While, seemingly, the rest of the world was focused on each twist and turn of the Labor leadership shenanigans, the FAQ Research team was on a field reporting trip to Queensland’s Western Downs. Often we were on the road, driving up to 300 kilometres a day, and very often out of mobile and internet range.
We were close, though, to the natural beauty of the land. We could see a lot with our own eyes, and we heard concerns about economic inequality, lifestyle and the material impact of decisions about land use and mining taken far away. DERM in Adelaide Street and Dalby are not proximate, but one affects the other, and many townsfolk and farmers felt that the Warrego Highway was a one way street when it came to the powerful listening to communities.
So it’s not hard to understand the frustration folks feel when their lifeworld is rocked by the sudden impact of a new industry backed by $45 billion of investment capital and everyone is talking the Canberra bubble.
Thus, we didn’t comment on Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. Instead we tried to tell the stories of the people of the Western Downs, and we continue to communicate some of the evidence and data that shines a light on controversies around Coal Seam Gas and coal mining on agricultural land.
We interviewed Katter, Waters and others, and you can view those interviews in today’s Crikey. We shot over 4 hours of film, invaluably assisted by filmmaker David Granato, and it is being post-produced, edited and readied for upload over the remaining weeks of the Coal Seam Gas: Behind the Seams project.
At the same time, we’ve been publishing and editing articles by our own writers and leading scientific experts, and writing a blog – The Wellhead. You can see a snapshot of what we’ve produced here, and follow our blog here (we’re also on Facebook and Twitter).
This has been a rich and rewarding experience, and, I think, has meaning both as sociological research and as journalism as it should be practiced. We particularly want to represent and analyse the forgotten dimensions of the Gas Boom – its impacts in exacerbating social division, in forcing up rents and house prices, and in its impacts on women, Indigenous people and those on low and fixed incomes. There’s a lot going on which can’t quite be captured in the frame of (some) farmers versus miners.
This reportage and analysis does not come without cost. We are significantly out of pocket as a result of the trip, and we want to go even deeper on a follow up field reporting mission the week after next.
I know many here have often bemoaned a media that is unresponsive to the gamut of social issues, obsessed with horserace journalism, and unable to focus on policy. Our modest efforts in Coal Seam Gas: Behind the Seams are an effort to redress that, not by talking, but by doing.
We’re intensely and deeply grateful for the financial support that has enabled us to go this far. But we need more, and we hope that folks are now in a position to have more of an idea of what the project can do. How much we can achieve is up to you as much as it is to us.
So we very much hope that you will consider making a donation via our fundraising site and sharing the content and fundraiser pages with your friends, colleagues and networks.
Other independent media initiatives rely on start up funding, sometimes quite substantial, as with The Global Mail. We rely solely on donations from citizens, and do not accept corporate, political party or interest group funding.
The FAQ Research team on this project includes many LP writers: myself, Kim Jameson, Brian Bahnisch and Robert Merkel. LP readers will also be familiar with the work of Professor Roger Jones and John Quiggin.
We trust you can support this venture!
Thank you so much!
Photo credit: Pandora Karavan, FAQ Research.