CSG: something for everyone @molessarah reports

Sarah Moles

Sarah Moles

By Sarah Moles

I’m not directly affected by unconventional gas development. The nearest wells are 2 or 3 hours drive from my home, on some of the finest farming land in the world.

I’ve been a greenie for about 20 years. Whether it is in creeks or lakes or rivers or wetlands or even under the ground, water is my thing. It pushes all my buttons. As far as we know, life without it is impossible. So it’s worth fighting for.

My groundwater education began in 2006 when I was appointed to the Qld Great Arteisan Basin Advisory Council (QGABAC). And it was at that table that the unconventional gas industry first popped onto my radar. The QGABAC was a representative body and I listened carefully to what a couple of very experienced and crusty water bore drillers had to say about this burgeoning industry. To say I was alarmed by what I learned then and over the coming months is something of an understatement.

With help from another conservationist I prepared a briefing paper that I sent to all Australia’s peak environment groups. It summarised the risks and the likely impacts this industry would have on numerous campaigns being undertaken by these groups. Everything from biodiversity to toxics to climate change and almost everything in between. I didn’t receive a single reply or acknowledgement. Not even a question, like ‘are you sure about this?’ or ‘are you okay?’.

To say I was disappointed would be another understatement. But instead of getting depressed, over the next few months I read, researched, wrote summaries of mostly related environmental issues and reached out through grassroots community networks.

At that time, occasional articles about CSG were appearing in Queenland’s rural press. Then Drew Hutton began campaigning – joining forces with conservative farmers – and momentum started to build. The number of people attending rallies and protests grew and CSG – and new coal mines – hit the MSM (mainstream media).

At about the same time concerns were also building in NSW about the expansion of the coal mining industry and the new kid on the block – CSG. Over several months the Lock The Gate movement came together to actively oppose this last gasp of the fossil fuel industry. For someone frustrated by an environment movement that sometimes seemed to have forgotten what ‘activism; means, it was a breath of fresh air.

The alliance between conservative farmers and left-leaning city-based environmentalists was newsworthy in its own right. The ever-growing rallies were always colourful, sometimes theatrical, usually entertaining and featured occasional stunts leading to arrests.

For the MSM, what was not to like?

Love him or loathe him, Alan Jones was instrumental to the Lock the Gate campaign. He turned up to MC community forums on Queensland’s Darling Downs, the Southern Highlands and Liverpool Plains in NSW. He spoke at rallies, addressed the National Press Club and used his radio program to take the issue to millions in metropolitan areas far from the gasfields. To this day he continues to interview people opposed to the industry. From across the political divide and from economy to health to property rights to food security and beyond, people involved in diverse parts of the campaign have had access through Jones to millions of listeners.

I went to countless events and spoke at some of them. Q&A sessions and casual conversations over cups of tea revealed the diverse reasons for peoples’ concerns.

Farmers were obviously concerned about their land, their water supply, their property values, the impact on their businesses given the difficulties of co-existence. Tourism operators talked about ruined landscape values. They, and people involved in manufacturing, were concerned about the resources boom driving up the Aussie dollar. Doctors spoke of potential health impacts – vets flagged impacts on livestock and even companion animals. Lawyers took issue with and raised concerns about the inequitable playing field.

Across the spectrum, profits going offshore was a huge concern. In one memorable case a farmer told me ‘I have the tiniest inkling of how the blackfellahs must have felt’.

And several times in several places, the patriotic card was played: “This isn’t what my father/grandfather/uncle fought for.”

And it’s not.

Most of our elected parliamentarians are no longer serving the interests of those who voted them into office. They serve big business and corporate masters and revolving doors between parliaments and industry boardrooms ensure continuity and cross-fertilisation.

We are being sold down the river and our country is being sold for a song.

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  1. Ellen O'Gallagher says

    Sarah–thanks for this. I too am worried about water and the appalling things we are doing to it. I have a sister living in Boulder, Colorado, recently inundated by flood waters. News from there is that fracking chemicals which were never supposed to get away have been washed in large amounts into rivers and streams, dams etc. Thence into Estes Park and the Rocky Mountains National Park which are both closed down because of the congressional ‘strike’. This means that clean ups cannot happen so there is additional worry about wildlife and the forests as well as down stream communities. If this kind of pollution effect is ever considered by the people insisting that it is benign is doubtful. A disaster story to keep your eye on.

  2. lawrencewinder says

    The divide between what we elect and what we are served up is at critical point… we need to “take back” our country

  3. Susie Russell says

    The only fortunate thing about the CSG fiasco is that we can already see the appalling damage being done elsewhere and hopefully learn the lesson rather than repeating the mistake. And clearly our Governments aren’t learning, so we the people will need to take action for justice. Been reading this today by Martin Luther King. http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/documents/letter_birmingham_jail.pdf Sorry, can’t seem to insert it as a link.

  4. Sarah I am really glad to have picked up your first journalist’s outing, from Twitter tonight. It’s the best. About the process: going gets tough, hardheads start kicking back. This includes exposing the hypocrisy of large chunks of the so called environment movement for these last 10-20 years – and as you do, acknowledging utter rabbits like Jones. It’s a remarkable game, public education via #SocMe: I just discovered the tree-biting GCC denialist Sen. Madigan is red hot on the West Papua atrocities and oppression..

  5. Unfortunately too many “environmentalists”, including many from the “Greens” party, are primarily focused on gay marriage and absorbing all of the world’s refugees nowdays, and have consequently taken less interest in environmental problems

  6. Ron Maskell says

    Nice one, Sarah. I might put that “LTG” sign on my suburban gate gate after all, despite being very sceptical about the value of activism when it fucks up your personal life. On another matter: Why do farmers vote for the LNP?

  7. A great article Sarah, it’s good to know a bit about how you came to this issue, though you concluding sentences don’t leave a lot of room for hope. It does seem that the big political parties now owe allegiance far more to big business, much of it not even Australian, than to voters. If Australia signs up to the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreeement led by the US, it is likely that future legislation to control CSG could be challenged by foreign corporations, meaning that even if a more environment-oriented party were ever elected, its hands would be tied. See http://www.aftinet.org for more details.

    Difficult times. Good on you for all you do, it’s pretty inspirational.

  8. Great work Sarah. Love all your blood sweat and tears. The core issue at hand here is we are not dealing with a government (an organisational body established to serve and protect the people within its nation-state). We are dealing with a pseudo government who are actually a corporation (a select group of individuals who coercively collect money “taxes” and have a monopoly on force.) The Australian Government is a U.S. Corporation registered in the district of Columbia. Even our national emblem is a hoax, copyrighted and owned by the U.S Department of Commerce… In short, The Commonwealth of Australia is foreign owned. This is no joke… Here’s proof (see link). Keep up the fight!

  9. Remember it’s the central banks that own and run the corporations, who in turn run our corporate government. Not the other way around. :-)

  10. Peter Foster-Bunch says

    The desperately sad thing about CSG, if there is anything to be learned from the US experience, is that unlike a conventional oil well that might be productive for years and decades CSG wells, except for very few exceptions, can be depleted within 2 – 3 years and sometimes less.

    By then the damage has been done with ground water polluted, the land ribbon-ed with roads to take heavy mining vehicles and pockmarked with wells that constantly need to be dug and then replaced with new wells and roads to them and communities destroyed.

    Meanwhile the promised long team employment does not materialise as the industry quickly moves on to the next hopeful site leaving behind a mess which may never be restored to how it was before..