“If you love this country, fight for it. This will be the biggest social movement this country has ever seen, and it will change this country forever.” – Drew Hutton, Lock the Gate Alliance President.
From Urban ASEN students to rural Knitting Nanas, 270 community campaigners from across Australia joined experienced activists, doctors and academics in Kurri Kurri NSW (18-20 May) to share stories from our growing fight for country and livelihoods so undermined by extractive industries.
Organized by the Sunrise Project, panel discussions featuring experts and community leaders were integrated with training, report-backs and networking in an open workshop model.
Climate expert and former chair of the Australian Coal association, Ian Dunlop, revealed our recent emissions trajectory as alarmingly higher than the most conservative IPCC projections. The imminent call for ‘fossil-free’ was supplemented by Dr Merryn Redenbach, Doctors for the Environment Australia, in her discussion of extensive public health impacts at every coal energy production stage. Grounded in realistic economics and existing technology, the switch to renewables was detailed by Mark Diesendorf, UNSW. Groups including the Community Power Agency and Beyond Zero Emissions further revealed how solutions are already amongst us.
David and Goliath successes were celebrated alongside ongoing campaigns. From the small town of Bulga, NSW’s win in court against mining giant Rio Tinto, to the termination of the mega-port project on Balaclava island in the Great Barrier reef and Woodside’s LNG gas hub in the Kimberley, there was energy and hope in conference participants. Surveys, blockades and innovative tactics such as Jonathan Moylan’s ANZ- Whitehaven hoax were work-shopped. The Sierra Club, US, shared their organising model which successfully closed 177 coal fired power plants across the continent. Lock the Gate, in a ‘Call to Country’ seek to unite these ubiquitous demands to prioritize farmland, water catchments, nationally significant ecosystems and community concern.
As a participant, I was truly inspired by stories of struggle and success, shared by people who don’t necessarily converge on politics or priorities for ‘why’. The gathering revealed how our efforts contribute to a broader environmental justice movement, as what we do agree upon, is that we can and must take our land, our water and our future, into our own capable hands.