On January 7, the Fairfax news chain (which publishes the Newcastle Herald) ran stories in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age regarding spying on climate activists by the Australian Federal Police and a private firm called NOSIC.
Federal Resources and energy minister Martin Ferguson was reported as having agitated for increased surveillance of activists who make ‘essential infrastructure’ like coal fired power stations the focus of their mobilisations.
As someone who has been involved in a fair bit of climate and renewable energy campaigning over the past few years this is of more than a passing interest for me.
Perhaps Martin Ferguson and others in the ALP think that the carbon tax ticks the climate change box and people are no longer justified in taking action around this issue.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The carbon tax is like sending a fireperson in a mini moke with a 44 gallon drum of water and a bucket to try and put out a raging house fire. The ‘fire engine’ response that is called for - massive investment in renewables, a phasing out of steaming coal exports, and alternative quality jobs for coal reliant workers and communities – is still sorely lacking.
On December 13 last year- my birthday- new reports emerged about vast kilometre – wide plumes of methane bubbling up out of the arctic seafloor.
[image from here]
I was concerned but not entirely surprised because unlike Ferguson and others in the ALP I’m actually familiar with (at least some of) the sizeable body of peer reviewed scientific reports which warn that warming is thawing the methane rich clathrates (or permafrost) in the arctic circle. This, just like ‘albedo flip’ (which is where the north pole melts and goes from being a reflective body of ice, to a heat absorbing body of dark blue ocean) will take initial anthropogenic warming and make it far, far worse.
The 5% cuts in emissions by 2020 embodied in the carbon tax- much of which are likely to be cuts only on paper, achieved by shonky ‘leveraged’ carbon trading – fall far short of what is required. The arctic is melting now. We can’t keep delaying decarbonising the economy for a few more decades.
And so myself and many others like me – from across the Hunter, and up the valley to Gunnedah and Gloucester, Broke and Mudgee, and all across the country from various walks of life, all continue to campaign against the coal and gas expansion. And we will hold protests at coal loaders and coal fired power stations because… that’s what we are protesting about! It’s out of date. It’s trashing the planet. Get rid of it. The alternatives are good to go.
Anyhow, when I’m saying hello to friends or family on facebook, I don’t really want to have it in the back of my mind that some overpaid stooge from Melbourne is face-stalking me.
So in conclusion: piss off. If the government insists on spying on people, how about you spy on those who are destroying aquifers with longwall mines and coal seam gas wells, causing serious health problems by pumping coal dust and smokestack emissions into the air in the Hunter Valley, and vastly expanding those fossil fuel industries which are pushing us ever closer to dangerous irreversible warming. How about you spy on those elected officials who throw the precautionary principle out the window every time they approve these mines and coal fired power stations and unconventional gas projects.
I believe history will record that those of us taking peaceful action to draw attention to the breathtaking insanity of expanding fossil fuel exports and use (which in some instances involved low-level lawbreaking such as trespassing) were entirely justified in taking these actions. Indeed, some may ask why the general population at this point in history did not take such action more often and in greater numbers.
Whether it is climate activists paddling in Newcastle Harbour, farmers campaigning against mining and gas extraction under or adjacent to their land, or Singleton residents campaigning for tighter controls on dust emissions – we are not criminals. We are defending the most basic public interest of current and future generations and do not deserve to be spied on for it.
Zane Alcorn in a climate and renewable energy campaigner with the Socialist Alliance.