Leard State Forest. ©Abram Powell/Greenpeace
Maules Creek – if you’ve heard of it – is a pretty long way from Sydney. Nearly seven hours drive give or take, with the traffic. However, once out of the lower Hunter and the Newcastle sprawl, the country opens out to a wonderful classic Australian landscape. To get there you drive through Muswellbrook, Gunnedah, and Boggabri, before reaching the blockade camp.
Maules Creek is a new development to complete a complex of three mines. Unlike the existing Idemitsu and Whitehaven mines, Maules Creek will be a behemoth. If it reaches full production, the CO2 output will be 30 million tonnes per year – roughly equivalent to New Zealand’s energy sector. We simply cannot allow this coal to be mined and burned. Nor can we allow the destruction of the last remaining original forest of the Liverpool Plains.
Activists lock onto entrance gate. ©leardstateforest.tumblr.com
At the blockade I camped and worked with a group of a dozen young activists, loosely aligned with a number of different organisations, but led by Front Line Against Coal, or FLAC. Many organisations are part of the Maules Creek Alliance, including FLAC, Greenpeace, Quit Coal, 350.org and others. It’s a perfect example of the kind of movement that we are going to need in order to stop catastrophic climate change, and to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
The folks here are young committed activists, nearly all in their early twenties, who collectively have maintained a presence for nearly five hundred days. That’s almost a year and a half. The activists are supported by locals, farmers, and indigenous people who are all allies in this struggle. We should salute their commitment and resolve.
Activist locked onto entrance gate. ©leardstateforest.tumblr.com
But what struck me (as a fifty year old) is how few older people are prepared to be here, and to participate in non violent direct action in order to prevent this behemoth coal mine from going forward. Why do we leave this critically important work up to the young? This issue affects us all.
In the coming weeks and months, all of us will need to build on this commitment to do whatever we can to support and join these passionate Australians in order to protect forest, land and atmosphere. They need many more people here and a diversity of groups in order to show that everyone cares about this issue.
There will be many opportunities to come and participate in this campaign, and to move the work forward…. Lets not just leave it to the young people.
Written by Steve Campbell.
First published: http://350.org.au/joining-the-maules-creek-blockade/
Update 20 Jan 2013: Leard blockade continues
The blockade of Leard forest to prevent it being cleared for the Maules Creek coal mine project has lasted for seven days and continues this morning with a protestor suspended 25 metres in the air between two River Red Gums, to protect them.
Young man in tree sit on banks of Namoi River preventing clearing for coal railway near Leard State Forest. ©leardstateforest.tumblr.com
Yesterday, two women aged 57 and 60 were arrested after holding a vigil at the base of a River Red Gum on the Naomi River that was slated for removal to make way for the rail spur for the Maules Creek and nearby Boggabri Coal mine expansion. The tree was cut down after the women were arrested.
57-year old Susie Russell protecting an ancient River Red Gum, and after her arrest the tree is fallen. ©margokingston1
So far, eight people have been arrested at the blockade, which was established on 13 January in response to Whitehaven Coal’s initial clearing of forest for an access road into the proposed Maules Creek coal mine site.
This morning too, Gomeroi Elders and community members have issued a statement imploring Federal Environment Minister Hunt to protect their ancestors’ graves at the Maules Creek mine operated by Whitehaven in regional NSW.
The Gomeroi Elders and community members are asking Minister Hunt to declare an emergency Section 9 temporary protection stay of works under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait. Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 until these matters and their application for permanent protection can be appropriately determined.
Images courtesy of: http://leardstateforest.tumblr.com
More info: http://leardstateforest.tumblr.com/