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OPINION: John Butler Explains What's At Stake In Australia's Response To Climate Change

27 December 2019 | 11:05 am | John Butler

"Hope is a verb. Hope is made by action, and now is the time to act." Musician John Butler explains what's at stake in terms of tackling the greatest crisis of our time: climate change.

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As we near the last days of 2019 and enter the 2020s (WTAF) I’ve been asked to write a piece on the environment or at least some of the ‘movements’ that have tried to protect it.

The last decade saw, for me, personally, one of the biggest, most long-running and successful campaigns that I’ve had the pleasure to be part of, the Save The Kimberley campaign. On 12 April, 2013, after almost a decade of frontline protesting and campaigning, Woodside and its joint venture partners pulled out of the James Price Point gas precinct venture. The JPP project would have been one of the largest gas refineries on the planet. This would have been the thin end of the wedge allowing every resource-hungry conglomerate to literally tear apart one of the most pristine and awe-inspiring regions on the planet.

This win was a historic moment. For my dear friend who had recruited me and who I stood behind firmest, Joseph Roe (RIP), Senior Law Man and Traditional Custodian to the country under threat, it meant the protection of sacred burial and initiation grounds and intact song lines, a direct protection of culture and law. I was overjoyed. We all were. 

The Kimberley is still under threat with massive tracts of land under licence for the onshore gas (fracking) industry. A large part of my state (WA) and in fact Australia as a whole is under proposed fracking licenses awaiting approval. This reckless, inefficient and toxic industry loves to go under the guise of being a transitional fuel to sustainable and renewable energies. If you really want to know the absolute abhorrent effects of the fracking industry in one fell swoop just google “Condamine River on fire” and that should really put a neat bow on it for you.

All this talk of transitional fuels and sustainable energies really points to the biggest environmental issue of our time and generations to come: climate change.      

If the overwhelming majority of the scientific community’s findings weren’t enough and you still have questions on whether man-made climate change is real or that the fossil fuel companies know anything about their part in it, the short four-minute video on YouTube of US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez questioning former Exxon scientist Dr Ed Garvey and Exxon consultant Dr Martin Hoffert in October this year should answer the remainder of your queries. In short, as far back as the late 1970s companies like Exxon knew man-made climate change was due to the emissions of their very product, fossil fuels.

So as we enter the 2020s, Australia stands at a very important precipice. We are the biggest exporters of coal. Coal is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases and climate change. That means we are literally the biggest exporters of climate change. 

"Hope is a verb. Hope is made by action, and now is the time to act. What happens in this next decade happens on our watch."

One of the biggest coal deposits on the planet, the Galilee Basin, is just about to be cracked open and pushed into full gear by the likes of Indian company Adani and our very own Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart, fully enabled by what seems to be a socially bankrupt and morally corrupt Federal Government. Can’t say I’m surprised with the likes of ol' ScoMo in charge, the man who likes bringing lumps of coal into Parliament House during Question Time. Talk about the industry in the pockets of our leaders. Literally!!!! What a beauty. Little-known trivia: Palmer and Rinehart’s individual proposed mines will be larger than the Adani Carmichael mine. This is a full-scale attack in the face of what is the most pressing issue of our time. 

Somehow the Federal Government and major media outlets have completely duped the majority of the people of Queensland. They’ve promised jobs and opportunity but the harsh reality is, other than the few jobs that will be created during the construction of these mines, most of the actual operational jobs will be performed by artificial intelligence and other types of automation. The Australian CEO of Adani Mining, Jeyakumar Janakaraj, has gone on record celebrating that their operation, from pit to port, will be fully automated: "In our minds, this is the mine of the future," he said

What ‘opportunity’ will be left for the agriculture and pastoral industry when Adani alone has a 60-year unlimited water lease as of 2017. This lease was given out without consideration for the decrease in groundwater and rains due to, don’t say it, climate change.

So, no long-lasting employment opportunities for the life of the mine (up to 60 years) and no long-term consideration for agriculture and other industries due to the absolute scandalous giveaway of our most precious resource, water! Can you imagine where our water levels and average temperatures will be after 60 years of the world’s three largest coal mines going full tilt? It’s a fuckin’ disaster in the making. This is what the Morrison Government and its predecessors call looking after the Australian public, and investing in infrastructure that considers the future of our nation. Don’t even get me started on Norwegian company, Equinor, wanting to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight, in waters more treacherous and deep than the Gulf Of Mexico which hosted one of the world’s largest oil disasters just a few years back.

There seems to be a veritable fire sale going on in Australia in terms of dishing out approvals and licences to industries which are scientifically proven to put our most precious life-supporting ecosystems at risk, at a time when the whole world is marching for action on this issue.  

In the face of State and Federal Governments trying to curtail citizen’s right to protest I say there’s no greater act of standing for your democracy and country than to act out in civil disobedience towards a corrupted system that doesn’t care about your future. Civil disobedience and protest is the birthplace of the women’s suffrage movement, protections for workers and First Nations' peoples right to vote. This is how we right wrongs. This is how we tip the balance back in favour of equity and re-focus our moral compass as a nation. Hope is a verb. Hope is made by action, and now is the time to act. What happens in this next decade happens on our watch.

This story was originally published in the December issue of The MusicHead here to read it online.