Earlier this month in Thanjavur, India, 33-year-old man D. Anand Babu was beaten to death by four men after he objected to them drawing too much water from an overhead tank he operated. It was a small part of an increasing trend of violence over water access in the drought-gripped nation.
Last week, India suffered through a 50-degree heatwave. People were advised not to go outdoors after 11am. Animals dropped dead in the streets. Toilets couldn’t be flushed.
Also last week, the Queensland state government gave the Adani Carmichael mine project the go ahead — much to the pleasure of lobbyists; the lobbied; and Indian billionaire Gautam Adani, head of the Adani Group.
That the Great Barrier Reef is dead is now a certainty. That the mine will be one of the greatest environmental disasters in a great age of environmental disasters, a given. That its approval was an inevitable result of modern Australia’s propensity to churn out horrors both existential and banal on a near weekly basis, a sure bet.
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Adani is death.
It’s a dramatic statement only if you actively deny the climate catastrophe that is currently unfolding, and willfully flagellate yourself with mutterings of jobs, “clean coal” and promises of Valhalla. What Adani and similar projects signal is the decision of an elite few to tacitly sign off on the end of the world.
Death is hard to grok, annihilation more so.
It is too big a concept for our politicians, both state and federal. I admit, it would be hard to be a Queensland MP and look at the half a billion dollars the mining industry poured into fossil fuel lobby groups, and the $8 billion spent by the government on projects that benefit the coal industry, then stack that wealth next to death, and wonder why it suddenly seems infinitesimal.
We are at a point, as Australians, where we must stop asking our politicians to have imaginations. Time and time again, they have proven incapable of it. Imagination, of course, being the doorway to empathy; a doorway our politicians must keep resolutely locked to maintain their version of sanity.
Adani’s supporters are the predictable few: the coal-loving politicians, the Murdoch hacks, and the private industry jackals out for their next suck of marrow.
It has become the flashpoint for this dire moment in the climate catastrophe narrative, a story of such black and white villainy that it is difficult for anyone opposing the project to maintain faith and hope for the future while taking in the consequence of the mine’s approval.
Adani’s supporters are banking on defeat turning to defeatism. It seems unlikely that people opposed to the mine (myself included) will be anything but galvanized by last week’s decision. Of course, there was a ripple of dread through the ranks. Understandably.
It is a dread I have become too familiar with as a young Australian whose fate is in the hands of a callously indifferent few. A dread that asks: “Why?” But never receives an honest answer.
To make a billionaire on the other side of the world that much richer, I suppose. To create a pittance of jobs in an ecologically disastrous industry that provides wealth for said billionaire, his cronies and few else. To dig a pit where there wasn’t a pit in the pristine Galilee Basin, to point at the pit and say, “Hey, at least we’re doing something!”
That, I think, is the new nihilism.
During the mining boom in WA there was a collective myth upheld by both the government and the populace that as long as we were mining, we were creating. I don’t have to drive far to see half empty suburban estates, shoddy infrastructure projects, and shameful homelessness to know what that “something” amounted to.
The Carmichael mine isn’t inevitable. Adani must machete through more red tape, while the reality of coal’s woeful economics may ultimately sway the Queensland government. But last week’s decision heralds a stupidity as disastrous as it is ultimately cruel. It is another notch on the belt of politicians who will buggerise reality for a dime if it means not having to question the moral turpitude lurking within the void of their “beliefs”.
Last week we were told to take one more step into our collective graves, with the promise of some hard candy some time down the line.
Officials say that Maharashtra’s drought is now worse than the famine that affected 25 million people across the state in 1972. It is estimated that 90% of the population south of Mumbai have fled in the wake of the water crisis. Eight million farmers in Karnataka and Maharashtra are struggling to survive. In Marathwada, 4700 farmers have committed suicide in the last five years, including close to 1000 last year.
D. Anand Babu was beaten to death in an argument concerning water.
Adani promises up to 1800 jobs.