My new book

At last I can tell everyone what I have been working on for the last two years, monopolising my mind and my heart, and near breaking both at times.

My new book, Rich Land, Wasteland — how coal is killing Australia, will be in bookshops at the start of May, a joint publishing venture by Pan Macmillan Australia and Exisle Publishing.

I knew the Hunter had been — is being — trashed by coal, and the wishes and wellbeing of its residents apparently treated with contempt by both corporate coal and government. Was this unique or could it possibly this bad elsewhere?

To find out, in 2010 I took my tape recorder and travelled to other coal areas around Australia  — a black road trip in more ways than one.

What I found nationwide shocked me with its scale and scope and speed — and the awful human toll from the frenzied push for profits by the coal and CSG industries.

This was an industrial invasion — ‘a taking over of land and a clearing out of people’ — and it was by mainly foreign forces, with full government support via their loose and biased laws and processes — at best.

In the face of all the spin from industries with bottomless pockets and from gormless governments, I wanted ordinary Australians to know what was happening to their country and their countrymen behind their backs — in the confidence that they will say ‘This is not the Australia we want to be’ when they do.

Food and water security, health and social structure, precious natural resources and places, both environmental and agricultural, were being taken away from us and from future generations — and nobody apart from those immediately impacted knew much about it.

And, tied up and worn down with their specific local battles, nobody knew the full national picture.

It took all of 2011 to make a readable (and liftable) book out of the many interviews with affected people, the information I gathered from research, and the ongoing updates from news and from community action groups all around Australia, right up until the end of February 2012.

I remained in touch with most of the folk I met on my coal trip, and I can tell you that things have gotten worse for most of them.

But 2011 was a boom year for action, as more once-conservative people, especially farmers, realised they could not depend on governments to protect them and theirs, and took strong stands, from Locking the Gate to legal challenges.

CSG may have grabbed the headlines, and it should, but we must not forget that Coal continues to plan expansion on a truly massive scale, in places like the Galilee Basin in Queensland, around Cooper Pedy in South Australia, and the Canning Basin in Western Australia.

I’m a writer, not an academic or a journalist, so I wanted to write a ‘story’.

I didn’t want to only present readers wth a collection of dry, if horrific, facts; I wanted to give a vivid and impassioned narrative that brought readers with me on my journey into this ‘national tragedy’.

The real voices from the coal fronts certainly do that. My book is a tool that I will use to the maximum with talks and publicity.

I hold out hope that adding all our voices to theirs will raise the momentum on the turning tide, as I feel it to be, and that ‘profit’ will be forced to be legislated back into perspective, with people and the planet as priorities.

Maybe then Australia can have the sustainable and smart future we would wish for our grandchildren, rather than the rapidly looming shortsighted one that I discovered.

The book has its own website here.

Queries about talks, publicity etc to Jace Armstrong at Macmillan or Carlie Harris at Exisle.

15 thoughts on “My new book”

  1. Hi Sharyn, it has been my pleasure to have worked with some of the people you talk about in your book. I have recommended your book to a number of my peers to read as you raised some interesting concerns that I had not considered before and which should be looked at. If the figures in your book are correct, it is a pity that the government seems to be selling the farms out lock stock and barrel to O/S investors. Well done in making these stories accessible to the general public.

  2. Hi Anne,
    Sorry for the delay in replying. The books have just arrived, but only a few to me as I don’t own them.They are distributed/sold by the publisher. Will email you directly re possible ways to sign yours, especially for LocktheGate.

  3. Hiya Sharyn 🙂
    Just saw Ali’s post and i want a copy .. can i get an autographed one if possible please?
    Very much looking forward to reading your work, Very Timely.
    i have the first copy sold of Peter Ralph’s latest release “Dirty Fracking Business” and i am raffling it with 100% of profits going to the Lock the Gate Alliance. Would love to do the same with a copy of your book.


  4. Hi Ali,
    Thanks for that – and thanks for the dissemination of news articles that I know you do! Invaluable for we more-isolated rural folk.

  5. Hi Sharyn ,
    Have heard good things re your efforts & look forward to seeing the finished product in print. I have been promoting the book far & wide. Thankyou for undertaking & sharing in the good fight with those others who value & love this country.

  6. Hi Karen! yes, too flat out with coal in 2011. No doubt I’ll get to Port on the talk tour. Will let you know when if so. Be nice to catch up.

  7. Wondered why you missed Watermark, Sharyn – now I know you were being activist in the best way. Will recommend your book widely and make sure the local libraries buy copies too. Hope your next writing effort brings you a little more joy and a little less heartache.
    Well done – and best wishes.


  8. Hi Hazel,
    Yes, opening eyes is the aim; talk about it and the issue to all you can! As for renewables, being solely solar-powered for 17 years I despair at the idiocy of not embracing that!

  9. Open your eyes Australia! I look forward to read this book, what a great challenge this must have been to gather these stories and gain a unique perspective on this enormous issue. I wish more funding was going to renewables research than being pumped into research for CSG.

  10. Hi Janet,
    Yes it’s been a long two years. What’s next is lots of talking about the coal book I think!
    And your part of the country gets plenty of coverage – ‘Dark times in the sunshine state’– is one chapter for a start.
    As for writing, hopefully some new short stories!

  11. Wow, was it two years ago that you came and stayed?! Time flies but it’s a timely publication here in Queensland with the coal industry set to double and five new ports proposed for the coast and Great Barrier Reef catchment and World Heritage Area. Well done and congratulations Sharyn!!!! I can’t wait to read it and pass it round. What’s next?!

  12. Thanks Lynda. I have written it as a story so all sorts of people will read it; there is inspiration there, and hope.

  13. Congratulations Sharyn!
    Dark reading it may be, but something we should probably all read. And I am sure your empathy with the people you visited will shine through.
    I guess you are going to have a very busy year ahead of you, doing the rounds again. Enjoy it as much as you can.
    Lynda Wilson
    The Owner Builder magaizne

Comments are closed.