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January 28, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: Are Farmers the New Hippies?

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Our farmers might just be the new hippies of the environmental movement. They are the voice we have been waiting for. Support them.

The face of the environmental movement is changing. For years those of us who stepped forward against big business or government were discredited by being called ‘hippies’ or ‘tree huggers’ or ‘professional protesters’. Pre the climate crisis conversation, pre raging fires and crippling drought, a love for nature and a drive to protect and respect her positioned you as an enemy of the State; as someone who was taking jobs from working families. You were positioned as someone whose ludicrous beliefs were so at odds with the corporate machine and the drive into development that rather than being, by literal definition a ‘true conservative’, you were just a filthy anti-establishment fantasist. A radical.

Last week I travelled into Western NSW where I saw the evidence of a whole new breed of radicals. They’re called farmers.

Driving through the agricultural lands outside of Gunnedah I was struck by the abundance of protest signage. This was jarring. I could feel the narrative changing as quickly as the countryside I drove through. It is one thing to hold an anti-mining sign in a city street, it is quite another to see FARMS NOT COAL on grain silos. The only structure on the horizon emblazoned with a very clear message from our farming community to our government. And this was not the only sign. On the drive into Gunnedah they became more prevalent – farmers of the region using their paddocks as a place to protest. I guess it’s all you have left when your submissions to the NSW Independent Planning Commission go ignored and you are about to see your farming community transformed into a mining service centre.

In this region, two major coal and gas projects have been approved – despite a massive outcry by local farmers: the Whitehaven Vickery coal extension in Gunnedah (that will increase disturbance to the area by 20 per cent) and the Narrabri Gas Project. When your federal government has declared that our nation’s post-COVID economic strategy involves the endangering of our country’s food bowl in the great gas recovery, it’s no surprise that 22, 000 plus submissions are going to go unheard. When submissions to regulatory bodies fail, all that is left are the paddocks of your farm. I’ve travelled the country as an MC for Stop Adani protests, I’ve attended rallies, I’ve made my own submissions around our outdated energy policy, but it seems energy ‘security’ and big corporate interests win out over food security every time.

It seems our government is prepared to sacrifice sustainable farming systems, well-managed natural resources, and any pretence at policies that enhance farming productivity rather than reducing it. Yes, mining in our farmlands reduces productivity. It empties our food bowl, rather than filling it. What is the point of having secure energy when our bowls are empty? What are we heating? The LNP warchest?

The relationship between the land and our life is coming to the fore. In these farming communities recently stricken with drought, who see more drought on the horizon, the one resource that will determine their survival or demise is water. It’s the damage to ground water supply that they are most concerned about, and the fact that they will be left short of water. Many remarked that even before the drought, ground water supplies were disappearing. Mining and farming do not mix. A Boggabri farmer reflected that when farmers were hit hard during the drought, and when it came to conserving water supply, at no time did the local coal mine consider producing less coal.

I grew up in a farming community. They’re not usually anti-authoritarian. But now, they are finally speaking up, and it’s time our government, and urban Australians listened. We need to back their fight. Our farmers might just be the new hippies of the environmental movement. They are the voice we have been waiting for. Support them. Be a true ‘conservative’.

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  1. Yes Mandy – those who hold strong to their country’s values… the ones who grow the
    food that reaches our household need our protection as much as we need the water
    they must fight for to sustain all: that includes the businesses employing the people
    to sell the crops produced by the ‘farming community’. In other words – The True
    Conservatives of this country [your words, Mandy]. Our farmers must have ground
    water. Without water we die along with the crops. Without any second thought [a no
    brainer] our government gives no lee way [common sense] to the plight of the entire
    country – especially the farming community. Coal & gas’s Corporate interests are set
    to kill the country. Mining & farming can’t mix. NSW is in a state of emergency due
    to Mining & Government stupidity. This money-hungry LNP state has got to be told
    where to go.

  2. Yep Love you Mandy, but think you have too much red dust in yours eyes after visiting out west. The main reason farmers are opposed to Gas fields now on their land (many of them originally supported it ) is because it directly has affected their profits & THEIR families. Not many of these ‘guys’ have ever protested to save OUR native forests or OUR water or OUR wildlife ?? Wanna make a bet ? I’ve been to rallies for 40 yrs and have yet to see a banner saying”FARMERS FOR NATIVE FORESTS” ‘? This issue is largely out of self interest. Lets support the permaculture/organic farmers who do a brilliant & miraculous job at feeding us (often being criticised by govt) and who could be using poisons to make THEIR lives easier & make MORE money, but don’t choose to do that. Overall these ‘farmers’ still vote National , don’t forget the recent madness & mayhem created by Barilaro when many of us were spending years/decades TRYING to save Koalas (wildlife in general).The LNP lied to the NSW public & Koalas were just inconvenient collateral damage, when the issue was about POLITICAL POWER & more development & more logging on private land. IF conventional farmers truly cared about our land we WOULD NOT BE IN THIS ECOLOGICAL MESS. Don’t be deluded by Pro Farming signs Mandy, these people will never be genuine ‘committed brave hippies’ and they were the ones doing the name calling & possibly still do.

    • Good points Lindy. They are just looking after no.1.
      Maybe they should plant some trees while they are out there putting signs on their silos.

  3. Lindy… I’ve watched the split-up of farms versus the LNP’s support for gas over
    the last 4 years & the progress is taking place. It has been a long wait & a great
    pity it’s taken until 2019 for the tide to start turning. It’s by far better now than
    never. The pandemic too has played a part & ‘reasoning’s’ front on. Hold on
    a little longer. Last year the farmers stood up to Adani etc. They mean business.
    Problem is – our ‘media mongrel’ shies away from what’s really happening &
    being said.


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