Why I was arrested for stopping a coal train

People on top of and next to a coal train with people supporting outside the fence. Sign on train says "Survival guide for humanity: NO NEW COAL"

Yesterday I was one of 50 people arrested during an action calling for no new coal. 

Even though I’ve been active in peace and environment groups for over 40 years, this is the first time I’ve felt driven to be arrested. I just can’t stand by any longer and ignore the disaster we are creating. 

Despite repeated and increasingly desperate warnings, we continue to allow climate change to create havoc and affect millions of people through the increasing catastrophic bushfires, floods, cyclones, hurricanes, heatwaves and other extreme weather events. 

I’m sick and tired of having to justify the need for action by referring to the extensive evidence showing that climate change is “real” and that we urgently need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. I am convinced that those who still argue that climate change is not a problem (or is a conspiracy) have something to gain from it (e.g., political power or financial profit), or are driven by ideology or fear.

After failing to act on five reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) our political and business leaders are not going to suddenly change their response just because the sixth report has warned that:

  • We are already over 1.1C  above pre-industrial levels and that it is almost inevitable that temperatures will rise above 1.5C (the target agreed to internationally)
  • The world needs to cut emissions by 45% by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050 in order to keep below 1.5C
  • Based on current commitments, global emissions are set to increase almost 14% by 2030

(For more details see UN Secretary-General’s remarks on the launch of the intergovernmental climate change report and Wikipedia’s summary.)

The following amazing 40-second video shows what is happening to global temperatures. Each dot shows the temperature trend for 191 countries between 1880 and 2021. Blue dots show temperatures below average, red dots above average. Nothing much happens until the year 2000 (about 25 seconds in) but then it is scary.

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The impact of trauma

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According to a large international study, around 70% of the world’s population have been exposed to a traumatic event (Benjet et al., 2016), although not all people who experience a traumatic event develop trauma. Of the people who were exposed to traumatic events, almost 6% were assessed as having experienced posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point in their life (Koenen et al., 2017). In Australia, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022) estimates that around 75% of Australian adults have experienced a traumatic event and around 12% of Australians will experience PTSD at some time in their life. In the USA, exposure to traumatic events is estimated to be over 80%, and 8% or more of people from the USA will develop PTSD at some point in their lives (Kilpatrick et al., 2013; Schein et al., 2021).

Research into the prevalence of trauma is difficult, and PTSD is a fairly limited approach to diagnosing trauma (Bryant et al., 2011; Patel & Hall, 2021) so the number of people who have experienced trauma is much higher. It is particularly important to recognise that the percentage of people who have experienced trauma is likely to be higher than the general population in the groups that many health and community services support, and that their trauma may have a major impact on how they interact with services (Henderson & Everett, 2018a). For example, Baranyi et al. (2018) found the rate of PTSD amongst men in prison to be five-times higher than the general population and for women in prison it was eight-times higher. In a large study from the USA, nearly 97% of male and over 98% of female juvenile offenders reported a traumatic adverse childhood event (Baglivio et al., 2014) and another study found that 32% of “incarcerated juvenile delinquents” met the criteria for PTSD with another 20% partially met the criteria (Steiner et al., 1997).

The impacts of traumatic events can vary widely (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014; Wall et al., 2016). As discussed in the previous post, “What is Trauma,” different people respond to the same event in very different ways and the impact can be long-term or short-term (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014). It is clear, however, that trauma can have a major impact on all aspects of a person’s life and the effects can be wide ranging and very serious (Anda et al., 2006; Henderson & Everett, 2018a; Merritt et al., 2013; Wall et al., 2016). These impacts can continue long after the traumatic events have ended (Henderson & Everett, 2018a).

As discussed by the New South Wales (NSW) Agency for Clinical Innovation (2019, p. 2) “there is a substantial and growing body of evidence attesting to the pervasiveness and impact of trauma.” The impact of trauma on children is particularly damaging because of its impact on development, including the development of their brain (Thomas, 2019; Wall et al., 2016). The malleable nature of a child’s brain means that children are very vulnerable to trauma.

Children’s development can slow down or be impaired following trauma. Trauma can often lead to children experiencing splintered development. Because children rely so much on the adults around them, they are even more intensely affected when it is these adults who cause harm to them. The trauma associated with experiences of interpersonal violence undermines the very resource that can help children recover – the stability and predictability of their connections with others. (Australian Childhood Foundation, 2018, p. 8)

There is increasing evidence showing the ways in which trauma (especially complex trauma) can physically affect the brain, particularly during brain development in children (De Bellis & Zisk, 2014; Henderson & Everett, 2018a; McLean, 2016). The amygdala (see image below) plays an important role in emotions and behaviour, including the fight-or-flight response. Our amygdala takes external stimuli (e.g., sights and sounds) and decide if they are dangerous or not. If they are interpreted as dangerous, our amygdala sends a message to our hippocampus (which is responsible for learning and memory) which can trigger the flight-or-fight response (Pugle, 2021). When this stress response is triggered over and over again in children who are abused and/or neglected, children can become stuck in a “survival mode” that can affect the development of their prefrontal cortex, which plays a major role in emotional regulation, decision making, interpreting emotions, and sustained and focused attention (Adubasim & Ugwu, 2019; Maynard, 2020; Pugle, 2021).

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What is Trauma

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A widely used definition of Trauma (e.g., Menschner & Maul, 2016; NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation, 2019; Rajaraman et al., 2022; Ranjbar et al., 2020; Wall et al., 2016) is by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (2014)

Individual trauma results from an event, series of events or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional or spiritual wellbeing. (p. 7)

Trauma is the result of our ability to cope being overwhelmed by facing (or believing we face) an extreme threat or danger (Blue Knot Foundation, 2021). Events that can lead to trauma include (Blue Knot Foundation, n.d.; Menschner & Maul, 2016):

  • Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse
  • Childhood neglect
  • Violence
  • War
  • Natural disasters (e.g., floods, fires, storms)
  • Serious accidents
  • Being betrayed by a partner or close relative
  • Relationship breakdowns

Other definitions include

A stress response to an event … outside of the person’s normative life experience, and a sufficient condition that the response include a breakdown of self-regulatory functions. (Krupnik, 2019, p. 250)

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Do we need a blog by another straight, white, male?

Blog written in speech bubbles
(Photo: Pixabay)

I started the Sustaining Community blog to highlight resources and information that I thought were relevant to students and practitioners. Soon after, I also started writing content that I thought might be useful. The style and voice of the blog was shaped by believing I needed to live up to my expectations of students by

  • Relying on, and referencing, reliable sources
  • Not making generalisations or unfounded claims
  • Being able to justify my position or arguments.

I’ve discovered that my most popular posts are from the “What is …” series. I also find those posts very helpful personally because they force me to research a subject, understand what the literature is saying and condense a broad body of literature into key themes. I find them particularly useful when I want to deepen my knowledge about a topic, especially when the focus of my work shifts, or I take on a new project (e.g., What are 5 styles of conflict management?; What are program logic models? )

At the moment I’m working on a couple of posts: What is trauma? and What is trauma-informed practice? I’m focusing more and more on Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) so I’m doing the posts for three main reasons:

  1. To improve my understanding of trauma and trauma informed practice
  2. To explore the extent to which Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) is trauma informed
  3. To keep improving my AVP practice.

At the same time, writing posts like these take a lot of time (which is why I haven’t posted in a while) and raise questions for me about my role as a blogger and the implications of presenting myself as an authoritative voice on a range of topics. I sometimes wonder: Who am I to introduce a topic when there are usually other good overviews available and I don’t necessarily have any particular expertise in the area? I justify it for myself in a number of ways:

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Special days and dates for the environment – 2023

(Photo: Pixabay)

Here are some significant international and Australian national days/weeks that focus on environmental issues for 2023. (Days marked with * are mainly for Australia.)

Please let me know if I have missed any important ones.

Note that some of the websites are not updated for 2023 yet.

For a large number of animal awareness days (e.g., World Bee Day, Shark Awareness Day) visit https://www.worldanimalprotection.org/animal-awareness-days


World Wetlands Day — Thursday, 2 February 2023

International Polar Bear Day — Monday, 27 February 2023

Business Clean Up Day — Tuesday, 28 February 2023 *


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List of posts for 2021 and 2022

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Following on from an overview of the blog statistics for 2022, here is a list of all my posts from 2021 and 2022 (with the number of views they received as at the end of 2022). As you can see I didn’t post anything for 10 months and non of them have had all that many views.

If you liked this post please follow my blog, and you might like to look at:

  1. Blog statistics for 2022 (Transparency report)
  2. Changing focus of the blog
  3. What are the 5 styles of conflict management?
  4. 12 principles of a problem solving approach to conflict resolution
  5. Principles of nonviolence
  6. Lists of blog posts from previous years

If you find any problems with the blog, (e.g., broken links or typos) I’d love to hear about them. You can either add a comment below or contact me via the Contact page.

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Blog statistics for 2022 (Transparency report)

I provide an overview of my blog statistics each year (although I missed 2021) in case they are of interest.

Key statistics for 2022

  • Number of views for the life of the blog at the end of 2022 – 2,299,854
  • Number of views in 2022 – 290,945 (311,659 in 2021 and 400,492 in 2020)
  • Average number of views/day in 2022 – 797 (854 in 2021 and 1094 in 2020)
  • Number of visitors in 2022 – 207,100 (222,589 in 2021 and 271,703 in 2020)
  • Number of post likes in 2022 – 27 (104 in 2021 and 74 in 2020)
  • Number of comments in 2022 – 54 (75 in 2021 and 206 in 2020)
  • Number of followers of blog at the end of 2022 – 1444

It could be that my blog has reached its peak and is declining, but it could also be that I spent less time on my blog in 2021 and 2022. (In 2020 I averaged 1094 views a day, but this decreased to 854 in 2021 and 797 last year.)

I find it interesting that while the blog does get quite a lot of views, it isn’t widely followed and it doesn’t attract many comments or much discussion. I would like to hear more about what readers’ experience and insights, so I might think about how to increase the two way communication.

Top posts for 2022

The following are the top 10 posts for 2022. Because most of my views come from internet searches, most of them were written a few years ago.

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Key activities in our trial of the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) open group

Flip chart with Red and Green Messages brainstorm

We’ve been asked what are the key activities that we make sure are included regularly in our trial of an Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) Basic workshop as an open group (weekly 2-hour sessions where people can join any week).

Each 2-hour session has a similar structure:

  1. Welcome and acknowledgement of country
  2. Group stretch where we go around the circle with each person doing a stretch that is copied by the group
  3. A grounding and gathering, where we do a quick grounding activity and then go around the circle with each person saying how they are feeling this morning and (usually) responding to a question related to the day’s focus
  4. An overview of the last session or key aspects from previous sessions (which is important if we are building on an activity from a previous week) and a preview of what we are doing this week
  5. Two or three main activities and one or two light and livelies (which are quick games or energisers that help participants focus, have a change of pace, build community and have fun)
  6. Feedback about the session (as a brainstorm about what they liked, what they didn’t like or could be improved, and any “aha”’ moments or ideas for improving the session)
  7. A quick closing activity

We don’t rotate the main activities (in Item 4 above) in any particular order and, in planning the next week’s agenda, decide what would be most useful for the group. The following are the main activities we use regularly (generally every 8 to 12 weeks, but sometimes more frequently) grouped under some of the main themes of the workshop. Most of the activities are in the AVP manuals and I have provided a very brief overview of each activity.

Community building

  • Safety Circle: We go around the circle twice answering, “What I need to feel safe in this group.…” And “What I can do to help others feel safe in this group….”
  • Community Drawing: Group drawings in small groups around a theme (e.g., an ideal community)
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2 questionnaires identifying conflict management style

(Source: Orlando Blake)

In a recent point, I provided an overview of 5 styles of conflict management:

  1. Avoiding (the Turtle)
  2. Confronting (the Shark)
  3. Accommodating (the Teddy Bear)
  4. Compromising (the Fox)
  5. Collaborating (the Owl)

In this post I discuss two questionnaires that can be used to identify people’s main style: the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) and the Adkins Conflict Management Styles Assessment.

Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument

Kenneth Thomas and Ralf Kilmann developed the TKI in the early to mid-1970s [1-3]. It involves 30 forced choice questions, where you have to choose which of two statements is more like you. For example:

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More details of our trial of a weekly, open AVP group

As discussed in a recent post, our local Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) group has been trialling a Basic AVP workshop as a weekly open group (in partnership with the Samaritans Recovery Point) where people can join any week. In this post we will discuss some of the finer detail of this approach.

While there are variations in a traditional, closed-group AVP Basic Workshop, (e.g., to adapt to differences in the number and length of days for the workshop), we largely follow the same sequence of activities and have a relatively standard agenda. However, The open group, however, is quite different. As mentioned in the recent post, participants in the open group receive a Basic certificate after completing 9 weeks. This does not mean that we rotate through a series of nine agendas. After each session, we debrief and plan the next week’s agenda depending on what we think will be most useful for the group. Issues or problems are identified and discussed as they arise and we can address them the following week if needed. For example, one week there was a lot of distraction because a few people were leaving the group to take phone calls and then returning to the group. (One person was needing to find housing and another person had a family issue.) One of the participants commented in the feedback that they were disappointed that the facilitators didn’t address the distractions especially during the Gathering. (When we explained some of the background in private after the workshop, they understood why we didn’t respond in the workshop, but still thought we should have done something.)

In response to the feedback, the next week (Session 25) we had a real focus on listening, including a variation of the Safety Circle. We explored, “How can we make the Gathering a place where people really feel listened to?” [We start each workshop with a Gathering where we go around the circle saying our Affirmation Name and responding to a question or prompt (e.g., In this session it was “How I feel/react when I am not listened to?”). The Safety Circle is similar to a Gathering, but we go around the circle twice, once responding to “What do I need to feel safe in this group?” and then “What can I do to help others feel safe in this group?”

We try to ensure that participants have covered all the key topics in a Basic workshop before they graduate. We record which sessions participants attend, but we want to improve how we do this. If there is somebody who has nearly completed nine sessions, but hasn’t done a key topic, we will try to introduce it. (Of course we might plan something like that, and then the person misses that session.) Sometimes people do repeat an exercise (e.g., Light and Live-lies, Broken Squares, and the Violence, and Peace Trees), especially people who have graduated. One of the good things about AVP, however, is that each time we do an exercise, we learn something new. None of the participants have complained about having to do an exercise another time. The person who has done 20 sessions has done some of the major exercises three (maybe four) times.

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