Not your typical Sunday
Ordinarily, my Sundays involve meandering up to my local café, dealing with a hangover and more often than not, lying in bed laughing at/with Abbi & Ilana, or Titus and Kimmy Schmidt. I am a walking stereotype in this sense.
As satisfying as these lazy Sundays are, some weeks ago, along with about 2000 other people, I left my northside Melbourne bubble to protest the continued extraction of fossil fuel from this earth. Not quite as cheery as watching Broad City homages to Mrs. Doubtfire and Sister Act, but something I know I will look back on proudly.
The reality is, if we keep going the way we are on the climate — We. Are. Fucked.
Recently, we hit 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This is largely slated as the point of no return for catastrophic climate change, yet our leaders in Australia are continuing to support the fossil fuel industry. Coal exports in Australia are responsible for about 1 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions, being burnt and emitted in countries like China and India. To put that in perspective, our entire domestic emissions equate to about 560 million tonnes of CO2.
Looking at these stats, its clear that export coal is our problem, and therefore our target.
66 people were arrested in Newcastle on May 8 for stopping coal trains, loaders and ships. We cost the port upward of $100m and got some pretty awesome snaps. We were told that our protest was dangerous and unnecessary. What is more dangerous however, is the very real threat climate change poses.
NSW MLC for the Hunter — Scott MacDonald was quick to jump on our actions and criticise me, and many others, for participating in this action, and causing harm to the local economy.
I have sympathy for those in the local community affected by our protest — the workers and local small business owners who might have suffered. This protest was never about creating division between us, and those living in Newcastle, or even those working in the coal industry. Indeed, many of those protesting were locals themselves, or from communities facing the harmful effects of mining in other parts of the country.
Communities in proximity to coal extraction and export are often disregarded, while the land, waterways and air around them are seen as dumping ground for pollution and waste. Scott MacDonald has tried to present our protest as one out of touch with local people, as one made of up of privileged, latte-sipping city-folk who could never possibly understand what it means to be a real ‘Aussie battler’.
Mr MacDonald uses this argument because he knows it works. He knows it is the only way he can foster fear and suspicion between two groups, whose interests are essentially the same.
Unless you are a multi-million/billionaire mining industry investor or one of a swath of bankers and conservative politicians, you have little to gain from Australia’s export coal industry. Even for those working in the mines, the industry provides no long-term job security. This is as much due to increasing automation and efficiency measures in the industry, as it is to do with climate. Additionally, living near coal mining can reduce life expectancy by more than 4 years, when compared to the general population.
Our protest then, was as much for those people on the frontlines of coal mining, as it was for the Pacific Islanders whose homes are sinking, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders whose sacred sites are being destroyed and for future generations who will have to deal with all this shit.
Scott McDonald, and other conservatives, will continue to criticise protests like these and attempt to divide and rule the general Australian population. And for their sake, they should keep trying damn hard to keep it that way.
They are on the wrong side of history and it is only a matter of time before they become the ones, who are presented as out-of-touch, elitist and fighting a losing battle.