Raising the BARR – Week ending 25 August 2017

“Water not Coal” – I didn’t Realise That I Had To Choose

Protestors stood outside, peacefully and respectfully, of the mining conference and awards event just a few weeks ago.  Their signs had a number of slogans, but the one that struck me was “Water not Coal”.  I was dumbstruck.  I didn’t know that I had to choose.  For about 200 years now coal has been mined in the Hunter Valley and to the best of my knowledge, apart from normal droughts, we have managed both resources.  So, in 2017 is there a new, different challenge?

Now, before the many wise and astute environmentalists reading this column turn to their pens or keyboards in outrage, bear with me for a moment please.  I think that we would all agree, in the honesty of our hearts, that we don’t really need to choose between water and coal.  Sure, we have to be ever careful, but we don’t really need to choose.  Both resources have been managed during these past 200 years and surely, as our knowledge increases, we should expect the co-existence to improve, not get worse.  Which begs the question – why use the slogan?

The reality is that the slogan is intended to create an emotional response, not a rational or informed response, by using 3 simple words to try to sum up a complex issue.  The trouble is, the 3 simple words don’t fairly, equally or intelligently cover the truth of the issues.  So in effect, the 3 word slogan is being deceptive and misleading.  The developers of the slogan will never fess up, but they know this to be true – but then the developers of the slogan aren’t standing roadside, holding the signs, their integrity at stake.  First you couldn’t trust Politicians and now you can’t even trust the protestors!  What a crazy time we live in.

I 100% respect the right of people to protest, or to take a position on an issue.  But surely a starting point is to be honest; to tell the truth.  Complex issues, like coal and fossil fuels, have people taking extreme positions both at the stop coal, and, the let it rip, ends of the spectrum.  Both sides are using more and more extreme language to try to win the public opinion – and most of the language is about creating fear.  The truth is in the middle.  It cannot be summed up in 3 words.  It is complex.  Anyone who tries to convince you otherwise, is not telling you the truth.