Emboldened by the Bentley Blockade

 

It’s been ten days since the text arrived announcing the suspension of Metgasco’s license to drill for oil at Bentley.

 

Only ten days — and life has changed dramatically for many of us.

 

I search for a word for this new feeling and find an old one:

 

Embolden: “To give someone the courage or confidence to do something.”


What really happened at Bentley?

 

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I did not camp there and visited on only a few occasions, so I can’t say for sure.

 

What I do sense is the aftermath–the spin-offs, the unintended effects.

 

At the final Bentley dawn service on Tuesday 20th May, Ruth Rosenhek begged several hundred cheering Protectors and supporters to go gently after the close of the Bentley Blockade, to keep up the warm hugs and looking into people’s eyes when she’d meet them in the street in Lismore.

 

Everyone was nodding agreement. We must not let this fade; we must keep this connection.

 

See:

https://freefall23.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/go-forth-gently-the-aftermath-of-bentley/


Most local people I speak with confess to having had a good long cry after the victory. I certainly did.

 

Some are in a shocked and fragile state.

 

Most are simply astonished.

 

And even those known as being “the voice of reason” admit the need to celebrate such a magnificent triumph.

 

Whatever happens next — here and elsewhere – the Bentley Blockade was a massive victory that Australia will never forget.

 

The ham-fisted tactics of a cowboy mining operation have brought forth the most sophisticated social action this country has seen in decades.

 

Metgasco has done us all a great favour.

 

We are emboldened. Our courage and confidence have been strengthened.

 

The Bentley Blockade is a powerful symbol for those who believe in freedom. Everything about the operation communicated care, love and concern.

 

What could be more heart-warming than the Camp’s beautifully tended vegetable garden?

The Bentley Vegetable Garden
The Bentley Blockade Vegetable Garden

 



“We who believe in freedom cannot rest”

 

When I was younger, I listened to Holly Near and Sweet Honey in the Rock sing Ella’s Song:

 

“We who believe in freedom cannot rest.

 

We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.”

 

So many people – and so many older people – putting their lives on hold to camp in harsh conditions powerfully affected the rest of us. We cannot rest now.

 

All of my communications with local people begin and end with Bentley. “Go, Bentley” is a salute to all who showed they cared.

 

Consecration

 

I remember — in 1992 — when I discovered that I was consecrated in the service of the Earth.

 

See: Wendy Sarkissian Consecration story 2012

 

My heart softened and opened. I ached with love. I’d wake to the shock that I loved the Earth. My heart vibrated with the power of that knowledge.

 

It’s that way now with Bentley. Waking with a yearning heart, soft and open.

 

I yearn to return and place bouquets at the Bentley gates.

 

In gratitude to the Protectors who gave us so much more than social action.

 

I bless them – all of them, that motley crew – for renewing my courage and confidence.

 

Emboldened, I turn my face to the morning sun.

 

I believe in freedom.

 

I cannot rest.

 

I am ready for more.


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Emboldened by the Bentley Blockade



 

Metgasco’s “Community Consultative”: a Moment of Hilarity for the Bentley Blockade

I am old enough to have studied Latin in high school. It helps make me a good speller.

 

A moment of hilarity

 

And today, Latin provided a moment of hilarity in battle to bring Metgasco to see reason about gas mining in the Northern Rivers.

 

The goss now is that Metgasco is encouraging its shareholders to write to the Minister Anthony Roberts and the Office of Coal Seam Gas and say – wait for it – that the community consultation they undertook for the Bentley tight sands gas site was excellent.

 

I gagged when I heard it.

 

So I thought I’d better have a look online at Metgasco’s community consultation policies – to give me something to assess them by.

 

Well, that’s where the Latin came in!

 

Here is the website at 10:35 am on Thursday 22 May 2014. For posterity.

 

Metgasco website Thursday 22 May 2014 at 10:35 am

Metgasco website Thursday 22 May 2014 at 10:35 am

 

 

 



I can easily imagine the desperate in-house conversation in the Metgasco office, which would have gone something like this:

 



Fred, we gotta get some sort of consultation policy online while we’re negotiating with the Minster and the Office of Coal Seam Gas.

You know that stuff. It’s easy to write. Just a few bullet points. Any sort of placeholder will do, Fred.

Just get something up and get it up quickly and make sure it’s got all the usual buzzwords in it. Got that, Fred?

 

And Fred (or Freda), bless their heart, did not realise that on a website and a blog you have an option to go public. (Or stay private.)

 

Metgasco is public with their ungrammatical “Community Consultative” Latin page.

 

Here’s what is says in Latin.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Community Consultative

Sed odio nisi, lacinia eu interdum in, varius sit amet arcu? Maecenas aliquam sapien in ipsum dapibus bibendum. Quisque ac justo nunc. Quisque vulputate sem vel est adipiscing pharetra! Praesent interdum magna in quam dapibus sit amet ornare augue euismod.

Suspendisse facilisis condimentum lacus eu suscipit. Pellentesque eu enim lorem, vehicula iaculis nibh.

Quisque egestas leo a purus feugiat et mattis augue mattis. Nullam sagittis tempus enim ut laoreet.

Nulla mollis, est vel accumsan dictum, ante tortor ultricies enim, eu fermentum purus est at augue. Praesent scelerisque erat vel ante tempus tempor. Nunc imperdiet auctor eros nec mattis.Phasellus interdum varius tellus id bibendum. Mauris elementum mauris auctor magna venenatis vitae luctus libero imperdiet.

Nam euismod, arcu a accumsan malesuada, sem mauris vestibulum libero, sed rutrum mi eros vel augue.

Duis scelerisque, massa eu mattis dapibus, mi nisi elementum lorem, quis hendrerit justo nisl sit amet augue. Maecenas congue varius justo, et placerat est auctor ut. Curabitur pharetra justo non magna ullamcorper fermentum. Praesent imperdiet aliquet erat sed molestie. Maecenas orci justo, pellentesque id tempor ut, facilisis a ligula.

 

And here’s what an on-line translation yielded. My favourite line is this:

 

I’m a great quiver just, do not worry yeast.

 ________________________________________________________________________________________________

Translation:

 

But the hatred unless, on the fringe of EU is at times in the is various cancer cells? Learn some Tips for the same protein drink. Each and just now. Korea’s beef, whether the scenario is immigration processing! So sometimes it’s the tips on how to decorate the likelihood of protein is an important investment.

 

Americans spent to improve the park fun and exciting. Technology that your kids for their vehicle, the vehicles targeted options.

 

Anyone want a lot of research and a lot of travel attitude. Here’s arrows, for the time is to be proud of.

 

No soft or scientific sense, window glass for computer troubleshooting is free at the company. It’s a crime, either at the time. Now the financing of the United States or mattis. Phasellus sometimes variable region this dynamic. Important source of data elements to create the magic of free software financing.

 

For more, player-oriented styling, a lot of drugs manufacturing department, but to help my team or organization.

 

It’s chocolate, the mass of the football a lot of protein, my dear, unless the element of the Internet, which of the players Bureau to the righteous, It’s OK. Developers across the various equity and real estate is the seller. I’m a great quiver just, do not worry yeast. It’s modern, but it was effective employee. It’s the United States, the just, the kids that time had been when, easy of a bonus.

 

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

If this is what Metgasco want us to read about their community consultation policy, that’s fine with me because it accords perfectly with that we’ve experienced in this region. That it’s incomprehensible.

 

I live only 40 kilometres from the proposed Bentley gas well.

 

I am here, on my half-acre property — just up the road. Waiting.

 

Nobody knocked on my door, nobody rang, emailed or asked my opinion in any form.

 

And I get lots of mail and the local post office is very reliable.

 

I get lots of phone calls and emails.

 

All my communication systems are working fine. Metgasco: the problem of non-communication must be at your end.

Or:

 

  • Am I not a “stakeholder?”

  • Not living close enough?

  • Not likely to be affected?

  • Not seeking influence?

  • Not caring about my health and that of my community?

  • Not one of the “usual suspects”?

 

Until this morning, I thought Metgasco’s community consultation policy did not exist.

 

Now I know it does exist.

 

But it’s in Latin.

 

I think I’ll keep my gate locked, just in case.

 

While I wait for the English version of Metgasco’s “Community Consultative”, whatever that is….

 

And while I wait for the phone to ring.


UPDATE 5:14 pm May 22nd:

Fred or Freda are on the job at Metgasco.

 

A neighbour emails that “Community Consultative” (in Latin) has been removed from the Metgasco website.

 

In its place, a long, self justifying letter from the Chair about how great the community consultation has been and how it’s

even better than the State Government’s community consultation. Eek!

 

I searched for the Metgasco Community Relations Policy while I was at it. It’s half a page of bullet points!

 

These folks need help!

 

Meanwhile, the rest of us must go gently.

 

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The Sun also Rises

 

 

The sun also arises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to its place where it arose.

It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other;

nothing is deprived of its warmth.

 

I’m not much for reading the Bible but I love the odd aphorism. And lately, Ecclesiastes’ “the sun also rises” and Psalm 19 have been ringing in my head.


So I thought I’d better unpack what it meant to me.


Recently, the Beloved and I sold our rural property.


What? I hear you gasp? After all these years of struggle as owner builders?


Yes, that’s true. After all those years of struggle. Being a niche, green, feminist, left-wing, activist consultant was a difficult balancing act – especially throughout the Global Financial Crisis.


I blogged about that in January 2014:


https://www.sarkissian.com.au/activism-planning-australia-delicate-balancing-act/


Work was hard to find and debts mounted as the house was still not finished. All our savings and super went into the building project.

 


We love it. But professional work did not come as expected.


A loving friend has bought the house and we stay on as renters.


Now we are engaged in another project: renovating the shed as a secondary dwelling. Living on a building site again. Muddy boots in the hall. Again.



Many friends and family were aghast to hear that we’d sold the farm.


But what else could we do? It was either a loving friend or the bank. And we did not want to lose everything we had worked for.

 


So I say back to my incredulous friends, “The sun also rises.”

 


What I mean is – through the same trees  – with the same birds singing – the same sun still rises and sets– whether your name is on the title or not.

 


If you do not own a property and are a renter, the same breeze blows, the same kookaburra arrives for a peek at life around dinner time. His or her same family members laugh in unison from the neighbouring tree. The same rainbow lorikeet dreams in the same bottle brush.

 

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The same joey suckles with his same wallaby mother.


I am not saying that housing security is not important. It’s everything to everyone and a constant worry to anyone who is a renter. It’s everything to us, which is why we bless our generous friend.


I am simply saying that life goes on.


The Earth continues to flourish – offering hope and opportunity in response to our caring (Go, Bentley!).


The same sun rises and sets.


Our human dramas are but a small and ephemeral part of a much larger world.


We come and go and the Earth remains.


Capitalism, finance, banks, mortgages, investments, interest, valuations and property – they are all made up – and they can’t hold a candle to the same sun.


The same sun that also rises.

 

sunset nimbin

 

 

 

 



Update 23 July 2015: The sun is still rising over the hills and melting the fog in the valley.   And we have experienced even more love and care with a new friend taking over when the old friend could not continue.

 

And other generous folk helping out in numerous ways. We have learned more about generosity, caring, home, attachment, territory, resilience and fear than we bargained for.

 

And a bit about betrayal along the way, as well, just to keep the mix interesting!

 

 

 

The Bentley Blockade: from Cassandra, disbelieved prophetess

In mid-2011, a speaker’s agent rang me to say he had an invitation for a good speaking engagement.

 

“It’s with APPEA,” he said, “And you can talk about community engagement.”

 

APPEA. Hmmm. I rang off and logged on.

 

APPEA: Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association is the peak national body representing Australia’s oil and gas exploration and production industry. They call themselves “the voice of Australia’s oil and gas industry”.

 

See: https://www.appea.com.au/about-appea/

 

 

“Do you know who they are?” I exclaimed an hour later.

 

“No, but they pay well” was his response.

 

“They`re the peak industry body for the coal seam gas industry,” I moaned. “How can I speak to them?”

 

“I’ll leave that up to you,” was his reply.

 

In the end, I made the speech. I sought advice from politicians, academics environmentalists and activists far and wide, sharing part of my fee.

 

I spoke to APPEA’s Environmental conference in November 2011 in Coolum, Queensland. To a marquee full of young miners. I told them what I could see coming if they persisted with their plans to mine for gas in the Northern Rivers.

 

Most stared at me as though I’d come from Mars. The young ones shrugged it off”¦ But the older ones – men my age – they listened and asked lots of questions.


111109 APPEA Environment Conference, Coolum.



Not surprisingly, once I’d given them a serve, they did not ask me to speak to another APPEA conference.

 

My observations


Now, looking back, I feel like poor Cassandra. Doomed to see the future but not to be believed.

 

My observations in my speech amounted to something like this: If you continue the way you’re going (like bully-boy cowboys), your approaches will not lead to successful outcomes. Your reductionist and coarse utilitarianism will be seen for what it is: ethically and politically suspect. There will be strong suspicions of corruption.

 

Ten stages

 I can imagine what will happen. It will happen in ten stages.

 

Stage 1

 

The young companies, acting like cowboys, standover merchants and bully-boys (the Wild West) will take over from the regulation-oriented companies that are trying to do things properly. Eclipsed will be the wise, older and more experienced operators who know how to consult and build and maintain trust.

 

Stage 2

 

Local politicians and activists will try to uncover what’s really happening.

Meetings will be held and approaches made to local politicians. There will be press coverage, especially letters to the editor.

 

Stage 3

 

As things hot up, there will be an increase in anxiety and conspiracy theories.

Local action will intensify: committees, petitions, letters to the editor and politicians, more meetings, plans for non-violent direct action”¦ Neighbours will be pitted against neighbours in a climate of fear and intimidation. Press coverage fans the flames in an atmosphere of fear, confusion, distrust and anger, fuelled by `cowboy’ tactics, especially secrecy and bullying.

 

Stage 4

 

A neighbour opens his or her gate. He’s short of cash, can’t pay his rates, his rego is due … whatever”¦ He signs an agreement. There will be trucks, equipment, activity, noise, lights”¦ Drilling begins (or will soon).

 

 

Stage 5

 

People are galvanized into action. Activist campaigns are extended and strengthened. New organisations form, with signs, websites, social media”¦

 

Stage 6

 

Citizens engage in direct action.

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Stage 7

 

The industry (acting like Grabbit and Runn Pty Ltd) follows the Canadian example and begins a massive public relations campaign: We Love CSG. Locals are left with David and Goliath comparisons. Local politicians and activists organise but feel lied to, kept in the dark, intimidated and steamrolled.

 

Ordinary people feel they have no voice. “The big end of town is against us. We are treated like ignorant country hicks.”

 

Stage 8

 

New alliances form. Activists and politicians form (often previously unheard-of) alliances. Politicians, farmers, hippies, experienced activists, young people, environmentalists, townsfolk”¦ old and young, city and country, Left and Right, rich and poor”¦ I told them about the warnings of Dr Wayne Somerville, a consulting psychologist in Lismore: Now another storm of upheaval and protest is brewing. And Australia might be in for an even more terrible time than the Vietnam War.

 

Stage 9

 

The press has a field day. Politicians and activists now capture media interest. Bad news overwhelms the industry’s “good news” stories. This is not good for the oil and gas business.

 

Stage 10

 

Finally, I told them, your industry is on the back foot. Now science is argued in public. The industry has no control over the quality or accuracy of information. Nobody loves the miners except those who opened their gates. Many of their neighbours are now not speaking to them. The industry’s media campaigns backfire.

 

That’s what I suggested. It did not turn out that way – exactly – but a lot of it is similar to what has occurred at Bentley.

 

I told the miners:

 

“The economic forces you understand well “¦ and manipulate well “¦will work to your advantage. But not totally and not forever. And If you don’t find a way to engage with communities — an authentic way that’s going to work – you will have a community that engages with you.”

 

And you will have the biggest protest that Australia has ever seen.”

 

At the end of my 2011 talk, I asked a rhetorical question: “How will this end?”

 

My reply: “In tears. This will make Terania Creek look tiny.”

 

I looked out at my audience. Blank, young, confident faces everywhere.

 

I gasped: “Does anyone know what happened at Terania Creek?”

 

Nada.

 

Then the Chair of my session, also the Chairman of the organisation (and close to my age), spoke up.

 

Wendy-APPEA-CONF-2011-4970_

“I remember,” he said.

 

He remembered the non-violent direct action at Terania Creek. Premier Neville Wran called it his proudest moment when he banned rainforest logging in NSW. He only wished he’d done it earlier.

 

What’s needed?

 

What’s needed, I said, was a good engagement process. It has three criteria: representativeness, influence and community education. I explained how to do it. Simple rules that required authenticity, honesty, accountability and transparency. Above all, I warned them, “avoid conflicts that involve the police.”

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                          * * *

 

I think we’ve all seen what an appalling community engagement process looks like.

 

For me, I wish I’d been wrong. I feel like Cassandra: the prophetess who wasn’t believed.

 

Now we can see what communities can and will do. What resourcefulness and resilience look like.

 

What they sound like.

Believe me, Metgasco

 

Believe me, Metgasco, this is just the beginning. There is much more where this came from.

 

Best you start listening now.

 

And best you read your environmental history.

 

New South Wales — and especially the Northern Rivers (what on Earth were you thinking?) — are not for the taking.

 

Postscript 18 May: See this great article in the Green Left Weekly: https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/56473

 

 

The Bentley Blockade: Weeping for the Earth

The text!

 

It would have looked better if I were digging out the composting toilet or planting organic veggies. But the truth is I was half-way into an egg and sausage McMuffin in Casino when the text came from Bentley.

 

I had to ring Yollana to make sure I had it right.

 

We’d won at Bentley.

 

Or at least, a major victory had occurred. (I’m too old for complete acceptance that “all is now well.” The Bentley Blockade had succeeded. Metgasco’s license was suspended and they were referred to ICAC.

 

But, you know, your body speaks its mind and in a second I was weeping.

 

I was weeping in Maccas in Casino.

 

It took me a while before I realised how much I love this country. How much I love this Earth. Since I migrated to Australia in 1968, I’ve had a few `falling-in-love-with-the-Earth” moments. Deep Ecology rituals specialise in helping that response emerge in reluctant humans.

 

Tall Tree Country

 

Nevertheless, having grown up

in “tall tree country” in Canada, I spent a long time coming to love this part of our Earth. It’s not what I was used to.

 

Tall Tree Country

Tall Tree Country

 

 

 

 

 



A year living alone in the bush at Humpty Doo helped a lot and generated a PhD thesis on caring for Nature: https://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/289/

 

 

 

Humpty Doo 1992

Humpty Doo 1992

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




And fog in the valley in Nimbin can do it.

 

https://www.sarkissian.com.au/wendys-blog/posts-from-the-bush/fog-in-the-valley/

 

 


But this weeping in Maccas?

 

Something else altogether.

 

  • Weeping for gratitude to many protectors who braved discomfort and hardship to keep the vigil at Bentley for so many weeks.
  • Gratitude to the canny politicians and wise negotiators who kept seeking a political solution when many thought that was impossible.
  • Blessings on the parents who brought children to the dawn gatherings on the hill when warm beds beckoned.
  • Gratitude to a brave landowner who made his property available to the protectors.
  • Close friends of mine who put their lives on hold to give all they could.

 

Yollana had another insight into why I was weeping in Maccas.

Community consultation

 

All of the press reports – and the Bentley Alert text – identified inadequate community consultation as the key factor it the Government’s decision.

 

OMG!

 

Yollana writes me:

 

Facebook post by David Filipczyk“Ž, Lock the Gate Alliance Inc.

Let it be known and remembered loudly and clearly:

Bentley was won,
Not because a politician stepped in!
Not because of a loop hole in the law!
Not because a dirty industry found a conscience!

The official reason for the cancellation of the drilling license is:

Insufficient community consultation!

In other words,  
Bentley was won because the people stood up, protested and refused to back down!

 

Does anybody really care about that? Community engagement has been my life’s work. I’ve written eight books about it.

 

I often feel like a boring old fart. Banging on about community engagement.

 

Who cares?

 

Well — yesterday morning — someone cared about community consultation.

 

That’s

enough to keep me banging on for another 25 years.

 

Go Bentley!

 

 

 

Bentley CSG Blockade: Open Letter to Brad Hazzard, NSW Minister for Police

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Bentley CSG Blockade, NSW

https://northernriversguardians.org/?page_id=5240

5 May 2014

Open letter to the NSW Minister for Police, Brad Hazzard

 

Dear Minister:

 

I am a 71-year-old resident of the Northern Rivers of New South Wales and a Life Fellow of the Planning Institute of Australia.


I hold a doctorate in

environmental ethics from the Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy, Murdoch University.

In recent years…

In recent years, when you were the

Minister for Planning, you had a number of occasions to hear me speak on the value of community engagement regarding planning decisions that affect people’s lives.

 

Now I am writing you about  unconventional gas mining and, specifically, the Metgasco proposal to mine at Bentley in Northern NSW.

 

Bentley is just down the road from where I live.

 

I observed when you were Minister for Planning that you often appeared reluctant to listen to the voices of ordinary people speaking out to protect their homes and neighbourhoods.

 

Now we are speaking out to preserve the living Earth and the lives of all species for generations to come.

 

Worried…

I am worried that you might use heavy-handed tactics as Police Minster. If you possibly had that intention, I seek to dissuade you.

 

A large group of conferenced residents – of all ages and political persuasions – is fighting to save the Northern Rivers from unconventional gas mining mining.

 

We are

fighting for our lives.

 

If you wish to be successful in your new position, I’d advise you to listen to the voices of the people of the Northern Rivers.

 

We know what we are talking about. We are not ratbags and we are certainly not taken over by factional interests. We are local grandmothers and grandfathers – and children and others – who simply want to protect the Earth.


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Now is the time, Minister, to distinguish yourself as the Police Minister who was willing to listen.

 

We are willing to listen levitra for cheap real as well.

 

Please do not shut the door on conversations with the activists at Bentley.

 

We must Shut the Gate to Metgasco but we are open to talking with you.

 

We are peaceful, loving, non-violent local people seeking a better life for all who live on Earth.

 



We are singing our hearts out on the hilltop at Bentley.

 

We are singing for our lives.

Ironically, we are also singing for your life.

 

 

Kind regards,

 

Dr Wendy Sarkissian

wendy@sarkissian.com.au

https://northernriversguardians.org/?page_id=5240

 

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Bentley CSG Blockade: You Can’t Just Take My Dreams Away

 

Nimbin, 28 April 2014

 

gate-c-in-the-rain-20414_lo

It was bucketing rain at dawn at the Bentley Blockade this morning. The blockade against unconventional gas mining. No guitars or drums because of the rain. There were lots of people there but not a lot were singing.

 

Then, magically, about 5 am, a woman with a strong, melodic voice began a song that only a few of the older women followed. I was among them.

 



It’s a song by my hero, Holly Near. One of my favourites: “Mountain Song”.

 

Mountain Song

I was delighted to hear Holly’s song in our blockade. Hers is a powerful voice for change. After 30 years of work in social change movements, Near’s historical perspective, as well as her contemporary activism, continue to challenge and inspire.  I last heard her perform a year ago in Berkeley. She made me cry.

 

This morning, the woman’s song resonated deeply within me as I stood on the hill and watched the darkness fade and a new day begin:

 

I have dreamed on this mountain
Since first I was my mother’s daughter
And you can’t just take my dreams away ­– not with me watching
You may drive a big machine
But I was born a great big woman
And

you can’t just take my dreams away ­– not with me fighting



This old mountain raised my many daughters

Some died young – some are still living
But if you come here to take our mountain
Well we ain’t come here to give it



I have dreamed on this mountain

Since first I was my mother’s daughter
And you can’t just take my dreams away ­– not with me watching
No you can’t just take my dreams away ­– without me fighting
No you can’t just take my dreams away

 

 

https://www.songlyrics.com/holly-near/mountain-song-lyrics/

 

 

My dreams

I have been visiting the Northern Rivers since the early 1980s and have lived in Nimbin since 2001. My husband and I shelter our dreams here and, truly, Metgasco, wherever you are and whoever you are, you may drive a big machine, but “you can’t just take my dreams away – not with me watching.”

 

With many of my neighbours, I am watching. I am bearing witness. Like many principled and concerned people in this region, I am on high alert.

 

This mountain is not for taking.

 

Metgasco, hear me! You have no social license to mine and destroy our land, our water, our health and the health of future generations of all species.

 

Not only are we watching, we’re also fighting. We’re fighting for our lives here in the Northern Rivers.

 

Please, neighbours, if you possibly can, join us. Join us now.

 

We need you now – before it’s too late.

 

bentley-dreams-280414_low

 





Before the big machines take our dreams away.




 

 

 

 

The Bentley CSG Blockade: Something Changes in Me

 First reflections on the Bentley CSG Blockade  
21 April 2014
 

 

 



A song has been going round in my head today, after greeting the dawn at the Bentley Blockade (https://northernriversguardians.org/).

This is a blockade to prevent Metgasco from drilling for unconventional gas in farmland near Bentley, NSW.

bentley demonstration

 

 



It’s Holly Near’s “Change of Heart”:

Something changes in me when I witness someone’s courage
They may not know I’m watching, I may not let them know that
Something changes in me that will last me for a life time
To fill me when I’m empty, and rock me when I’m low


Something changes in me anytime there’s someone singing

All the songs I’ve never forgotten, let our voices sing them strong
Something changes in me anytime there’s someone standing
For the right to

be completely all the good things that we are

Chorus:


There’s a

change of heart
Anytime there’s someone counting
All the lives that won’t be thrown away”¦


Gathered in the glorious misty dawn around a campfire outside the Bentley property targeted for unconventional gas drilling, several hundred of us bent forward to hear the wise ones offer guidance about Non-Violent Direction Action (NVDA). Our hosts are the Northern Rivers Guardians.

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“Look into their eyes,” begged veteran activist and therapist, Ruth Rosenhek.


“We are here for peace, not violence.”

 

Ruth Rosenhek

Ruth Rosenhek



And then the role plays and practice began.


My mind flew away. No longer a mere 40 kms from home, I was transported across the Pacific to another time and place where environmental devastation was planned in the guise of “clean energy”. That time it was nuclear power.


As I leaned back in my chair, I remembered how my heart broke open the first time I encountered NVDA. It was early August, 1978. With Australian activist, Peter Hayes, I’d driven from Berkeley down the central California coast to the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactor in San Luis Obispo. For two days Peter facilitated and I observed the Abalone Alliance NVDA training. Like a dance.

 

The police, we were told, would receive the same training.


Those who agreed to climb the fence and enter the reactor property received special attention, guidance and counselling. They role-played the experience of going over the fence: playing themselves, the police, and the reactor personnel. They simulated getting arrested, going to jail. They spoke softly about how it would feel – how to handle yourself. Importantly, how to be peaceful when threatened.



Abalone Alliance NVDA training, 1978
Abalone Alliance NVDA training, 1978


I’d never seen anything like it!

The rest of us – camped on the beach beside the nyclear reactor – would bear high witness to their actions. We’d stay on the beach and support those who chose to go over the fence.

Observing the training, I learned a lot about NVDA and the Abalone Alliance, established the previous year and operating until 1985. It was a nonviolent civil disobedience group formed to shut down the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PGE)  (known fondly Pigs, Goats and Elephants) Diablo Canyon Power Plant. Amazingly, it was sited on an earthquake fault. They modelled their affinity group-based organisational structure after the Clamshell Alliance, then protesting the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant in coastal New Hampshire.


The group’s name, “Abalone Alliance”, honoured tens of thousands of wild California Red Abalone killed in 1974 in Diablo Cove when the Plant’s plumbing had its first hot flush.


This was their second blockade. The really big

one, with over 20,000 participants, was

the following year. But I was elsewhere that August — running a feminist summer school in Colorado.

They were busy, activist times.

Stop Diablo Canyon poster



For me, at 35, the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactor blockade was a life-changing experience. Over 5,000 people gathered on the sun-drenched beach on a weekend summer day. It was California in the seventies but there was an air of anticipation and anxiety among the otherwise festive participants.



diablo canyon proxemics2_crop

 

 




 

I remembered the instruction: “Look into others’ eyes”.


I photographed these two women as they prepared to go over the fence. They’d been trained to look into others’ eyes but when they did so – with each other –and when they embraced – I felt my heartstrings tug.


I was photographing courage.


diablo canyon trust proxemics firstcrop_2 copy


Embracing

Embracing



Holly Near

My heroine in those days – and still today – is American feminist and activist singer-songwriter, Holly Near. About the time we were assembling on the beach, she was writing “Change of Heart”:

Something changes in me when I witness someone’s courage”¦


My dawn visit today to the Bentley Blockade did not change

my heart. Not exactly.


It reminded my heart.


It reminded me what courage feels like.


It feels like the Bentley Blockade against unconventional gas mining.

 

It looks like my neighbours.


And it tastes like hope.


Postscript: As we prepare for another

week protecting the Northern Rivers at the #BentleyBlockade, have a look at what happened there on Anzac Day in this moving new short film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjT8ka5Ekzk

 

The Facebook page is at: https://www.facebook.com/CsgFreeNorthernRivers

 

Lessons from a deaf brown chook

It’s always interesting living in the bush!

 

Our enterprising neighbours have turned their half an acre into a hive of activity. WWOOFERS are everywhere (see https://wwoofinternational.org/). After decades of inaction, the community agriculture lot is thriving.

 

Karl is preparing his garden for viewing next weekend in a Nimbin House and Garden Tour fundraiser for the sustainable living project at Sibley Street (https://nnic.org.au/) sponsored by the Nimbin Neighbourhood

and Information Centre where he volunteers.

 

Meanwhile, the neighbours’ chooks are destroying things as fast as he can plant and mulch them. It’s a battle of wills, as Karl’s flower garden looks prettier without a fence.


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Both of us have undergraduate minors in psychology so we are trying to use classical behavioural psychology on the chooks.

When we chase them and yell at them, we loudly ring my workshop bell.


Classical conditioning for chooks

We’re hoping that — as in the case of using classical conditioning with Pavlov’s salivating dog (see https://www.simplypsychology.org/pavlov.html) — eventually the mere sound of the bell will make them scurry away.

 

We really dislike throwing stones at Ben’s chooks.

 

All of this is working pretty well — from our anthropocentric points of view.

 

However, we’ve noticed that the brown chook is immune to our manipulative efforts at social control.

 

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Further, she appears to be immune to the rooster.

 

She’s not part of the harem.

 

AND (even more interesting), she forages for insects and worms in other places– not Karl’s garden. She’s always alone and apparently doing fine — on the eastern boundary of our property under the trees whose fallen leaves have formed a thick mulch.

The brown chook is an independent actor in our garden.


She seems to be getting enough to eat, lack of sex does not seem to worry her, she makes no sounds (none of this monstrous clucking all the time) and she walks her own path.

 

Maybe she’s a lesbian chook? A feminist chook?

 

Certainly, an independent chook.

And we think she might be deaf — and certainly deaf to the rooster’s haranguing   importations. (Deaf to the dominant paradigm?)

I already have a kookaburra for a logo.

 

But watch out, Guy!


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The deaf brown chook is nipping at your heels (oops, claws…)

 

 

 

STOP PRESS!!!

 

Sunday: Karl (legendary dog whisperer) has apparently fallen in love with the brown chook.

 

Apparently it’s mutual.

 

 

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Silencing Dissent: charity begins at home

April 29, 2011 – 4:07 pm



In an eco-village, there is more to life than managing weeds and water quality in the dams.

 

What we have learned about social reform and social change in Western countries over many decades is that burning books and silencing dissent are very dangerous practices.

What is my dissenting voice really saying?

I am saying that exclusionary practices in the Jarlanbah Permaculture Hamlet make me and many of my neighbours feel excluded and unhappy.

 

At a higher level, they are inequitable, unfair and destabilising of community strength, solidarity and, ultimately, sustainability.

 

It’s not fun being the focus of sustained attacks.

 

But I am willing to wear that discomfort to have my voice – my small single voice – heard.

 

I come from a long line of people who spoke out against injustice. As a Canadian-Armenian, I know what happened to my father’s family and his father’s family. The blood of the martyrs runs in my veins.

 

Social exclusion and bullying in Jarlanbah are hardly genocide. But they are definitely ways of killing community.

 

I guess I just have to be unpopular. Tearing off the gag.

Speaking the unspeakable.

 

And I am going to fight for the rights of the disenfranchised and silenced members of communities with my dying breath.

 

So when I think of silencing dissent charity begins at home!