Our planet is deeply burdened as it harbours 390,000 tonnes of high level nuclear waste produced by nuclear reactors and weapons programs over the past 70 years. Spent nuclear fuel, one of the most dangerous materials on earth, is stored underwater in numerous cooling ponds throughout the world.
Though our world is studded by acts of violence and conflict from the Middle East to West Papua, from the Philippines to parts of Latin America and Sri Lanka to Africa, people remain convinced that the default position of responding to violence with more violence is unviable and ineffective. It is not in accord with being a follower of Jesus, who incarnates the God of Peace.
One would not know it from our mass media, but there is much happening globally to address the threat posed by the over 15,000 nuclear weapons that still exist.
And one wouldn’t know it from our own government’s statements, but Australia is a part of the problem, rather than a part of the solution, in getting rid of these worst of all weapons.
As mining companies engage in human rights abuses, land grabs, environmental destruction, community upheaval, loss of traditional life, militarisation, pollution of vital ecosystems, and vilification and killing of human rights defenders and activists, in the Philippines the Tagalog word ‘palayasin’ (go away) rings out… and is heard throughout Asia, Latin America, Europe, Oceania and Africa. Though companies claim they are responsible corporate citizens, the branding does not match the reality.
Amidst much suffering to indigenous communities and local people, mining corporations, in amassing much wealth, wield economic and political power over governments, whilst being protected by international trade and financial institutions. But voices, cry out, ‘go away’, ‘no to mining, yes to life’.
The extraction of minerals pollutes areas beyond the actual mining sites and for years after closing operation. Pope Francis referred to the ‘mess’ in our planet in his recent Encyclical Laudato Si’. Governments promote mining and provide incentives to corporations in the name of ‘the national interest’ and ‘economic growth’, whilst the harm and cost to ordinary peoples’ lives, communities and future generations of all species is barely recognised. For governments it is ‘yes to mining, and no to life’ for their people.
This law has been passed with bipartisan support. Professionals working in immigration detention centres are prevented from raising concerns about detention centre conditions and the physical and psychological treatment of asylum seekers or risk two years in jail.
Despite the wall of secrecy to prevent public scrutiny, a growing chorus of voices is emerging against abuses and poor conditions and in condemnation of this law that is not about stopping the boats or protecting our borders but protecting politicians.
If we witness child abuse in Australia we are legally obliged to report it to child protection authorities. If we witness child abuse in detention centres, we can go to prison for attempting to advocate for them effectively.
The disclosure of illegal, dangerous or unethical activities by governments or corporations is crucial for accountability. It is important in exposing corruption, mismanagement and fraud. Putting people above the institution and speaking out can save lives, protect dignity and save resources.