Friday 22 February 2019

Bits and Pieces: “Perfect Storm” Edition.


It may be silly, but I am relieved this hellish Australian summer is all but over.

And there are good news. On the plus side, a few local events, apparently of global relevance, give some reason to rejoice.

The first one happened on February 8.

That day came the decision by the New South Wales Land and Environment Court to reject an appeal by mining company Gloucester Resources Ltd against a NSW State government decision. The State government had previously denied approval to GRL’s Rocky Hill open-cut coal mine. The community of Gloucester, in the Hunter Valley, with the support of the Environmental Defenders Office since April 2018, had been fighting a David v Goliath kind of  battle against GRL and their NSW National/Liberal lackeys.

Foreign observers seem to believe that decision creates a legal precedent. Nature’s Bianca Nogrady, for instance, wrote that “the case is the first time a mine has been refused in the country because of climate change”.

Which, unfortunately, is only partly true and may be entirely premature. Partly true, because, according to the note by Michael McGowan and Lisa Cox, although chief judge Brian Preston dismissed GRL’s environmental counter-arguments as “speculative and hypothetical” and did cite the “global problem of climate change”, there were other reasons for his decision. In fact, the original rejection of GRL’s development application by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment was predicated not on climate change, but on the visual impacts of the proposed Rocky Hill mine and its contravening Gloucester’s zoning plans.

Premature, because GRL still has three months to appeal (counting from the date of the decision).

At any rate, Gloucester residents, more experienced in those matters, seem a lot more cautious.



Thursday’s announcement that Glencore is capping its global coal output at the level of 145 million tonnes was hailed by many, particularly the “corporate responsibility” crowd, as a victory. Glencore, it was announced, would contribute to make possible the Paris Agreement pledge to stop temperature from raising above 2ºC. Additionally, Glencore would now emphasise other commodities, like copper, cobalt, nickel, vanadium and zinc. This was interpreted as a wager in a new Green and de-carbonised capitalist economy, where those elements could be vital. Glencore, one could say, was putting its money where its mouth is.

Apparently, Glencore had bowed to pressure from Climate Action 100+ (a group of financial speculators, allegedly concerned with climate change, who collectively manage $US32 trillion in assets).

The icing on the cake was that Glencore could even reconsider its Minerals Council of Australia membership. The obnoxius CMA is, of course, the lobby group of big miners, second in importance only to Australian Liberal, National and Labor politicians, past and present (you can see there the “Invisible Minister” and if you go here, you’ll see the Bozo and Pennywise lump of coal comedy routine).

What’s there not to like? Bloomy’s David Fickling goes as far as writing about the end of coal.

Well, maybe.

Astute observers, however, suspect that miraculous conversion may have more to do with keeping supply tight and -- given increasing demand -- prices permanently high. That doesn’t sound like a forever kind of commitment.


I honestly understand those working for these mining firms. For workers like them, for their families and the communities they live in, those aren’t good news, even if less dramatic than they seem. I can relate.

In a socialist commonwealth to lose one’s job wouldn’t be a drama. A transition to a de-carbonised economy won’t be easy for anybody, but it need not be a catastrophe for workers. Under socialism, as owners of their firm, workers unable to mine coal could put their firm into the environmental remediation business for a socialist government. Cleaning up the mess coal mining (and mining in general) leaves behind would require workers like them, trained to use heavy industrial machinery. Guided by scientists, they could dispose of poisonous side-products (the frequent result of mining) and plant forests to absorb CO2, re-cycle equipment, installations, and buildings either by selling them or at least by their scrap value. In the worst case scenario, a Job Guarantee.

But Australia is no socialist commonwealth. In capitalist Australia they will become unemployed and unemployable. What’s the “safety net” capitalist Australia offers them? That sad joke of the NewStart Allowance, which neither the Coalition nor Labor, in their effort to please or appease employers, care to increase? In capitalist Australia they, not their employers, will be made to pay for de-carbonisation. Political parties will make that outcome unavoidable. For those workers, the end of coal is the end of the road. And they still vote.

In their circumstances, one may feel tempted to overlook the risk of black-lung disease (back in Queensland) or of a miserable death in underground accidents. They call that wishful thinking. If one overlooks all that (“nah, it’ll never happen to me”) isn’t one likely to overlook the danger of environmental catastrophe, specially when scientists themselves go around warning against “alarmism”?

On top, those workers have been indoctrinated since childhood into believing themselves dependent on their bosses’ generosity (“job creators”). Petty bourgeois intellectuals, many of them of the liberal-leftish persuasion, did their job mighty well. Can workers, suddenly, forget everything they learned over a lifetime and expect solidarity from those who like nothing better than showing their contempt for them?

But one thing workers must remember: Adani is not your friend anymore than those middle-class intellectuals are. They will poison you and your family and your community. They will stab you in the back and abandon you when they no longer can squeeze any profit from your effort. Don’t take my word for that. Ask the people of Menindee or Gloucester.

You have been warned.

That leads me to the opening photo. I have less understanding for the CFMEU. I know they must listen to their members. That doesn’t mean they have no leadership role to play. And to play into the hands of those behind the 2014-2015 witch-hunt unleashed against … the CFMEU, among other unions, is hard to swallow:

CFMEU and miners tell Labor to stop playing games over Adani mine
By Mark Ludlow and Tom McIlroy, Updated Feb 21, 2019 — 6.16pm, first published at 6.02pm

Here is “Ronald” McCormack, who cares not about the human victims of Menindee (his party’s electoral base!), showing off his fake outrage on behalf of mining workers:

Like “Ronald” says: dats Shtraya, mite.


Somehow to throw the imbecilic “perfect storm” commonplace at the face of those who use it makes me feel a little better. A “perfect storm” is what humanity is facing.

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