Before dawn today 27 Greenpeace activists walked into Eraring Power Plant in the Hunter Valley to stop work on the coal-fired power station and halt its greenhouse gas pollution.

Why would ordinary people want to leave themselves open to arrest and possible conviction? For most activists the reason is a passion for their cause and a sense of frustration and despair at the lack of action on the problem. While the Rudd government certainly paid lip service to the urgency of climate change prior to the election, in the past 6 months they have done nothing after signing Kyoto, except to postpone their election promise to fund renewables and slap a crippling means test on the solar PV rebate. The solutions are at hand, but they are being ignored, and if you’re one of the people who lies awake at night wondering if there’ll be a world left for your children, it breaks your heart.

The beauty of civil disobedience is its long, proud history of people standing up to authority and refusing to compromise the value of humanity and the Earth. When activists blockade a coal-fired power station today they are standing alongside those other historical movements and figures who have put their bodies on the line for what matters, even if it means breaking the law. It is one of the few resources available to ordinary citizens when they’re up against such huge opposing powers as the Australian coal industry.

Eraring Power Station is the most polluting power station in Australia, and coal-fired power is the single biggest contributor to Australia’s greenhouse pollution. This is precisely the type of station we should be looking to phase out in a transition to a clean, renewable energy supply for Australia. Until we see renewables replacing old, dirty coal plants, actions like Greenpeace’s today and the Camp for Climate Action to be held in Newcastle next week show that Australians won’t be content to let the Rudd government get away with business-as-usual at the expense of a safe future.

We’re not asking for anything that’s not achievable. The only thing standing in the way of an Australia powered by renewable energy is a lack of political will. Even the livelihood of coal workers will not be endangered if Kevin Rudd acts to support workers during a transition to renewable energy by re-skilling them for new “green” jobs. We have modelling which shows that coal-fired power could be phased out in Australia by 2030 with a net gain of tens of thousands of jobs due to booming new industries.

When viewed in this light, blockading Eraring Power Station seems like a small act of sanity in an otherwise insane world.

See images on Flickr