Bill Ryan is a World War II vet, climate activist, and total badass.

That's him in the green checked shirt.
Greenpeace/Leard Forest Alliance
That’s him in the green checked shirt.

Whitehaven Coal is destroying part of eastern Australia’s Leard State Forest in order to open a $767 million coal mine, which’ll pump out about 15 million tons* of coal annually. So the 92-year-old joined 150 others in peacefully protesting the mine, locking themselves to tree-clearing equipment.

bill-ryan-protesting-coal-mine
Greenpeace/Leard Forest Alliance

Several hours later, the cops arrived on the scene and started snapping on the handcuffs. Ryan snagged a trespassing charge, but he was undaunted and wrote a powerful essay in the Guardian about why he protested. You should really just read it all, but here are a few snippets:

I expected to be arrested … But people have a right to protest injustice, and in this particular case, we were trying to save the Box Gum forest, and the large number of endangered flora and fauna in it.

What concerns me is that this coal will eventually be burnt and produce carbon dioxide, and add to the global warming we’re experiencing, which scientists say will only get worse. They also say we need to keep 80% of the coal in the ground, otherwise it will be a catastrophe for global warming. The use of fossil fuels must give way to renewable energy.

The government doesn’t listen to the people, and this mine is a good example. There were over 300 submissions against the mine, and one submission for it. But it was approved.

I’ve been reading the international scientific reports on the climate, which say there is no future for my grandchildren and great-grandchild[ren] unless there is a reversal in our use of fossil fuels, and a replacement by renewables.

I’ve only got a few years left, but I feel in my conscience that I have to take this stand … I was willing to put my life on the line in the second world war, so putting my body on the line here is a small inconvenience. [emphasis added]

May we all be so awesome at 92.

Correction: The proposed mine will produce 14.9 millions tons of coal, not a mere 15. We regret the error and have sentenced the author to count from 15 to a million on an abacus.