Thursday, May 15, 2014

In which we achieve victory (for now)

Sometimes a hermit has to leave the attic, and I have been absent for some time.

The attic (and it is real, with a ladder to it, and dormer windows, and all) lies in a valley in northern NSW. And just one valley over, as the crow flies, lies Bentley, the site for several months now of a protest camp (Camp Liberty), to stop exploratory drilling for coal seam gas.

This dirty, unwelcome industry would pollute our land and water, and the people of the northern rivers have gathered together in an overwhelming show of support against it.

Go to the Facebook page, and see what's been going on.

Everyone was bracing for an 800-strong contingent from the NSW Riot Squad due next Monday or Tuesday. Now, with the gas company Metgasco's application to drill suspended, and an investigation by the Independent Commission against Corruption into the granting of their licence, we can all breathe easy for a while. The basis of the suspension is that Metgasgo did not adequately and effectively consult with the community.

The camp is something to be experienced. Everyone coming on site has to sign up to the principles of non-violence, and acknowledge the fact that we are with permission on someone's land and will not hold them responsible for any injury we might incur. And there are people coming and going all the time, visiting, volunteering, donating (and now celebrating!). There are rosters to be on vigil at one of the various gates and lookout places, or to volunteer for the many other tasks that keep the camp running. There is such a spirit of purpose, and cooperation and friendship. And fun.

In truth, being an introvert, I did not do anywhere near as much as many of my friends did, or camp out at the site. But I did donate and volunteer to be on watch for anything untoward, and met and talked with people till I was exhausted. Spirits were high, and those on vigil were constantly plied with people coming with gifts of vegan cookies, chocolate, fruit ...

There are many beautiful and committed young people giving their all to the cause, the Simmos (people who might be in an arrestable situation) camping at the gates and ready to lock themselves in or climb the poles when the drilling rig or police arrived. And then the oldies, like my 70 plus years old friend George (who, I admit, is only a few years older than I am), who spends double shifts at the gates three times a week, and the knitting nannas ('The knitting nannas are cool' : Tiana (Ti), almost 16, environmentalist and future Sea Shepherd volunteer), and the farmers who went to Sydney to try to speak to the state Premier and many others. There is also, most importantly, a strong representation of the indigenous community. It is their land, after all, that we are all on.

Valuable lessons have been learned. The governments we presently have in Australia would have us believe that we live in an 'economy'. But we know that we live in a community - a strong, cooperative community.

Gas companies and governments who think that money rules are wrong. People who have a connection with and love and knowledge of the land, who have family and friends and an environment to protect, have the power to join together and make their voices heard.

I have been meaning to bring my old friend Emma Goldman into the attic for some time, ever since last year when I re-read my 35 year-old 2 volume Dover Edition of Living My Life.

She has something say about everything. Here's a quote for Camp Liberty:

"People will only have as much liberty as they have the intelligence to want and the courage to take."


  1. Jo, amazing to hear about the success of the protest. I've been following it in the paper and it makes me extra pleased to know you were there. It's also wonderful to hear some good news after the terrible horrible no-good budget news. Great reminder of people power. I hope we'll find that more and more people will gird up their intelligence and courage to speak up against our government(s). xx

    1. I have a feeling they will, Kate ... XX