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Bigger than Franklin

The Franklin River blockade. Photo www.wilderness.org.au

The Franklin River blockade. Photo www.wilderness.org.au

I was living in Tasmania at the time of the Franklin River Blockade in 1982 against the proposal by the hydroelectric commission to build a dam across the wild river. While I was not one of the brave souls out on the river in a flimsy rubber dinghy – the river itself was scary enough in flood – I supported the Wilderness Society, along with many others, in efforts to stop the ill-thought-out plan.

The conservation movement was well organised and many saw its activism as pivotal in bringing down the Fraser government at the 1983 election after Bob Hawke promised to stop the dam. There may be parallels with today in the fight to stop the monstrous Adani Carmichael coal mine in Queensland, though this time Labor has thrown its support behind this atavistic anomaly.

In a wide-ranging article by Joshua Robertson in The Guardian last Saturday Galilee Blockade campaigner Ben Pennings is quoted as saying, ‘This is going to dwarf the Franklin blockade.’  The campaign may well do so, given the obvious folly of investing in fossil fuels in the age of climate change and its attendant sense of urgency, and the number of different fronts on which a well-rehearsed activist movement will come together.

As Robertson details, professionals such as lawyers will be supporting the new blockade, the burgeoning grey radical movement, exemplified locally by Knitting Nannas Against Gas, will manifest as Grandparents for the Galilee, and the proposed mine is on the traditional land of the Wangan and Jagalingou people – wanganjagalingou.com.au – who have been trying to stop the development through the courts. Not only Adani itself but the companies subcontracted to it will be subjected to lobbying and protest.

What’s there to like about the Adani proposal, apart from the mythical number of jobs quoted by Labor in its attempt to hang on to some of the Queensland electorate? It threatens environmental damage to some 400 square kilometres of inland Queensland and to the already at-risk iconic Great Barrier Reef. Its end-product will add a further burden to the planet in the form of global warming, and Adani’s record of pollution and corruption in India hardly bodes well for its activities here.

And at a time when India and China are throwing billions into solar and wind projects, it seems a special kind of folly for our federal government to be flicking a billion dollars Adani’s way. Economic reality, anyone?

The Galilee Blockade begins its digital activism at galileeblockade.net and also on Facebook. Local seasoned campaigners against fracking and the logging of northern rivers rainforest will be joining in. Anyone with a concern for the viability of Earth will most likely consider it a campaign bound to be bigger than the Franklin Blockade.

– Michael McDonald


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