19th March 2014
The industry bodies that represent the coal export industry in NSW and Queensland have recently taken to lambasting, belittling and smearing the intentions of individuals and organisations that have dared to face up to them and speak the truth about the consequences of the unchecked expansion of coal in Australia. Some politicians, particularly in Queensland, have joined this chorus.
I am glad that it is a matter of public record that these people have tried to shame people and groups opposing the expansion of the coal industry. Our children need to know that this was a fierce battle of right and wrong.
The underdog pose being struck by the coal industry associations in the debate about the future of coal belies the inordinate power the industry wields. In the two years since the Stopping the Coal Export Boom strategy document was ‘revealed‘, the coal industry has continued to wipe out country towns, gobble up high security water licences, clear bushland and expand production. Last year, in fact, export volumes jumped 11 per cent. The victim card they’re playing is a ruse to make us forget about the real victims: the people whose home towns, farms, water and health is being sacrificed for our unthinking commitment to expanding coal mining.
Of course, in addition to having dramatic local impacts where it is mined, burning coal has a global impact. It is Australia’s biggest single contribution to climate change, and, unlike much our domestic greenhouse pollution, it is growing rapidly. The world has warmed less than one degree Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, yet Australians are suffering the impacts of the changes in global and local climate and weather systems this has caused. We are being told by reputable scientists that the opportunity to prevent global warming at levels that will bring irreversible disruption to our food production systems, leave whole cities with shrinking water supplies, and bring dramatic rise in sea-levels is nearly lost. And yet, the coal industry pundits try to shame us for daring to propose that the expansion of our biggest contribution to this problem be stopped.
Well, I am not ashamed. I am not ashamed that I oppose the expansion of the coal industry and do everything in my limited power to prevent it. I am not ashamed that I co-operate with people who stand to lose their livelihoods, their homes or their health to coal mining and help them fight for what matters to them, because it matters to me, too. There is no pretence to any of this: people that are affected by the expansion of the coal industry are co-operating because they have found out how much they have in common. Perhaps they have different reasons for doing so, but that doesn’t make the myriad local, regional, national and global impacts of the industry any less real or valid.
If you’re one of the many thousands of people in this country that believes that ordinary people should not be expected to pay the terrible price we’re being told to pay for expanding the coal industry any further, don’t let them shame you. Be proud that you are standing up for what is right, and raise your voice louder.