This past week I spent a few days up in The Pilliga.
Normally an ocean dwelling lover, I headed west, in-land.
Why would I drag myself away from the seas?
I chose to head out to The Pilliga because I had heard about the camp of protestors fighting the giant energy company Santos from implementing research facilities and plants to extract coal seam gas from the area.
I figured that as a believer in collaboration. connection and reciprocity with Nature, and the fact that my path does not tend to lean towards chaining myself to objects in physical defiance towards ‘authorities’, that the best way to support my beliefs was to offer my services and time to the people who do put their hearts, minds and bodies on the line for Mother Earth.
So I headed west.
What I found in The Pilliga was a deep sense of peace and a fight worth fighting for.
The protestors against Santos and coal seam gas (CSG) were tucked away on a piece of property attached to Pilliga Pottery.
A beautiful oasis nestled in a beautiful oasis.
Far from any buzzing electricity, wifi or technological connection, the beauty and depth of this ancient land seeps through each and every pore in your body and if willing, will sweep one away into serenity.
The Pilliga is the largest remaining temperate woodland on the east of Australia. The areas around are cleared for sheep and wheat, so its 500, 000 hectare presence is auspicious in this arid landscape.
The body of its forests are a crucial sanctuary for teams of life. Birds, mammals, reptiles, insects and the trees harmoniously living in a thriving ecosystem that has survived for many moons.
Under The Pilliga deep beneath the crust of the dusty top layers of soil silently lies the Great Artesian Basin (GAB).
Older than The Pilliga, the GAB is the second largest basin in the world. It spans most of the eastern regions of Australia, covering roughly 1.7 million square kilometres!
Can you even fathom that?
The government would have you believe that the GAB is a naturally recharging basin, an infinite system able to be tapped eternally due to rainfall levels recharging the source.
The facts held by many scientists, hydrologists and professors is that the GAB is a closed and finite system of ancient water. The little rainfall that travels from the east side of the Great Dividing Range seeps into the sandstone basin at a rate of 1-5 meters per year. As a good case scenario, that means it takes about 2 million years for water to reach the actual basin and recharge the source. The bad case scenario is: the basin does not recharge at all.
Approximations of the amount of water wasted (as in: not used) from the GAB in the last hundred years is about 100 times the amount of water in Sydney Harbour.
Of recent times, wastage has slowed to half a million megalitres a year, thats the volume of water in Sydney Harbour… per year.
Much of Australia relies upon this water.
People and Nature.
Currently there is much doubt that the GAB can actually recharge through natural water movements. Water pressure through bores is declining, suggesting that the water levels are diminishing.
I wonder what happens to the country when this resource runs out.
So, to the Fracking.
Santos is Australia’s biggest energy company. They’ve been around for years and they have been sequestering CSG for many years. It is only now that we are beginning to understand the problems of CSG from previous plants, though through poor management and governmental loopholes CSG is proving to be seriously destructive to particular areas, such as The Pilliga.
The process of Fracking.
Hydraulic Fracturing is a process of drilling deep bores, first vertically and then horizontally for long distances, and pumping in chemicals, proppants (sand like particles) and water to fracture the coal seam, the chemicals and water are then removed leaving the proppants to hold open the fractured seams and capture the methane gas as it escapes up the bore.
Santos maintains that they take the utmost care of the land, but there is much evidence of the opposite being the actual case.
The residents of Coonabarabran are currently in courts with Santos and in conversations with the government due to the fracking of The Pilliga. The residents against CSG have stated that their water sources are being severely polluted by the chemicals used and methane is freely escaping from vents, waste water is leaking from bores. In other areas under CSG, gas, freed from the Earth itself, is finding its way into bodies of water, which can literally be set on fire as the gas bubbles up from beneath.
To add to this, the health of the locals, their livestock and vegetation has been seriously compromised as their potable water becomes polluted with chemical waste.
The GAB provides fresh water for a greater part of inland Australia.
Santos has had a presence in The Pilliga for over 15 years. Locals have been able to measure the evidence of contaminated aquifers with dangerous levels of heavy metals and radioactive materials and the debilitating damage to the land where forests of trees have died and flora refuses to grow upon attempting rehabilitation.
Currently there is only 8 CSG plants in The Pilliga Forest.
Santos intends to implement 650 of these CSG plants reaching north into Queensland.
If so much damage has been caused by just 8, imagine 642 more.
If Santos continues to mine for CSG here and in other parts of the country and in the worst case scenario the people of these areas become disenfranchised and eventually are forced from their lands (not a new theme here), where will they go? What will they do? Who will look after them?
And what will be left of the landscape? The animals? The trees?
The GAB is already under threat from overuse. The Pilliga is the last remaining forest in the area.
The country relies upon the GAB for its own health.
And between the government and Santos, we stand to lose both of these amazing natural wonders.
And thems the facts.
In writing this, I am asking you to please understand that the continuation to exploit natural resources hurts everyone, Earth, all inhabitants and its People.
Reduction in coal and increasing CSG prevents money being better spent in other areas like renewable energy.
Our power hungry lifestyles need to be curved themselves.
If you can’t protest or don’t know how to have input.
If you can’t find a way to stop Santos, then please at least have an understanding of the situation and its costs.
With that, decide to use less.
Be mindful of your purchases and your usage of resources.
If that is all you can do, that for now, is enough.
But most of all, spend some time to reconnect to Nature.
Even if the connection feels lost,
You are inseparable from Nature.
If you’ve made it this far down the page, I am truly grateful for your attention.
Much love, health and happiness