The deeper reality of fracking
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‘We have to ventilate our homes so they don’t explode’
Gamilaraay man Raymond ‘Bubbly’ Weatherall is at the Redfern Community Centre. On this Friday night in early June, rain smashes down outside as he recounts how his countryman Nathan Leslie threatened to arrest police, who’d come to arrest him for trespassing on his own land.
Weatherall’s audience has just watched the outstanding documentary ‘Sacrifice Zone’ on anti-fracking struggles against the Santos Narrabri Gas Project in north western NSW.
They’ve seen Leslie on screen. His bearing shows someone to be reckoned with, because he stands in the Law. The battle is “bigger than me,” says Leslie. “Our Ancestors are always watching.”
The police backed off and left, Bubbly gleefully tells the audience.
Huge struggles up to 2015 reduced the percentage of NSW open for fracking from 60 per cent to 5 per cent till, as the documentary states, “all that is left is Santos land.” Work has begun on Gomeroi land in the Pilliga.
The battle is Australia-wide. Only Victoria, which has banned it, Tasmania and the ACT are currently unaffected. According to Guardian Australia’s Michael Evershed, “The vast majority of land in both the NT and South Australia is covered by either current tenements for petroleum exploration and development, or applications for exploration and development,” leaving them vulnerable to shale gas mining.
When the ALP mis-government recently approved 51 per cent of NT for shale gas mining and fracking it became clear that Aboriginal lands are being particularly targeted.
Arrernte Kaytetye elder, Christine Palmer, speaking in Sydney at rally marking the 11th anniversary of the NT Intervention
Before the go-ahead, NT First Nations’ youth group, Seed, stated, “Over 60 community members from across 13 regions came together on Larrakia country in Darwin, 18-20 November 2017, to yarn about how to stand together and stop fracking from destroying the NT.
“Never before have this many Aboriginal community members been brought together on the issue of fracking.
“People came together from every corner of the Territory”
This spearhead of powerful opposition ensured 135 requirements were promised, but the fight is not over by a long shot.
For our children
Shale and coal seam gas mining creates huge amounts of poisoned waste water and can contaminate rivers up to 1000km away.
Borroloola’s McArthur River has already been poisoned by mining giant Glencore using conventional mining.
A statement from Elder Nancy McDinny, Yanuwa & Garrawa from Borroloola reads, “Those four rivers on Garawa country; we’re going to fight for that water for our children and ban fracking,”
“We want this land to be strong and healthy for our children so they can go out bush hunting and fishing in the clean environment. Our water has to be clean and healthy for everyone to drink,” she says.
To the east, the Great Artesian Basin (GAB) covers an area the size of Queensland, straddling four states. Once contaminated, underground resources like GAB which communities rely on into the future, damage can’t be undone.
‘We let this go without so much as a whimper in our country’
Lisa Cox writes in Guardian Australia, “Alliances have been formed across groups that have traditionally been at odds – the environment movement, Indigenous groups and conservative regional and farming communities.”
Drew Hutton, former President of the Lock the Gate Alliance, says, “The only thing stopping them is this magnificent fortitude.”
When corporations came knocking in the US coal seam gas belt, communities believed the hype. US farmer, John Fenton says, “We let this go without so much as a whimper in our country. We can’t drink the water out of the wells any more. We have to ventilate our homes so they don’t explode… Our property is worth nothing now.”
In Queensland, producing gas fields already cover more than 30,000 square kilometres. The results are laid bare; industrialisation of rural and remote areas by an insidious, deceitful and destructive industry. Those affected have begged Australia to listen and learn.
Struggle reveals the bloodless icy heart of capitalism; that only profits matter. The interests of the people and those of giant corporations are diametrically opposed. Those on the front line of struggle will never look at capitalism in the same way again. Many begin to sense that this antagonistic and irreconcilable contradiction needs a final resolution.
‘Sacrifice Zone’ is free to view at https://vimeo.com/257444267
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