Jess Moore from Stop CSG Illawarra addressed Occupy Sydney at Martin Place on October 22. Moore, who is also a member of the Socialist Alliance, was awared the NSW Nature Conservation Council's Rising Star award for "the most outstanding environmental effort of an individual under 30". Her speech appears below.
* * *
To increase the wealth of the already astoundingly wealthy, the tiny few, the planet that sustains all life is being destroyed. As the world’s leading climatologist James Hansen said, this is our last chance to save humanity.
At the same time we’re seeing the 1%, and the institutions that represent them, roll out the most environmentally destructive practices the world has ever seen.
This system is in crisis because you cannot have the constant growth that capitalism requires on a finite planet.
In Australia, particularly in Queensland, and now in New South Wales, the new face of the most environmentally destructive practices is coal seam gas mining. It threatens our water, it threatens our food and it threatens our air — things that we need to live.
It threatens our water because all coal seam gas mining requires contaminated water to be drawn out of the seam to access the gas. That water is saltier than sea water. That water is so salty it destroys soil and everything that grows in it. That water can also contain toxic and radioactive compounds, and heavy metals.
At the same time, we’re seeing fracking used. Fracking is one form of coal seam gas extraction. Fracking directly contaminates enormous quantities of fresh water, pumps it into the ground, and fractures underground systems to get access to the gas.
The industry is estimating that within the next 25 years, the amount of contaminated coproduced water that is drawn back out of the ground will be equivalent to 13 Sydney Harbours. That’s how much contaminated water this industry is talking about.
At the same time, coal seam gas is methane and methane is an incredibly potent greenhouse gas. Methane leakage is part of the process. So all wellheads, pipelines and processing plants, they leak.
At the same time, that water that’s drawn out of the coal seam has methane in bubbles. It means that water can be so high in methane it can be set on fire.
At the same time, when you mine for coal seam gas, you can fracture underground systems, which means the Earth itself begins to leak methane.
Now we are being told that we need coal seam gas as a transition fuel, as an environmentally sustainable alternative to coal, when there is not a single peer-reviewed study into the fugitive emissions from coal seam gas mining and there is not a single life-cycle analysis of the global warming potential of coal seam gas.
This industry is likely as bad as, if not worse than, coalmining and our government is rolling out the red carpet to it. In the UK, they banned fracking for a period of time after there were two earthquakes in a geologically stable area after they started mining for coal seam gas. The study’s just come out and they’ve found hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, can cause earthquakes.
What no one’s talking about in this industry is what production looks like in New South Wales because at the moment people are saying, “We just want to put a well here, or a well there, and that’s all we’re talking about.”
But with this industry what a production field looks like is a wellhead every 400 to 900 metres, all connected by roads and pipelines, roads that have to be at least 20 metres wide to get the trucks in and out, a 50 metre radius around each well of cleared land — it carves up the environment. That is what a production field looks like, it’s not a well here and a well there.
And all of this happened in New South Wales without the public being talked to, without the public being told. While the government tells us we need this industry for jobs and the economy, we should be asking the question, and we are asking the question, why are we not creating jobs in the industries we want to see, in the industries that will sustain this planet and sustain our lives, in 100% renewables that are being built around the world.
In the Illawarra this campaign is enormous because they are trying to drill in our drinking water catchment. This drinking water catchment feeds 4.3 million people, so southern Sydney, the Illawarra, the Southern Highlands — that’s where they want to draw this contaminated water out of the ground.
They want to do it in a geologically unstable area that’s been mined for coal through longwall mining. The escarpment under which we all live is where they want to do a practice that has been shown to be linked to earthquakes. And they want to mine for methane in an area that’s totally prone to bushfires and borders the Royal National Park.
So the campaign in the Illawarra is standing up and, together with others across New South Wales, we are starting to win. We have already seen small changes (nowhere near enough) at the level of government in response to the campaign. They are trying to find the point at which we’ll say, “Okay, that’s enough.”
But this campaign will not stop until we get a full moratorium on all coal seam gas projects, a Royal Commission into the effects of coal seam gas, and a ban on fracking.
When the government rolled out the red carpet for this industry they unwittingly unleashed a powerful community campaign that is standing up for its rights. And the reason we are starting to win is that people are starting to give voice to the 99%. As more and more people around the world stand up against what makes us so rightly angry and stand up for what we love — for love of people and love of the planet — we will win!
I was talking to a woman who is heavily involved in the campaign in the Illawarra, Shirley. In her 60s, she’s a retiree. When we walked the bridge with 3000 people in the Illawarra last week, a photo was taken with her. This week she took that photo and got it copied and put it with her will. She said, “This is the photo that most represents me.”
She has found that through changing the world she is changing herself and through changing herself she is changing the world. There is no map for what this world looks like, a world that puts people and planet before profit, but through coming out, through occupying, through reclaiming the world for the 99%, we create that world, we are that future and we will win!