Alternatives Bookshop owner John Ross may seem a shy and gentle man, but actually he’s a climate change warrior.
On Tuesday March 13, he will front Bowen Court in Queensland charged with trespassing, refusing an order to move on, and interfering with the operation of a port.
The 69-year-old will be pleading guilty to the charges.
He has spent at least three decades being “a pillar of the community”, as a rather lenient Townsville magistrate he faced last year remarked.
As well as running the Alternatives Bookshop in Bellingen for the last six years, John has been heavily involved with Landcare since its inception in the 1990s, he’s lectured on bush regeneration, and at his Lacebark Nursery in Coramba he cultivates native plants for revegetation projects.
And he’s utterly convinced that allowing coal mining to continue would be “an unconscionable betrayal of future generations”.
Along with three other protesters from the Coffs Coast, John broke into Adani’s Abbot Point Terminal before dawn on January 18 and fastened his arm to a coal conveyor.
He isn’t at liberty to disclose how they managed their entry, but he does say it took longer than they expected, and it was an anxiety-provoking and exhausting process, so lying down and locking-on came as something of a relief.
The group effectively stopped operations at the terminal for seven hours and gained widespread media attention for Frontline Action on Coal’s non-violent, direct action campaign to stymie development of Adani’s proposed mega mine in the Galilee Basin.
“This is the line in the sand,” John says. “We simply can’t afford to open up the Galilee Basin and still hope to go anywhere near maintaining a carbon budget that confines climate change to two degrees. It’s a massive, massive mine, and it would be adding massively to carbon pollution, at a time when renewables are technically and financially superior.”
John chooses to take action to avert climate chaos, even if it means annoying the police and putting his own body in harm’s way.
“When you’re being cut off a lock-on device by grumpy police with an angle grinder, it’s the climate disaster we’re trying to fight that keeps you calm,” he says.
The Coffs Coast Climate Action Group has set up a fundraising campaign to cover the fines that John Ross, Liisa Rusanen, Daniel Skerrett and Ella Skerrett are likely to receive when they go to court.
The group’s film screening event in Bellingen last week collected over $2700 in donations.
The target is $16,000 but as of Thursday evening, the total raised had not quite reached the halfway mark.