Exposing the facts behind the spin, sharing true stories of the long term negative impacts of the coal and gas invasion, from broken rivers to broken hearts.
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Rich Land, Wasteland
Below is the back cover text of ‘Rich Land, Wasteland’. Unfortunately that book is as relevant now as it was then, and my book remains the seminal work to cover the country and give voice to those impacted by the reality behind the sham processes. Which is why I have continued to fight for them.
‘I am talking of an invasion of our country, a taking over of land and a clearing out of people. And I mean this literally.’
Distressed by what was happening to her homeland in the Hunter Valley, writer and ‘concerned grandma’ Sharyn Munro set off on a fact-finding journey around Australia to see and hear how other families and communities were affected by Australia’s headlong rush to mine and drill for ever more coal and coal seam gas. What she found was shocking. The destruction of Australia’s precious natural resources – farmland, water, forests – was on a scale staggering beyond anything Sharyn expected. And so was the secret toll to our country’s people.
Vividly told, this riveting book rigorously challenges the facts about the nationwide coal and CSG boom, and explores the real costs to our Australia. Rich Land Wasteland shows us the extraordinary strength of everyday Aussies battling to defend their land and their rights against the corporate giants, often in the face of devastating personal consequences, shattered health and displaced lives.
From broken rivers to broken hearts, the long-term and permanent negative impacts of coal and CSG mining that Sharyn foreshadows are a frightening prospect for our nation’s future. You may never face a coalmine or a gas well in your backyard, but the consequences to us all are laid bare in this engrossing and disturbing exploration into some of our nation’s most controversial industries. Rich Land Wasteland calls them to account and asks what it the true price of all this ‘wealth’? For Australia, its people and its future.
The clean country air of the Hunter.
Just another blast to add to the air quality.
The Andrews family at Tarwyn Park, Bylong.
Sadly, the front cover of my book epitomises the tragedy of our rich lands under threat of becoming wastelands, for my chosen Rich Land image, Tarwyn Park in the beautiful Bylong Valley, is now owned by the Korean coal company Kepco. We currently await the decision of the IPC on the mine’s final approval…
Some RLWL media links
Tales from the coalface | Farm Online “THERE is a war taking place in Australia, and the warring sides are more unevenly matched than any David and Goliath cliché can convey” – Sharyn Munro, Rich Land, Wasteland.
Rich Land, Wasteland: How coal is killing Australia. | Social Policy … A review essay by Len Puglisi. If you’ve ever had doubts about what the economic rationalist / neoliberal ethos, or corporate-consumerist capitalism might mean for an Australia inside a mining boom as the dominant driver, look no further than this book by Sharyn Munro.
Sharyn Munro’s book Richland, Wasteland records the health and environmental perils of living in Australia’s coal mining communities.
The coal seam gas boom has seen mining march into rural Australia as never before, and brought together environmentalists and…
Typical Hunter ‘landscape’.
Introduction (from ‘Rich Land, Wasteland’)
Let me tell you a story. It’s a tragedy, a scandal, a dark page of our history in the making, a story that winds its pain through many lives in many places — and it’s true. You may have trouble believing it to be true, however, for such things couldn’t possibly be happening iån democratic Australia, Land of the Fair Go.
I am talking of an invasion of our country, a taking over of land and a clearing out of people. And I mean this literally.
Appalled at what had happened to my nearby Hunter Valley, I set off with my tape recorder to other regions, other states, to see if the tales of invasions elsewhere were true. They were — worse than expected, in the territory taken and threatened, the casualties, the tactics — and spreading bewilderingly fast.
In the victims’ kitchens, on their verandahs or in their utes, my little machine recorded their stories, while their pain and stress, their bitter frustration and utter disillusionment etched into my heart and spirit. Only my anger at the injustice of what is being done to so many people and places kept me going.
There is a war taking place in Australia, and the warring sides are more unevenly matched than any David and Goliath cliché can convey.
The invaders are mostly foreign or multinational, with unlimited troops and funds, and such political clout that our governments usher them into the country under a diversionary cloud of spin and pave their way to victory — at our expense.
The invaded are mostly in the country, rural or semi-rural, from sixth generation farmers and rural villagers to ‘new’ settlers or retirees. In the beginning, many landowners were taken by surprise, stunned by incredulity — how could this be allowed to happen? — until too late. Although that is less likely now, the defenders are still mostly guerilla bands, poor in funds, troops, training and influence. Especially in the more remote areas, they may only have a few members each. But now hundreds of such local groups are forming, cyber-sharing information and tactics. Many are creating alliances that transcend social and political strata and state borders, and the most unlikely people have been forced into defensive action.
Their enemy is Coal, which includes its more recent insidious offsider, Coal Seam Gas (CSG). Its backers are Big Business and Government. In fact, Government is largely perceived as the real opponent, because it hands Big Business the legal weapons, the loose legislation, the special exemptions and subsidies, and it has ignored both the war crimes and the collateral damage.
Just because there is a ‘demand’ does not mean the profiteers should satisfy it at any cost. The economy is not the only aspect of Australia that needs to be healthy; what about its people, its air, its land and water, its food-growing areas, its remnant natural heritage, its fast-diminishing unique plants and animals?
Doesn’t Government know about Triple Bottom Line full cost accounting: people, planet, profit? They are repeatedly told of the adverse impacts on the first two of these, but the companies say the opposite in their submissions, and it is these that governments choose to accept without questioning. All of which adds greatly to the victims’ feelings of helplessness, and hopelessness.
Most Australians, most voters, live in the cities whose infrastructure and services reap the benefits of the spoils of war handed to the government.
Most Australians are ignorant of the true costs and impacts of this invasion, some of which, like the destruction of our food and water security, will be felt even in the cities.
Most Australians, I believe, are decent people who would be as appalled as I am by what is going on — if they knew. I wrote this book to share with you what I experienced and what I learnt, hoping you might say to our governments, ‘This is not right. This is not the Australia we want to be.’ So that when governments talk of coal as essential for the economy, and coal talks of its unbridled expansion as essential for the economy, you will see the whole picture instead of only the spin.
I had to wade through the whole sticky web in my efforts to discover what is really going on. It wasn’t easy; I’m a writer, a grandma with a social conscience, not an investigative journalist. Eventually one constant thread of truth began to gleam among the murk: the spin has as little to do with reality as the ‘rigorous’ invasion approval process does. Big Business and Government pay public relations officers, advertising gurus, media staff and consultants to get publicity for their side. They have minerals and petroleum producers’ groups, mining and planning departments, websites and glossy publications to speak for them.
I don’t pretend to be unbiased; how could I be, after what I’ve seen and heard? I am unashamedly giving voice to the other side, the Australians whose plight has been ignored, downplayed or dismissed. And they are not paying me to do so.
You can assume that things will have got much worse for these people by the time you read their stories. I know they have, as I remain in touch with many. They have either been defeated, forced to take their broken hearts and bitter memories and leave their homes, or they are under closer attack, or they are facing new mines or gas fields, and often both.
First let me counter some of the anticipated accusations.
No, I am not anti-mining, but I am anti inappropriate or irresponsible development of any sort, no excuses. I want the people and the planet placed before profit every time. There’s always another way.
I am certainly not anti-miners either. Family and friends have been or are still employed in the coal industry. People are restricted for choice where mining has overwhelmed most other industries, or they are seduced by the big pay packets of this surreal world of the golden handcuff — and perhaps into the strange new socially disconnected order of fly-in, fly-out work.
Nor is this book motivated by NIMBY-ism. I do not live near a mine, nor — so far as I know — am I at risk from coal or CSG.
It is motivated by concern for the health and futures of my grandchildren who have been living in the coal-afflicted Hunter, and for everyone else’s grandchildren who must breathe such polluted air and who face devastated and de-watered landscapes that will be unusable, worthless, after decades of aiming for the one bottom line.
I was living as sustainably as possible in my mountain Eden — complete with snakes — and minding my own business. With a stand-alone solar power system, coal and coal power meant nothing to me.
Yet from the mid-1990s, as I drove down to the Valley I began to see the layer of brownish-yellow was becoming more consistently present as a roof over the whole Valley between Singleton and Muswellbrook. Once under it, inside it, the air was a watered-down milk coffee fug, like a bushfire haze but without the distinctive smell; sometimes it was so dense that the ridges that border the Valley were barely visible.
From any direction, the pollution line ahead signalled coal country, even before the first mountains of dumped ‘overburden’, the dirt and rock that had covered the coal, or the enormous terraced holes they make in their creeping disembowelment of the land.
Eleven years ago, the birth of my first grandchild snapped me into a sense of wider responsibility for her future than simply setting an example of green living. Never a political person, I had foolishly thought the government was there to care for the people’s interests, yet here they were approving more pollution with each new massive open-cut mine, ignoring the cumulative impact while mumbling assurances that ‘strict environmental guidelines’ were in place.
What could I do about it? I only had one weapon: a way with words.
I began with ‘Country Viewpoints’ for ABC Radio National’s Bush Telegraph program, then wove my concerns through my first book, The Woman on the Mountain, which spawned my blog (www.sharynmunro.com). Feedback from these showed that many shared my concerns.
Coal seemed unstoppable and unaccountable in its advance, and if what they were doing was within the law, well, the law had to be changed. But how?
By public demand, I guess. How to achieve that?
Exposure of that public — you — to the truth.
Hunter rural homes: too close to too many mines.
The fight continues.
For blogs on post-book events and issues, just type in the name in the ‘Search’ box.
Ch 1: ‘Camberwell –in crisis from coal’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=3123
‘Hopes for a saner 2012’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=3401
Ch 2: ‘Acland – death by coal’
‘Get counted for Acland’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=3083
Ch 3: ‘Home is where the dirt is” http://sharynmunro.com/?p=110
‘How brown is my valley’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=246
‘Scenic drive’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=2433
‘High noon at Anvil Hill’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=25
‘Salvation Sunday at Anvil Hill’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=30
‘Wybong Action Group’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=1514
‘Bullying the blind’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=3350
‘Coal port takeover’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=731
Ch 4: ‘Don’t breathe the air’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=2651
‘Lithgow landscape’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=1872
Ch 5: ‘Nightmare country’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=1779
‘Mining madness’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=1263
‘Natural treasures’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=1817
‘River walking’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=2980
‘National treasure: ours or China’s?’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=3501
‘Bylong won’t be bygone’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=3287
Emergency stand-in duty as Climate Angel.
Ch 6: ‘Trashing the tropics’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=1931
‘Cuter than coal’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=1964
Ch 7: ‘Farmers versus BHP’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=1854
‘Minimal mining impact’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=2689
Ch 8: ‘When the neighbours get pushy’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=2453
‘Coal floods’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=2558
‘Blackening the Golden Triangle’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=3060
Ch 9:’Paradise under threat’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=1291
‘Wines, not mines, in Margaret River’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=2282
Ch 10: none
As an honorary Nanna at Santos gate knit-in.
Ch 11: ‘Collie, coal town’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=2263
Ch 12: The march of the methane-mongers’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=2923
Ch13: ‘Outback Eden under threat’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=2182
With Patricia Julien and Paola Cassoni at the IUCN conference.
‘Speak up for nature’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=3262
‘All creatures…’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=2552
Ch 14:’Coal-powered clouds’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=2077
‘Man-made murk’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=2086
‘Eureka – the future we need to foster’ http://sharynmunro.com/?p=3450
It is the many committed battlers, like Bill Ryan, who keep me fighting. And I constantly meet good people, as in the Knitting Nannas, who give me hope.