmail.com or phone 0427 005 239.

At CatholicCare, everybody is welcome. CatholicCare provides vital programs that support our local community. Their community kitchens and food programs delivered more than 13,500 meals last year, and the Refugee Hub helps people from refugee, asylum-seeker and vulnerable migrant backgrounds to settle into life in Australia. To put it simply, these programs help people who have nowhere else to turn – but these programs receive no government funding. CatholicCare expects to be welcoming even more people through their doors, following a difficult eighteen months for many in our community. You can help by donating to CatholicCare’s 2021 August Appeal. Your tax-deductible donation will go directly to our local services, ensuring no one is turned away, that all are welcomed and supported with food, shelter, and a smile. To find out how you can help support the Appeal, visit www.catholiccare.org.au/augustappeal

For more events, please visit mn.catholic.org.au

Art for the ages

KEY DATES 4-10 August: Homelessness Prevention Week 8 August: Dying to Know Day 12 August: International Youth Day 15 August: Assumption of Mary


22

Book talk Pandemics and Spiritual Seekers BY PAUL KRAUS

REVIEWED BY SISTER CARMEL MOORE Pandemics and Spiritual Seekers comes at a time when forced lockdowns, prohibitions, mask-wearing and 'signing in' are turning God's pilgrim people into weary and at times, disillusioned travellers. While there is darkness in a world, where fear, isolation, loss and restrictions seem to stalk us, here we find voices of hope, encouraging us to locate our invisible wounds, be healed and turn our lives around. As Archbishop Mark Coleridge writes in his foreword, "May… a shaft of Easter light breakthrough to show us the way into the future." In this book, Kraus has brought together the thoughts of many great writers, some from the past, some from today; all speak to our hearts. Every contribution (be it a poem, essay or reflection) explores the fundamental flaws in our worldview and indicates the way to change. Is the virus actually our friend hoping to save us from ourselves? Is the light in our lives right here in this darkness?

Food talk Bok Choy & Chilli Pork Stir-Fry PREP 20 MINS COOK 10 MINS SERVES 4

Gate to Plate at St Joseph’s Taree

A U R O R A C AT H O L I C D I O C E S E O F M A I T L A N D - N E W C A S T L E

Kathleen Bonnette, for example, points out how being of service and obeying the pandemic rules are acts of loving care for others. The power of such love helps to build structures that enhance the common good, defeating racial division and health care inequality. She quotes St Augustine, “no one should say the he (or she) is more worthy of life than others.” Christopher Lamb writes that Pope Francis, in Fratelli Tutti, encourages us to find ways to repair and enrich relationships across the human family. He illustrates how the Good Samaritan was changed by suffering. For us, COVID-19 can begin a spiritual awakening with the potential to develop better global systems that value the dignity of all, across any border. To illustrate the strange ways of God in bringing us hope through the very act of plague, Kraus quotes John Donne (1572 – 1631). "He can bring thy summer out of winter, though thou have no spring; though thou have been benighted, wintered and frozen... now God comes to thee, not as the dawning of the day, not as the bud of the spring, but as the sun at noon. All occasions invite his mercies and all times are his season."

St Joseph’s Primary School, Taree has a cooking program called Gate to Plate. The name of the program refers to the use of the ingredients grown by the students behind the garden gate, which are then cooked in the school’s facilities and served on a plate for invited guests. Many students at the school have nominated to be part of the Gate to Plate club, which is led by staff member Natalie Bennett. The children are allocated into groups and take it in turns to tend to the garden each day. They are also on a weekly cooking roster. Below is a recipe that the children recently used to provide a meal for the canteen staff, as a sign of appreciation for all their hard work making sure students eat well.

Ingredients

Method

2 tbs peanut or vegetable oil

1.

Heat 1 tbs oil in a hot wok over high heat. Add pork and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until just cooked through. Transfer to a plate.

2.

Add remaining 1 tbs oil to wok. Add bok choy stems and coriander stems. Stir-fry for 2 minutes until just softened.

3.

Add ginger, garlic and chillies. Stir-fry for 1 minute.

4.

Add pork and soy sauce. Stir-fry for 1 minute.

5.

Toss through bok choy and coriander leaves.

6.

Serve with steamed jasmine rice.

360g pork fillet, trimmed and cut into 1cm thick slices 1 bunch bok choy, trimmed, stems chopped and leaves separated 1⁄2 small bunch coriander, stems chopped and leaves separated 2 tsps grated fresh ginger 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 2 small red bird’s eye chillies, deseeded and thinly sliced 2 tbs sweet soy sauce or kecap manis Steamed jasmine rice, to serve

If the questions raised by the pandemic are troubling you, and you are seeking a more spiritual path to a practical solution, you will be both comforted and challenged by this book.



Make a real difference to the life of someone in need.

We need your help to make sure our Community Kitchens, Food Programs, and Refugee Hub can continue supporting the local community. If you can, donate to our August Appeal. Your generosity will help us support those who have nowhere else to turn.

AugustAppeal www.catholiccare.org.au/augustappeal

catholiccare.org.au