Amid much outcry, the Queensland Labor government has granted the final environmental approval needed for Adani’s Carmichael coal mine. Construction has now begun, demanding an urgent response from all those who want to push back this catastrophic threat to the environment.
This is a turning point for the environmental movement. Although the mine has cleared the last legal obstacle, organised mass protests – with the right approach – could still stop it in its tracks.
In the lead up to the May federal election, the huge student strikes and rallies for climate action put pressure on Annastacia Palaszczuk’s government not to support the mine.
Adani’s flawed plan to protect the endangered black-throated finch was rejected. Its groundwater management plan also hung in limbo, with serious unresolved concerns over the mine’s impact on the Doongmabulla Springs Complex. These springs, a pristine desert oasis, are connected to the Great Artesian Basin, which supplies water throughout the drought-stricken Galilee region.
Just weeks later, the Palaszczuk government buckled to corporate interests and showed its true colours. With minimal changes, both the finch management plan and the groundwater management plan were rubber-stamped. This was a slap in the face to scientists working to prevent species extinction, to the communities that rely on the Basin’s water, and to millions of people who are worried about what global warming means for the future.
Labor’s dismal election result, which party leaders have used to justify further embracing the coal industry, was not because ordinary people don’t care about the climate. None of Labor’s pro-capitalist policies inspired people, but a central issue on which they failed was their wavering position on Adani.
Unwilling to outright oppose the mine and faltering on the crucial matter of employment, Labor was punished by voters on all sides. The Liberals snatched a last-minute victory by presenting themselves as the only party with a plan to create jobs.
This is despite the fact that Adani’s claims of providing thousands of jobs have been exposed as pure lies. Deputy leader of the National Party Bridget McKenzie admitted in an interview on Sky News that when construction is finished, the mine would bring only 100 ongoing jobs! In a region crying out for jobs and investment, this is woefully insufficient.
Creating sustainable jobs and saving the planet do not have to contradict each other – they are both possible with socialist policies. The capitalist system allows private corporations to destroy the environment for profit while communities are left destitute. Changing this system would mean taking big businesses into public ownership, removing the profit motive and planning investment to meet people’s needs.
Climate activists must link opposing the Adani coal mine to demanding a socialist plan for green jobs. For example, a massive expansion in publicly owned renewable energy production would mean green jobs in many regional areas. Paid training in renewable energy jobs should be offered in communities that currently rely on mining and fossil fuels. This would bring enormous economic benefits.
This would cut right through Adani’s only selling point and help win over communities in the vicinity of the mine.
Escalating the scale of protest action against Adani, and its contractors, is now critical. There is no time to lose. School, workplace and community campaign groups should be established everywhere to discuss and democratically decide on the next steps in the campaign.
Another climate strike has been called for September 20 to coincide with a global student strike the same day. This action, building on the example of the previous student walkouts, must be as large as possible. But between now and September actions that target companies with a stake in the Adani project should be organised. Finance, construction and engineering firms, should have their city offices targeted with mass blockades during school and business hours.
Trade unions that have come out against the mine, and those that have endorsed the school strikes, should actively mobilise their membership to join the September 20 walkout. Strike action by hundreds of thousands of workers can shut down the economy and force climate action to the top of the agenda.
The power of a mass workers’ strike in conjunction with a student strike to save the environment would shake the Australian political system to its foundations. The elites have proven their system cannot meet our needs – the task of stopping climate change is now up to us.
By Jeremy Trott