History Is in Our Hands
Approvals are continually being granted by our existing government. This mine is a ‘climate bomb’ if allowed to go ahead, it will unlock the Galilee Basin; one of the world's largest untapped deposits of thermal coal. The essential infrastructure from Adani will pave the way for up to eight more coal mines to operate. The outcome? Potential to dig up the estimated 27 billion tonne deposit. Most alarming is that the emissions from this coal alone would leave us with little to no chance of keeping global average temperature rise to less than 2℃, pushing global warming past a tipping point with catastrophic effects.
It’s time to acknowledge the climate crisis and act now for a liveable future.
Lucia opens the gates at Camp Binbee. Photo: Emma Backlund
This country is alive! Brown veins twist and turn through the earth leading toward Birri country where a camp exists. Joined with a group of climate-warriors on a mission: John, Sam, Lucia and Emma, we collectively navigate an out-of-place rental car through muddy puddles and past paddocks. Speeding inland we’re further from our comfort zone of the sea and into the peculiar country of Northern Queensland.
Arriving at the locked gates of Camp Binbee, eager to escape my anxiety and the stale scent of 5 humans air-locked in a small space for 3 hours, Lucia jumps out of the car. I yell out the instructions for opening the gate that were passed on via secretive email conversation weeks ago. They prove correct and the code releases the squeaky latch. A long soggy driveway leads us to a bright and cheerful greeting party.
Photo: Emma Backlund
Similar in style to a low budget surf camp – minus the sand and adding lots mud, this is our home for the next week. One of the groups that operates the camp, Frontline Action on Coal, has worked to develop a strong sense of community where everyone plays a vital role in helping maintain the camp.
Currently taking up residence in an eclectic group of 15 people although this number fluctuates constantly. Despite varied ages, backgrounds and professions, everyone here is committed to the fight to stop Adani from mining the Galilee Basin through non-violent direct action. NVDA for short, is a philosophy that guides actions, rejecting violence as a means to achieve whilst acting directly on the issue.
Our time here starts with an induction. Learning quickly the group is governed on a strict set of core values: acknowledging sovereignty, anti-hierarchical decision making and consensus, autonomy, respect in all interactions, and equality.
Hayley leads the daily morning meeting. Photo: Emma Backlund
Each morning there is a daily meeting where information is shared about mine site updates, news of surrounding community events that both oppose and support the project, planning and camp chores.
Hayley, one of the volunteers that helps coordinate camp life, points out
“There’re many forms of participation here and things that make up the body of work that we do – this can include non violent direct action. Some parts are community engagement- organising events where we go out and support allies in the community. Or we put events on here to try and bring people in and build relationships…..
…. Everyday we like to acknowledge the country that we are on. Everyone here is encouraged to share their own version of what that means and quite often people will talk about how ending coal and achieving climate justice is deeply tied with first nations land rights and the sovereignty here on this country. We can’t achieve that goal without supporting first nations people."
Belinda and Sam lock on during non violent direct action training. Photo: Emma Backlund
The heat begins to melt my brain. By 10 am the mercury hits 30 degrees and humidity has to be well up around 90%. Daily routine of the camp works like clockwork. Lathered in sweat, I work with John & Sam to help dig out a new veggie garden whilst others paint signs, cook meals, and skilled hands create devices in preparation for future actions.
When the fierce swelter finally breaks we receive training in non-violent direct action. We are taught about our legal rights, how to use non-violent action effectively, deescalating situations, tactics and role play. We also set up and enact a blockade scenario where we lock ourselves to a fence. I choose to act out the role of a ‘Bunny’ or the lead in the civil disobedience action- despite wanting to be brave, I’m not sure I was ready for this type of heated confrontation.
This feeling tore me apart inside, an internal dispute that kept playing on my mind. If placed in this position was I gutsy enough to endure such a plight? Maybe I’d get my chance at the “scouting” mission that was planned.
The sky was clear and full of stars. When the alarm rang at 1am it was hard to differentiate between my own body temperature and the still air. Condensation droplets had formed on the inside of the walls, making me feel like I was wrapped inside a large bag of my own body fluid. The urgency to get on the road and the fresh air outside was welcomed. The Adani- Carmichael mine site is 350km and a 4 hour drive away. The task was to assess the area for change and possible signs of construction. Our companions had completed this mission countless times before and had uncovered unauthorised work being carried out by Adani.
Adani- Carmichael mine site. Photo: Lucia Santiago
As we drove out to the site, the conversation turned to the railway line that will transport the coal from the extraction point to the Abbott point terminal. Once all assets are in place Adani will not only be conducting their own mine projects but providing the entire Galilee area with essential infrastructure enabling more coal extraction at a larger scale.
Passing through some of the towns on our way to the mine site, it becomes clear that there is a real need for resources and opportunities to support and grow these local economies but the realities of the Adani mine will only create employment for just under 1500 people whilst threatening nearby tourism on the Great Barrier Reef that supports around 64,000 jobs. There is a role for state and federal governments to play in supporting these communities to transitioning away from the dying fossil fuel industry.
The first signs of actual daylight break and a placard on the roadside come into view ‘unauthorised entry’. A series of temporary dwellings lie in a clump beyond the gates. This is known as the Adani Worker Camp. We watch from afar as the workers begin to appear one by one, sipping their morning coffee and lighting their first cigarette.
Huddling under small amounts of shade the sweet song of the threatened Black Throated Finch echo’s in the bushland. Another Adani fact outburst breaks the tranquil tune “Adani has a dodgy environmental record all over the globe, the company has already breached its pollution licence here in Australia by 800%!”… silence leads to another raged outburst “Not. One. Cent. That's how much tax Adani has paid over four years in Australia”
Adani security snaps a photo of Belinda for their records. Photo: Emma Backlund
A security guard drives over to us, he looks unhappy that we are here. I greet him a ‘good morning’ and he proceeds to take photos of us – us watching him, whilst he watches us. The odd exchange continues until the first worker car leaves, half of us follow close-by to investigate any signs of work. Bumpy road, Brolgas and no activity become repetitive and continue until the sun is high. I realise that I don’t need to worry about finding the bravery required for direct action today.
I strip the cumbersome boots from my feet and feel the crimson course sand between my toes. Crouching down to itch last night’s mosquito bite the earth of this country catches my attention and I’m hit by a wave of emotion. It’s this land and this fight that will be the deciding factor for the fate of our planet and all living things.
Belinda high in the trees. Photo: Emma Backlund
Back at Camp Binbee I sit securely in a tree sit. The soft light catches my eye, vitality is illuminating and circulating. Untangling some ropes I slide down and rush away from the hardwood, still in my harness uncomfortably wedged in places it shouldn’t. A closed discussion regarding a top secrete lock on mission is about to go down and I don’t want to miss it. Time at camp has helped me develop my own sense of activism and I can see now that we each have something to offer. Activism comes in many forms and there are always opportunities for people, no matter their circumstances or skill sets, to join the fight to stop Adani and help achieve climate justice.
We are the first generation to feel the effects of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it. Tomorrow brings a new day and with it another opportunity to change the course we are on. So, don’t get depressed, get active!
The future is in our hands. Photo: Emma Backlund
Make your vote count in the upcoming election. Check to see how the parties align with your values HERE