Interview: Ash Grunwald On Coal Seam Gas Mining

3 Mar 2013 0

Big Sky Wire

By Michele Lockwood

I have had the pleasure of speaking to musician Ash Grunwald this week about his passionate stance and involvement in the anti-Coal Seam Gas movement that is ever-present in our area of Northern NSW. Ash speaks honestly about his apathy in the past, his ‘unlikely ally’ in Alan Jones and his heartening commitment to seeing an end to the drilling of the land and the destruction of our waterways.


If you have any doubts about the dangers of CSG mining, please view the links and read Ash’s poignant words that follow. Make an educated decision about the motives of this greedy industry and the tragedy it has brought to places where with it sets down drills.

Doubtful Creek Protest, Kyogle, Northern NSW February 23

"I remember reflecting on the way home from the protest, that I just feel so lucky that my profession happens to be one where people say, ‘Thanks so much for coming and that we really needed that boost, we really appreciate it.’ And I’ll I’m thinking is that I really hit the jackpot in the job that I do that that happens to be the case. I don’t see it that way; I am just turning up playing some music and just trying genuinely trying to lend my support. I was really thinking that it was a really uplifting thing to be a part of and it was an amazing experience.

And I do think maybe there is some law in the universe that you need adversity in order to have those positive experiences. It really brings people together. From the Aboriginal elders doing the ‘Welcome to Country’, to the old farmers up there and then the range of different musicians with slightly different politics.

And we’re all there together and that is a positive feeling. It is a shame that has to come up as the silver lining to a very, very dark cloud; but nonetheless you still get the reward for fighting the good fight, as some people would say.

This is very different to say of logging of old growth forests in Tasmania or what Sea Shepherd does for example, it’s an ethical thing. You back it and people are out there putting themselves at risk and to me I respect them so much because it is an ethical thing. But the thing with CSG is that it goes beyond ethics, I mean it is ethics but it is also pure self-interest. It’s me thinking about my daughter and my baby coming along and all the innocent people and the people affected by it.

I’ve never felt so called to any movement as the anti-CSG movement. There have been untold environmental catastrophes all my life but there has been never been anything so close to home ever.  We are fighting something way bigger than we can see right now, it is hard to imagine that in 20 years there could be drill sites everywhere. I guess that could explain why some people are fence sitting."

APATHY versus ACTION

"I wrote a song about this on my last album and it was influenced by one of the first CSG protests that I involved in. The chorus goes: (sings) ‘Where the people at when need them? But I been as guilty as anyone.’

I have to disclose it when I am singing that there are a gazillion things that I have been apathetic about. I just think this one has to be the straw that broke the camel’s back for so many people who have been apathetic in the past. Maybe my part in this is saying, ‘take it from a lazy guy who’d rather be drinking beer and surfing…’

There are so many right wing people who are our allies in this; the classic example is Alan Jones. I don’t think I’ve ever dug anything he’s ever said. But you know he is so pro-farmer, and I think he’s a great spokesperson to reach right-wing Australia about CSG and the most important thing is that CSG stops. You know there is no hippie agenda if Alan Jones is behind it. It is a really funny time, when you find yourself with the most unlikely allies.

CSG to me is like a cancer. It is also a barometer to where we are at in society at the moment. I don’t think we are a democracy but more of a ‘corporatocracy’, we are at the mercy of big business and big banks, and globalisation. There is a lot of corporate pressure on everyone from the everyday punter at the bottom of it to the government who is just above that. Everyone is being strangled, even the multi-national companies they are all under pressure. It is like a hive-mind and I think we need to reverse it or at least just start to question it.

There is some good news that has come out of it. There is the ‘Beyond Zero Emissions.’ I have to check it out a bit more but I think basically, there are about 50 engineers and people who have given their time to put together a ten year plan to create a 100% renewable future in Australia. We don’t have to run on any fossil fuel in Australia. It gives us something defined, something factual that we can all push. I am going to contact them and say, ‘I am but a humble musician but I know other musicians and maybe we can help in someway in getting the message out there.’"

POWER of PROTEST

"We are working on plans to put on a massive gig to get behind this but first I want to talk to the most effective person involved in the CSG movement to see what is the best thing we can do to help this situation. If it turns out that a gig is not going to help and they say you need to go door-to-door or you need to dig a hole over here or if you need to do something really boring then that is what we are going to do. If it takes getting arrested I will do it. Protesting does work. Raising awareness does work.

We just have to get smart with this stuff when the farmer is copping it so badly. It tugs at my heartstrings to see these farmers treated to badly, although in the back of my mind I think if it were Aboriginals who were treated like this, nobody would care. I love my country and we’ve been sold up the river here and we are not benefiting from any of it and it is important to remind people it is an Aussie thing. I think the stat is that 96% of the gas is sent overseas and 4% here.

Barry O’ Farrell sites CSG exclusion zones for residential areas, vineyards and horse stables

It could just be a tactic to placate us to make people chill out about it. But maybe it could be genuinely a good thing and maybe he’s just realised the extent of the problem and they are peeling back what they can and making deals and concessions with CSG. I think it’s great news and it also proves, since it is dangerous in those areas, it shouldn’t be done anywhere. This is either the start of us all getting together and smashing it and achieving heaps with it, or it is the start of us giving up and Australia being completely fucked over.

The challenge is to get people fired up. I guess that is the job of the musicians. In the past, I’ve been the typical complacent Aussie. I have always been compassionate but I haven’t been an activist. And this has gotten me off my arse. It is the time for the average suburbanite to get riled up about this. We need to get our governments back and get them representing us.

I think I’ll be on a permanent campaign until it stops.


Please view the reality of this issue in the amazing short film Risky Business CSG:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amyJVu34G3w

Join your local Lock The Gate group and declare your area a CSG Free Zone:   http://www.lockthegate.org.au/your_community

BEYOND ZERO EMISSIONS offers realistic alternatives for a clean energy future in Australia:

http://beyondzeroemissions.org/

Big Sky is the property on which Andrew Kidman and Michele Lockwood live with their two children in Northern New South Wales. Once a week they speak to writers, photographers, surfers, artists and musicians for Coastalwatch's Big Sky Wire. You can check Michele Lockwood's blog here yo. And to follow Andrew Kidman's film celebrating 40 years of Morning of The Earth, head to the Spirit of Akasha blog here.

...and for more from Big Sky Wire click your link: Coastalwatch |Coastalwatch Plus

Tags: big sky wire , ash grunwald , coal seam gas mining , michele lockwood , rasta (create Alert from these tags)

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