Book Re­view

The Coal Truth

AQ: Australian Quarterly - - CONTENTS - by David Rit­ter

You can feel the heat com­ing off the pages. Open­ing in the steamy lo­cales of a sub­ur­ban Syd­ney sum­mer, The Coal Truth’s first chap­ter is fa­mil­iar and idyl­lic. Yet, like heat shim­mers at the pe­riph­ery of your vi­sion, and un­com­fort­able re­al­i­sa­tion per­vades, that the fast lives of hu­mans have now be­gun to sense the tiny changes in the slow life of the planet. In this lit­tle Syd­ney mi­cro­cosm is the story of our age – the ero­sion of trust; post-truth pol­i­tics; the as­sault on civil so­ci­ety; the dis­con­nect be­tween pub­lic opin­ion and par­lia­men­tary ac­tion; a global threat we can’t hear, see, or touch – all neatly em­bod­ied in the bat­tle for the Galilee Basin, against min­ing gi­ant Adani. The story of Adani in Aus­tralia has not yet con­cluded, yet David Rit­ter, CEO of Green­peace, and his fel­low au­thors are right in pro­vid­ing a dis­sec­tion of the story so far, and the litany of small fail­ures that lead Aus­tralia to ar­rive here. One of the prob­lems with the Adani mine is the mag­ni­tude. So large is the project, so na­tional and in­ter­na­tional has the op­po­si­tion been, and for so long has it loomed on our hori­zon, that the in­tri­ca­cies of the is­sue are bleed­ing into one an­other. The edges of the de­bate are be­ing lost and it is be­com­ing harder to con­ceive the fight as a whole. And when that fine-grain de­tail is worn away Adani gets one step closer to win­ning. We lose our per­spec­tive on the What, the How and most im­por­tantly, the Who will be af­fected. Down that road lies ap­a­thy. That is why this book is an im­por­tant act of col­lec­tive mem­ory; it in­vites a col­lec­tion of con­trib­u­tors to break down what has be­come al­most an in­com­pre­hen­sive is­sue. The book’s first few pages are rightly given over to Adrian Bur­ragubba of the Wan­gan and Ja­galin­gou First Na­tions. As a pro­logue, it is both a wel­come to coun­try, and yet also the an­tithe­sis of one. It de­mands that their right of stew­ard­ship be more than sim­ply cer­e­mo­nial and spir­i­tual, and that their own­er­ship of place is greater than that of cor­po­rate greed. Across eco­nom­ics, moral­ity, pub­lic health, mis­in­for­ma­tion and more, Rit­ter’s other co-au­thors care­fully pick apart the Adani com­plex, trac­ing the threads to the broader so­cial is­sues of the govern­ment as­sault on civil so­ci­ety, char­i­ties and the right of dis­sent. Ul­ti­mately, The Coal Truth is a di­ag­no­sis not only for the planet but also for the ema­ci­a­tion of a govern­ment at odds with its peo­ple. It is a re­buke of false eco­nom­ics, bro­ken sys­tems and usurped pri­or­i­ties. It is evoca­tive and even up­lift­ing, and re­turns the is­sue to one that every­one can com­pre­hend. A valu­able re­source for our times.


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