29 August 2006

No Solution to Climate Chaos! Leave it in the Ground - A nukes tour into the red centre.

So almost a month back from the outback and still no blog. I must admit.. as well as being stupidly busy I've been struggling. I really cant do the campaigns, the issues and the amazing people we both met and travels with justice in one blog. The post just keeps on growing and I feel I haven't really said anything at all. So I'll give you a snapshot of some of the crazy-beautiful-stunning-inspiring-horrifying experiences and link to some of the campaigns.

If you cant hack the big blog then I'd urge up to go look at my photos, the desert is really, really special. Then the video clip below and skip to my sum up at the end! There are a LOT of links.. so I've put a list of them at the end of the blog for anyone feeling extra geeky.

And to everyone currently at climate camp I miss you fab folks!

The Tour was to see and learn about some of the issues surrounding nukes in Australia. I went into the desert as I felt inadequate when people asked me if nukes were are solution to climate chaos. Apart from 'NO!' and 'Well that's just insane' and a few figures on the carbon emissions of mining, production & transportation etc. I really found it hard to answer in any convincing or heartfelt way. And to be honest I just don't learn very well from reading stuff, I'm all about life experience.. and when so many environmentally aware folks have been 'Doing a Lovelock' and coming out in support of nukes I wanted a little more fuel to my 'no feckin way' fire.

Articles on why Nukes are not the solution to Climate Change: 1|2 | 3

The tour was organised by Friends Of the Earth. FOE in Australia are ace.. they are the most radical grassroots NGO.. full of awesome not-quite-paid-ish folks doing very cool things. I keep meeting people from Europe and exclaiming to each other.. wow like FOE are cool here!

Also blog followers may have noticed I've been in Australia a few months now and and haven't mentioned Indigenous issues on my blog once. That's because I really don't know what to say yet. Its a really hard issue full of pain and horror and ongoing racism and I think I need to do a lot more learning before I do any talking.

So.. the tour..we set of.. A big bus.. and two minibuses. After a 12 hour train ride to Melbourne and then 12 drive to Adelaide. almost ready to drive out into the desert....

The nights out under the stars camped on the red red sand around a fire watching the stars I will never forget. The sunrises and sunsets were as amazing as out at sea.. actually I was often reminded of my time on the Warrior.

Roxby Downs is uranium mine sat on the worlds largest uranium source.

We had a tour of the mine driving around in a big bus, it was huge, industrial and crazy. There are massive works around the mine, the kinda things you usually see only in movies.

"A place like that can turn a kitten into a tiger" - Uncle Kevin

The PR and Environmental guys who came around with us, stalwart under the shower of "how can you do this evil shit?" type questions that assaulted them. You'd almost feel sorry for them. Until you think about the work they are defending. The destruction in front of us and dangerous places left where the reactors and waste dumps.. Not to mention the crazy countries getting their hands on all that Uranium..

The environmental manger said, of the barrels of nuclear waste.. "So safe you could lick it!" Yeah mate.. like to see you do that.

Sat by the huge industrial works were massive piles of bright yellow sulphur we all seemed to, on some level, want to be radioactive ore.. Somehow if it was big and evil looking yellow, like in the Simpsons, it would be a more visible threat.. one people would take more seriously. If it was a neon yellow it would be a more tangible evil to be pointed at and villainised.

The tailings dams are where all the remaining sludge, after the ores have been processed, is left and are are massively huge. They are beautiful, ugly, radioactive and disturbing at once. And what's to stop birds and marsupials going about their daily lives form stumbling on this toxic hell hole? Not much..

They mine something else here too, as well as a range of heavy metals. They mine water. They use heap and heaps of it .. they use around 33 Million Liters of water a day form the ancient Great Artesian Basin, Mound Spring, a few hours drive away is a group of rare ecosystems that live from this water and are drying up.

Many of the Springs are in Uncle Kevin's country. An amazing Elder I will never forget - some people you just shut up an listen to. He took us around to many of these springs. Beautiful and crazy pockets of life in the middle of the arid lands with lush plants and dragonflies buzzing around like some fairy portal to another wold. However they were all lower then they used to be and then we visited one that had all but all dried up, it was the first time he had seen it dry, and all the life around it parching away. Sad, sad times.

Back in Roxby Town - Everyone who lives there is connected with the Mine. I felt like an invader, in this weird place with shiney 4x4s, manicured lawns and high cancer rates. Somehow reminded me of the USofA.

Woomera. Before going on this trip a friend skyped me after hearing of my itinerary and said "So, your going to all the nice places huh?" What can I say.. the infamous detention centre has been shut down ... cant say the rest of the place is much better.

Its a full on military town were the locals are afraid to be seen associating with protesters.. or taking their custom. Its proud centre piece is a 'missile park' in the middle of town displaying bits of rockets that have been tested there over the years.. And again green lawns eerily shine in the dry, arid desert.

We had been joined by Avon, A man who was in the army back in the 50s when they tested the nukes.. Yeah.. I didn't know that about Australia.. they blew up nuclear bombs in the middle of the country. What kinda insane place blows up Nukes in the middle of the country? And actually it wasen't even the Aussies doing it, it was the British army..

He told stories of his life and what they were exposed to, and how many of his army mates are dead. We heard about the histories of the missiles on display in the park.. I looked beyond to Woomera school right next door and wondered what affect it has on children growing up next to this glorification of weapons of mass destruction.

So they blew up nukes in the big beautiful deseert. They said it was empty. Empty dead lands. Its all a lie. There were people in the area, they didn't check out the routes of the indigenous folks in the areas, that went right through the site. An aboriginal family were found sleeping in the crater.. they wisked them off, stripped them and scrubbed them down.. they all died.

But thats just one example.. there were more. The dust cloud went over a much larger area than they were expecting. We met a man who, as a boy, had been in the radioactive fall out cloud: Uncle Yami Lester (uncle being the title of respect for indigenous elders). Another amazing man full of so many smiles and so much joy. He lost the sight in one eye within a couple of weeks of being covered in the fallout of 'Totem 1'. They took him into hospital.. then removed the wrong eye. Its like an unbelievable horror story... did they support him? Like hell did they. They took him from his home and people into the city and taught him how to make brushes.

The Racism that has been here, and is still so prevelent is, well I dont have words for it, just so wrong.

Words like creek & lake, river.. Now I've, being a soggy brit grrrl, have been brought up to expect water to be some major and integral part of these enitites.. How wrong am I! I've spent ages here looking for creeks to find I am walking right up the 'creek'. "But they are so dry! I exclaimed.." And ruffled some feathers. . "they are not dry.. they are ephemeral" I was told earnestly. Water is a serious business out her in the desert. Ephemeral my new favourite word..meaning 'lasting for a very short time'.

Lake Eyre is sometimes a lake.. and more often vast salt flats stretching a far over the horizon. The cracked salt splitting in jagged lines that catch in the in sunset twilight and glow like something out of Tron.

After the full on intenseness travelling together of the tour we all ripped our boots off and spread out on our own or in small groups over the... i want to say over the ice, because it was so much like ice.. warm under out bare feet.

We ran, danced, rolled about, licked the salt and got infused with the intensely both calm and exciting energy of the place. I spoke to a guy who against years of social conditioning had walked off on his own and watched the sun go down and cried, and cried. I think it affected us all a bit like that.

Well.. till I got all excited:

Watch it till the end!

People had a protest camp out here for years! Its the hottest, dryest part of OZ, resisting the stealing of the water for the mines.

It means White fella in the ground.. And on the while fella maps its morphed into the more western sounding 'Coober Pedy'. When I heard that everyone lives underground to escape the baking sun I had romantic visions of ancient pueblo style fronts to cave homes. But the reality is far more Mad Max, and facinating.. like in the way you have to stare at a train wreck.

Its a mining town, folks get leases on plots of land to mine opals. So people dig holes and everyehere there are shafts and big smetrical cones of dirt. Dirt piles everywherte. It spread K's & K's out of towm like some crazy gialnt moles on speed have invaded the area. There is so little rain out here that they are not going to be eroded away in a hurry.. so thousands of years from now all that might be left out here of human kind is the strange mounds of earth and maybe a higher then normal background radiation count from all that stray fallout.

This Town is home to the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, the Senior Aboriginal Women from Coober Pedy who fought an inspiring successful campaign to stop a nuclear waste dump in their country... until the planners stared to look for other targets up north.

Somewhere over the years I'd gained a slightly romantic vision of Alice. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was some kinda style.. but the town its self was like small town with lots of nasty tourist shops.. and it is a lot greener than I expected!

luckily we were staying out of town. Out in the beautiful red sand and red hills and everyone-a-blinder sunrises & sunsets.. Sadly this amazing place is threatened land, its right by one of the proposed nuke dump sites. We stayed with the traditional owner of the land, Auntie Kath Martin. We talked with her, protested with her and felt her pain.. an inspiring woman.

She spoke with hurt that they had been told her she was being selfish, selfish in not wanting the nuclear & hospital waste to go there. that her and her people should do this for all Australians. So why can't the folks if Australia that are gonna at least use the energy and other applications have the dump in their backyard?


What did I learn out in the desert?

- There are LOTS of reasons why nukes are no solution to climate chaos, least of which is by the time they would manage to build all the dammed reactors and infrastructure needed to power the inflated power needs of the population by nukes, that we'd be way to far down the line of messing things up climatically it would not be worth the bother.

- That the Aussie desert really is amazing, calming. The quality of sound and light is amazing.. and unreal. At times it felt like being on a sound stage. Its not dead out there its arid- a whole slower beautiful way of life as vibrant as the lushest forest.

- That, as ever, the worst to suffer from our capitalist overblown needs are not white, are not the privileged. I'm used to the racism of the privileged world being from afar.. our lifestyles messing with and stomping on the lives of folks in far away places . But here, if you look, its right in front of you. Welcome to Australia.

- That I am thankful I have experienced the land in this way, welcomed by the indigenous owners. That i didn't go out to Uluru and take the tourist trail that so threatens and disregards the cultural heritage of the indigenous people here. It meant so much to me, that I was thanked for visiting in such a way, when the thanks really needed to be the other way for such a heartfelt welcome.

- That nukes are really messed up. Well we all knew that but I now understand and really feel it. And understand more of the entire cycle. In the UK we are used to the issues of decommissioning reactors and what to do with the waste. We might discuss the problems of Uranium falling into the hands of folks who want to make nukes if there is so much of it being dug up. But, as much of my Australian experiences have been about recently, mining is so much at the root of things.

Enough. Leave it in the ground. All of it. Everything.

The Uranium, The Coal, The Oil, The Gold, The gorilla killing Tantalum in Mobile phones, the Water, The Crystals, The Peat .. Everything.. EVERYTHING! I can't see any good in mining.. any of it. Carrots, Potatoes, Parsnips... They can come out of the ground, but go any deeper than the topsoil and we are all in trouble.

Summery of links in this blog:
Climate Camp UK, kickin off right now!
Article by James Lovelock - Pro Nukes 'Greenie''(this guy is full of shit by the way!)
My Photos.. think I'm obsessed
Articles on why Nukes are not the solution to Climate Change: FOE :NIRS :Greenpeace
Friends Of the Earth, Australia.
BHP Bilton's page on Roxby Downs
Slightly less Bias page on the Mine
Article on the Impact of Olympic Dam/Roxby Downs
on the Mound Springs.
Woomera page on Wikipeadia.
Wikipeadia page on the Woomera detention centre
Pics of Woomera fences being ripped down - Rarrah!
Fansite for the film Tron.
Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, the Senior Aboriginal Women from Coober Pedy
Arid Lands Environment Centre
Anvil Hill Alliance what takes up most of my life right now.
The Baku Ceyhan Pipeline campaign (Oil & Gas)
Save Lake Cowal (from Gold mining)
Article on Gorilla killing Tantalum
Peat Alert UKAnti-Peat Mining

No comments: