Climate Camp 2010

Last weekend I dropped into the last days of the Climate Camp being held at Lake Liddell recreation area near Muswellbrook in the Hunter. 

It was held here because near Bayswater Power station where a new one, Bayswater B, is threatened/promised, and which needs serious protesting against. An insanity, flying in the opposite direction of what is the publicised aim of Cancun. Has Mr Combet mentioned ‘coal’ yet?

Inspirationally, the Camp was just across the ‘lake’ from the Liddell Power Station and through the days and nights coal trains roared and rumbled along the nearby lines to the coal loader at Newcastle, the world’s largest coal exporting port.

They seemed non-stop — as they will actually be when even current expansions and approved mines get going — and they were as loud in that wide valley as a jet engine on the tarmac.

Some mines here and to the north and west do supply the two Hunter power stations, but most of the coal is shipped overseas to fuel climate change — they get paid more for that!

On Saturday night a wild and wet storm tested all the tents and made gumboots or bare feet de rigeur. They’d had a great week, I heard, with workshops and speakers and coalfields tours, where people from many states and even New Zealand  swapped information and drew strength from, as one participant said, this ‘family of environmentally concerned persons’.

I was delighted to meet in person two of the interstate activists who had helped me on my coal research trips: Sonya Duus, from Bimblebox in Queensland and Frosty from Bunbury in Western Australia.

As always, the last day was to be a day of community action and many Campers had put much effort and originality into the costumes, the placards and banners, and the songs and rap raves to brighten up the protest walk.

Many more folk turned up just for the walk; the police cars waited at the gate, the sun came out, and the colourful crowd of several hundred set off, to drums and whistles that stirred my heart, as if they were truly going into battle. As they were, for all of us and the planet.

I was staying behind to help others prepare food for them when they returned — which would be much later than expected.

All ages were there, from babes and toddlers to those in what would have to be called twilight years. Minibuses  — or obliging mums and dads — were there to transport those not able to walk far.

Once they were on the road, police cars in front and rear shepherded them along the road beside the rail line. As they went over the hill, in such a ‘rural’ setting, the protest looked as out of place as the coal trains and conveyor belts do. There were few police, as they probably were expecting no ‘action’ until the walk neared Bayswater.

Instead, only a few hundred metres down the road, the line suddenly veered off the road, flattened a pre-cut cyclone wire fence, and 150 headed down to the rail loop that serves both power stations.

Some locked themselves on to the tracks, others just sat and occupied the line.  The rest stayed up on the hill outside the now-horizontal fence and gave encouragement, through hot sun and then heavy rain.

In all, and over many, many hours, late into the night, 73 people were arrested, for offences including enter and remain on rail infrastructure, failure to comply with police direction, and enter and remain on enclosed lands. Hardly dangerous or threatening behaviour, compared to the lethal harm the government will cause if it allows this new power station. 

We don’t need it, when we have perfectly viable plans for moving to a renewable energy future – right now — like Beyond Zero’s Stationary Energy Plan.

These people who put themselves peacefully but firmly up against the law, and likely up for serious fines, did so to gain the attention of the public and the government, both of which seem to have let this greatest threat to life on earth just slip into the background.

They did it for your kids– and all the kids to come.

The last two photos are from the Herald story.

8 thoughts on “Climate Camp 2010”

  1. Hi Jenny,
    I did little but chop vegies. Thanks for the thoughts, and numbers do matter, but it seems that no matter what protests are made, governments aren’t going to deal with climate change as they so urgently need to. Given the lack of progress at Cancun, I despair of the countries with the most power for change being selfless enough to commit to it or brave enough to declare that this is a state of global emergency and insist on wartime measures.

  2. Heartfelt thanks, Sharyn, to you and all those wonderful souls
    who went into battle for the wellbeing of us all.
    We regret that we were unable to be there to join forces.

  3. Great work Sharyn. The Camp. The ‘Vibe’. Great pictures and great description. A ‘family of environmentally concerned persons’ it was. ‘Several hundred set off, to drums and whistles that stirred my heart, as if they were truly going into battle. As they were, for all of us and the planet.”
    “Once they were on the road, Police vehicles, Polair and off-road motorcyclists, front and rear, all-around, herded them along the road beside the rail line until suddenly part of the the march veered off the road, flattened a pre-cut cyclone wire fence, and 150 headed down to the rail loop that serves both power stations. Some locked themselves to the tracks with only inches of free movement at the neck, others sat and occupied the line and ensured their welfare. Others maintained a vigil on the hill outside the now-horizontal fence and gave encouragement, through hot sun and then heavy rain. Only after some hours shaming the cordon manager to change his decision to deny water to those needing it down on the rails.
    Hours later some elderly and permitted to walk free without arrest.

    Looks as though we saw the same thing but only you can smith the words to re-create it.

    This Climate Camp was a uniting experience well worth having. A must. Worthy of the 5 day event status. (A pity I missed two). Worthy of your words. Hallelujah!

  4. Thanks for that Steve. Yes we are way behind the U.S. in preventive health in this, and that’s saying something given the influence of coal over there too. Wilfully so, given that our Health Dept. must know we breathe the same way as Americans. But Planning has more power than Health and Coal has more power than Planning, and ‘if ye do not seek, ye shall not find’– results that might upset the Boss.
    A pathetic and tragic situation for those in the coal power areas, especially where combined with the many close coalmines, to create a toxic cocktail instead of what was country air.

  5. All those attending climate camp were endangering their health. The annual average fine dust (PM2.5) level for Muswellbrook for 2009 was 28% above the National Advisory top limit. Whilst any level of exposure is harmful according to the experts, this level of exposure inevitably will translate into deaths and a substantial level of disease. The air quality experts designing the new monitoring system for the Upper Hunter state the PM2.5 dust is evenly distributed about the Upper Hunter atmosphere so that the unacceptable high reading for Muswellbrook town, taken at the only monitor out of 68 local monitors that measures fine dust, will have been representative of the level of risk endured by climate camp participants and 40,000+ residents. Power stations are the peak emitters of fine dust particles as evidenced by the NPI record for Liddell which shows it emitted 750,000,000kg of PM2.5 dust in the last year. Despite the unacceptable PM2.5 level, which has contributed to Muswellbrook 5 yr olds having a disability rate (35% have one or more disabilities on entering school – AEDI results) higher than any other in the region, nevertheless the NSW Govt are still wanting to build further coal fired power stations in the area. How many extra deaths are they aiming for?
    When US made PM2.5 monitoring mandatory 13 years ago it lead to a reduction of the death rate and their health bill in coal mining areas. We predict if Australia had done the same we would have saved at least 10 lives per year in the Upper Hunter.

  6. Hi Hazel,
    There’s bound to be a Climate Action Group in your area. If you just Google those words it should show you; but if not, let me know your general area and I’ll suss out for you. You can ask for that to be kept private by my webmaster when you leave the comment, as he moderates them all.
    Bravo for wanting to help!

  7. The sooner renewable energy replaces coal the better, great to see people care enough to protest like this and Im sure they won’t give up the fight. Any links on how we can help take action?

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