Byron. Saturday, 10.45pm
The Byron green glitterati are out and about.
The upstairs room of the Byron Community Centre is filling with people who have just watched the anti-CSG movie Frackman in the auditorium downstairs.
This is the after-party. A band is playing energetic country rock from a dark corner of the room. I know the musicians; I’ve seen them at anti-CSG gigs in NSW and Queensland. They’re heroes. Tonight they are unsung but singing for the cause… and a few beers.
Older men in suit jackets and jeans mix with women with high heels and carefully natural hair. Younger men in slogan-heavy t-shirts gather in a blokey bunch to tell tales from the frontline, beer in hand. Their women friends move to the verandah for a cigarette.
There is a buzz and tinkle as beers and champagne are collected for free by the honoured from the VIP bar. The not-so-VIPs go to the bar outside and pay. This is society: Some are more priviliged than others. It’s become natural.
I follow the women.
On the verandah, a woman smiles at me and I smile back. I find a bit of railing to lean on. A scent of salt air has survived the car fumes, cigarette smoke and green curry aroma on its journey down Jonson Street from the beach to me.
Across the street a gang of young people mills on the corner where the road turns towards the Rails. The moon is big tonight but cannot compete with the streetlight hanging over them. A couple, tattooed and dreaded, crosses from the park and joins the gang, to a chorus of greeting.
Frackman doesn’t have a happy ending. The world doesn’t get saved (but the hero does get the girl). I like that. It would be a lie.
CSG mining is just one manifestation of the huge crisis facing the world. No single action, like Bentley, no matter how celebrated, no matter how extensive the self-congratulation, no matter how many climb onto the bandwagon afterwards, can make the future a better one – despite the winning.
These skirmishes are part of a much bigger battle, which is being lost.
The woman who smiled at me walks over to my bit of railing, rests her elbow on part of it, and talks to me in a familiar way. I can’t remember who she is. I should ask her name.
The big battle requires a militancy beyond the part-time environmental concern that goes very nicely with the solar-system-hemp-fibre-organic-vodka chic of modern Shire living. It requires more than selfies and high-fives.
Survival means giving up much that the increasing global inequality has given us. Along with impending catastrophe come smartphone, six-speed Subaru and sushi for lunch. We are addicted to the scraps that the privileged elite (and their compliant governments) throw us.
Here, on the verandah, the brutal reality of the escalating planetary destruction is still theoretical, or at least, somewhere else (the poor darlings). Survival requires a change so severe, it’s best not to think about it. (But Bentley was great.)
The youth gang on the corner is becoming noisy. The woman whose name I should have asked but it’s now too late, points to them and asks, ‘What’s happening there?’
‘Maybe the revolution has started’, I say, laughing, but secretly hoping.
A police car slides slowly by them.
It will take courage to renounce a comfortable way of life that depends on environmental degradation by the privileged few.
The gang seems to be organising itself for something. A big bloke moves to the back.
The police car stops.
The gangs counts down: “Three, two…”
An arm is raised.
“One!” they shout.
The camera flashes.
Then it’s smiles and high fives all round.