By Belinda Marsh The little black puppy is sleeping on a pile of blankets, ignoring his owner who is sitting with him in the large concrete tub that is strategically blocking a driveway. His name is Barricade. He may be oblivious to the fight taking place around him while he dreams doggy dreams, but his name carries hope and gives strength to the cause.
Metgasco plan to drill for coal seam gas in Bentley, inland from Byron Bay, in Northern NSW. The farmer wants the cash on offer, and the protectors in the area arrived many weeks ago outside his driveway to halt the proceedings. They were joined by many others, and have stayed ever since. This is a stand-off; this is war.
There is a simple explanation for the drastic action taken; the drilling of coal seam gas in various parts of the world has led to environmental destruction and devastation, especially to our planet’s water supplies. And the protectors are there to ensure it doesn’t happen here. Can’t eat coal, can’t drink gas.
The neighbouring farmers are distinctly unhappy about Metgasco setting up a gas well in their area, and are very angry that their neighbour has ‘sold out’. Coal seam gas mining will more than likely ravage their dairy farms and water supplies. There are reports of children with too many nosebleeds, people with headaches and migraines, animals dying from drinking water from local dams, and skin rashes and nasty reactions from bathing in the bore water in Tara, Queensland; all caused by the coal seam gas wells in the area. Of course the vast majority of the landowners adjoining the site are upset, and the locals are very concerned; wouldn’t you be if this was happening in your neighbourhood?
The camp has set up on the adjoining property, with permission from the farmer who owns that land. He wants the protectors there, and has asked them to stay. The camp has knuckled down and is getting on with the mammoth task of organising such a large group of people, and they are doing it effectively and peacefully.
Their dedication to the cause is breathtaking. As I wind my way along the road, travelling past beautiful, rolling hills and glorious, green pastures, I spy the camp in the distance. I was unaware of simply how BIG it is. Hundreds of tents show the strength, commitment, and the power of the people. This is democracy in action.
Many locals drive by and beep their horns in support of the battle brewing, waving to me as I walk up the hill from the camp towards the main gate. This small piece of driveway is the front line, and the enthusiastic protectors are there for the long haul. They have had visitors: Pete Murray, John Butler, Mama Kin, Ash Grunwald, Xavier Rudd, Blue King Brown, and many, many others who offer their support in song. A group of Aboriginal Elders have camped on the land itself, reminding the haughty farmer that he is not actually the ‘owner’; ergo, he has no right to do this.
Metgasco now has a problem on its hands.
Companies such as Metgasco are notoriously difficult to speak with about their drilling processes. They cloak themselves in secrecy and refuse to talk to anyone who doesn’t agree with them, to anyone who may shine the light of negativity on their methods and techniques, or to anyone who may ask difficult questions that hold them to account for their behaviour. The mystery surrounding their operations makes them appear arrogant and superior, and it also allows a person with even the most limited intelligence to draw the conclusion that they obviously have a damn lot to hide. Add into the mix the use of the police to enforce the will of a corporation, instead of protecting the people that pay their wages through our taxes and are supposedly there to help US, the people; plus the political pockets the mining company must line with cash to be allowed such concessions and bam! We’re slapped sharply with a reminder of how we, the people, and the land we humans, not to mention animals and plants, need for our very survival mean absolutely nothing in the face of money and greed. Can’t eat coal, can’t drink gas.
As I am sitting in the camp, I notice the vast array of people dedicated to the cause. This is not just a bunch of ‘dirty hippies’; there are grandmothers, farmers, office workers, teachers, teenagers. 3000 people turned up recently very early one morning when the call went out that the police might be on their way: labourers, factory workers, bus drivers, check-out chicks, accountants, lawyers, local councillors. And they are fighting for YOUR future.
You may be wondering how Coal Seam Gas mining relates to you. I am here to remind you that this army is the front line against the environmental destruction and the devastation of the water supply that will indeed affect your life, while you sit and read this article over your decaf fair trade skim milk latte in your favourite inner city café. I dare you to take more of an interest of life outside the petty squabbles of the office, the P&C meeting at your kids’ private school, and taking your car to be serviced. The Great Unwashed are fighting this war on your future on your behalf, and you’re too wrapped up in your life to open your eyes. Your money will not buy you a future on a dying planet that has been ravaged by the almighty dollar you hold so dear. Can’t eat coal, can’t drink gas.
Barricade still snoozes, dreaming of chasing tennis balls, gnawing bones bigger than his head, and long walks in the park. In the meantime, he will protect the front line on your behalf. You’re welcome.
Belinda likes to think she’s a writer, but honestly, she just likes to put on her rangry pants and have a good old rant. You can read her shenanigans at rangry.wordpress.com; she is also a regular contributor at thebigsmoke.com.au and theaimn.com.