City dweller Laura Williams reports from inner suburban Melbourne.
As a full-time IT worker in one of Melbourne’s many offices, I am sometimes asked by colleagues and acquaintances what motivates me (and other city dwellers) to spend my spare time campaigning against onshore gas mining, when it would occur far from where I live and work. Our campaign team recently received this great photo from Stephen of East St Kilda, who says:
“As a city dweller who draws upon the treasures of country Victoria for recreation and inspiration, I am only too conscious of the threat that unconventional gas mining poses….Mining companies wish to mine for shale, coal seam and tight gas…….There is understandably considerable anxiety for those in rural Victoria of the consequences of a huge swathe of land extending from Nelson on S.A. border to Metung, E. Gippsland being subjected to industrialisation through this type of mining. As I believe many people in the city would share this concern, if they only knew what was at stake, I felt compelled to install a sign on my front fence in East St.Kilda, to give this topic some sort of profile in our busy urban environment.”
As Stephen has so visually demonstrated, regional communities living under exploration licenses are not alone in their fight to protect Victoria.
When I am asked why I care as a city-dweller, I often point out how exceptionally lucky we are to live in a state that produces such high quality food so close to home, and we would be crazy not to protect that from risk of contamination. The complexity of water aquifers means any contamination could spread far and wide of any gas well, ruining water supplies used for drinking, agricultural production, sustaining Victoria’s beautiful land and wildlife…..the impacts could be felt far and wide, and once unleashed cannot be undone.
I tell them how this kind of mining is a water-intensive process that would compete with agriculture and the natural environment surrounding the mine sites for this precious resource. I shake my head in disbelief that we would even contemplate allowing this use of such large quantities of water in a drought-prone land, and creating waste fluid unsuitable for re-use and difficult to safely store and decontaminate.
There are also the risks of gas flaring in Australia’s bushfire prone terrain. If the person I’m talking to is interested in economics, I could tell them about the potential costs to the taxpayer for clean-ups, for fighting fires, for compensating and supporting communities when a contamination event occurs. I could point out the strength of Victoria’s economy built on export of dairy and other produce, tourism and other rural business which supply these industries. Not to mention the impact on a farmer’s ability to insure their business, and decrease in land value itself.
There are many more practical and economic reasons that I could list.
But perhaps the most important reason is a responsibility to support our rural friends. The thing I most often share with people who enquire, is how this campaign has enabled those living in the inner city to connect with those living in country and rural areas, to understand the challenges they face and the incredible stress they feel living under the shadow of exploration licenses. I talk about the democratic process these communities have undertaken to talk with everyone in their town about gasfields and to actually ask every single household whether they want a ban on gasfields in Victoria. This kind of grass-roots organising has brought together people regardless of any political affiliation they may hold, to connect on shared values of fairness, of respect for land and earth, and for the rights of communities to reach their own consensus and self-determination.
If you live in the city, there are lots of ways you can support the fight against onshore gas mining.