This Weekend Australia (Oct17-18, 2009) showed how a reasonably fine newspaper can fail to produce deeply investigative pieces while relying on the broadsheet equivalent of sound bites.
Tony Koch continues his attack on environmental policy and environmental action on behalf of Noel Pearson, and now with newcomer, one of Australia’s prime capitalists, Peter Holmes-a-Court in a piece in the Nation section, page 3. Tony Koch’ articles suggest the type of metro-centric, been-nowhere, done-nothing, know-nothing type of expertise that he regularly accuses of environmental aligned voters. Tony Koch no doubt knows that his approach is the approach of a propagandist, not an investigator.
Tony Koch dresses up his article against environmental concerns by exhibiting a potential cash crop in the form of the pongamia tree. He also portrays the capitalist Peter Homes a Court as not one of those metrocentric people, even a person caring for the indigenous community, and so he may be. However, Tony Koch fails as a journalist by failing to investigate why a major capitalist is interested in loosening environmental protection on Cape York, and failing to speak to the ever present environmentalists who live on Cape York, in Cairns, or up the road from his office.
But to the various issue of the development of Aboriginal communities. It is important that Aboriginal communities on Cape York, like all viable communities, are able to trade with the wide world. Meaningful occupation and a sense of control over one’s life, are foundations to a healthy life and community advancement. It is likely that agriculture, mining, and tourism, will form the bedrock for community trade on Cape York. The question of whether it will or not, will depend on scale, ownership, and management of primary industry, trade, and the fiscal rewards.
Large scale mining on Cape York has done little for the Aboriginal communities in their vicinity. In fact Weipa is considered by some to be a determinedly anti-aboriginal ethnocentric town. If we look at community research at every level and everywhere in the world suggests that more of the same on Cape York will lead to more money in the pockets of the top 1% capitalists in the world, and a widening wealth gap for those in Cape York aboriginal communities at the bottom 20%. Only such mining as can comply with strict environmental guidelines, hire and train many local aboriginal people, and recognise land ownership for aboriginal communities by direct partnerships or as leasors, can be considered to have long term sustainability.
Big capitalist are looking closely at Cape York for ‘water to agricultural’ prospects. Again, large broad acres cropping value for aboriginal communities depends on the same conditions as mining. Without the best adherence to watershed environmental guidelines, agriculture becomes nothing more than a short term ‘rape’ of the land.
So, at this point in writing I can hear clamours from agriculturalists, Aboriginal leaders, even miners, that, of course we want to look after the environment. But here is the rub. Miners are undeniably poor environmental carers and have rarely ever done anything that wasn’t because of a heavy stick of law supporting fines, law suits etc. Aboriginal people claim they have a long history of proper land management. Yet it is also obvious that without the assistance of modern environmental science and State and National infrastructure, remote Aboriginal communities cannot and at this point in time, are not, managing the environment. Currently the State government is not doing a very good job at managing Cape York environment from flora and fauna pests, but the solution to this is better environmental policy, not worse. Left exposed to the big capital players in Australia, Aboriginal communities will implode internally and allow Cape York to become an environmental wasteland.
I am sure that Cape York does not need complete environmental lock-out protection. Agriculture and even mining should be able to find a place on the Cape. One might hope that secondary and even, eventually tertiary industry will find a place on Cape York. The pressure of population in Australia and the world will create of population of 50,000 people on Cape York over the next 50 years. This expected population explosion will stress the environment and all public policy to its limits. The likelihood of major corruption developing around land usage will be very great. We know from the exploitation of other remote environments, that the destruction of environments essential for the sustainability of that region and even the globe, is modus operandus of agricultural and mining giants. All environmentalists know that sustaining the life of cities requires sustaining all global environments. City dwellers know they need to vote for the environment or they will surely perish. None of us, least of all city dwellers, can afford not to have an environmental interest in Cape York. We are right not to trust the words of Aboriginal leaders or big capitalists who offer to ‘protect’ the environment for us. To give up the clamour for State and national policy frameworks to guide every community in this country, is to give up our democratic rights. Only a coward would do that and only an opportunists would ask it.