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Monday, March 19, 2012

Aunt Annie's on the warpath

Did you see the movie 'Erin Brokovich'? (If not, why not? It's awesome, and it's a true story.) That movie is very much on my mind today.

I think the scene that is most imprinted on my brain is the one where Erin sits in a stranger's living room telling a mother exactly what is making everyone in the area sick, from the children with bleeding ears and noses to the parents and children with cancers. It's lethal pollution in the water, courtesy of the local chemical plant.

And that mother is frozen in horror as she puts two and two together. You hear her children laughing, and see them cavorting in the family swimming pool through the window behind her. And she suddenly comes to her senses and rushes out, screaming "Get out of the water."

And your blood runs cold, as hers did.

Aunt Annie really doesn't like getting political. This is a childcare page. But sometimes the importance of advocating for children overcomes my desire to be Switzerland and not offend anyone's political leanings.

This is one of those times, because our children's health is being compromised right now, right around the globe. We have Erin Brokovich situations springing up wherever coal seam gas (CSG) mining has been allowed to happen- we've seen it in the USA, we've seen it in Queensland here in Australia, and it's heading into my local area now. Other countries are in similar positions- Canada, New Zealand- anywhere where there are CSG resources and people willing to ruin the environment for a quick buck.

What's happened in Queensland has been a salutary lesson about what happens when people take quick bucks without considering the consequences. In Queensland, around Tara and Chinchilla where the mining has been established for some time, there are children who are suddenly getting headaches, getting unexplained bleeding from their noses and ears, suddenly crying as they take their baths and coming out red all over where their skin has been burnt by the chemicals leaching into their water supply. There are agricultural properties destroyed by the infrastructure, noise and pollution of mining, with the water sucked out of the water table; they are unliveable, unsaleable and certainly no longer worthy of leaving to the children. There are water taps which billow gas when you turn them on; yes, some people can now light the tap in their kitchen sink. Hardly child-friendly.

This is real, this is happening, this is not a movie.

And children don't have a voice in politics, so I'm going to do some yelling for them. Tomorrow I'm going to see my local political representative Chris Gulaptis, reputedly a supporter of mining at all costs, to ask him how he can possibly justify his position and his government's position on CSG mining- a position that compromises the health, safety and sustainable future of our children.

I'll be asking him why he thinks it's okay to breach the articles of the UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is a legally binding, non-negotiable set of standards and obligations. Article 24, for example, recognises the child's right to health. Article 36 recognises the child's right to protection from exploitation prejudicial to any aspect of the child's welfare.

I'll be asking him why, as an Early Childhood educator, I'm expected by the government to teach respect for the environment (EYLF Outcome 2), while the government who set that outcome in place permits the modelling of complete lack of respect for the environment.

I'll be asking him how it's okay to create stress levels for families affected by local CSG mines which result in families walking off their uninhabitable and unsaleable properties with nothing to show for their work and investment, and nothing to leave to their children. I'll be asking him if it's okay with him that the mining activities are leaving behind them a trail of depressive illnesses severe enough to lead to parental suicides.

I'll be asking him how it is okay to strip a country of its non-renewable energy resources and sell them offshore, without developing renewable energy resources for the use of our children in the future.

I'll be asking what our future's children are going to eat and drink, once agricultural land has been razed for mining and the water supply compromised.

Am I angry? Too right I am. Children are powerless, and our politicians don't give a damn about their future.

So what can you do, as parents, as educators, as advocates for children?

Living on rural land? Don't allow CSG miners onto your property, regardless of how much money they offer you and how much you think you need it. Don't sign access agreements. To do so will compromise your children's health, not to mention their (and your) future assets. It will also compromise the health of your neighbour's children. How will you sleep at night then?

Spread the word, especially to rural families you may know. No matter how much they need the quick-fix money offered by CSG con men, it won't buy back their children's health. It won't compensate for the loss of their land value and peace. (Have you heard the noise of a CSG well? It's abominable.)

Living in the city? Join a pressure group like GetUp and sign those petitions. They make it easy for you to add your voice, regardless of how busy you already are. Politicians understand votes. It's really the only thing they understand. They need to know we actually give a toss about this.

It won't matter a damn how well you raise your children if there's no clean water, and nothing to eat. You may not be personally affected- yet. But you can raise your voice for other people's children, as I am doing.


  1. You tell him Annie! I would just add that I have heard that for an exploration licence they don't even need land owners' permission to enter. It's only if they actually start drilling that an agreement needs to be reached.

  2. Thanks Greg. My information is that the landholder has to agree to an access arrangement before they can enter for any purpose, and once you've signed that, your death warrant is sealed. The idea is to refuse to sign anything so it has to go to mediation, and make it as difficult as possible for them to get in at all to talk about it (thus the 'lock the gate' strategy). It doesn't change their rights to rape and pillage your property. Your only hope is to make it awkward, time-consuming and expensive so they go elsewhere.

  3. Oh how awful! I am so proud of your for standing up for these children! It just astounds me that even in this day and age when we all KNOW BETTER that companies and politicians and business owners turn a blind eye to obvious destruction all in the name of money. I can't believe this sort of thing is still going on and yet...

    Please let us know how it goes. The blogging community can be a hugely powerful one...take to the web and shout it from the rooftops. I, for one, am rooting for you!

    1. Thanks Gina. So far so good with the politician; working on my basic premise of changing people's minds by working from where they're at, we spent most of the meeting on figures, maps and technicalities and he seemed very responsive to that- apparently he has had lots of emotion directed at him but few facts. We ran out of time so I left him with my handouts and will be addressing the child-related issues as a follow-up by email. The time seemed well-spent.

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