Democracy defined on Wikipedia:
I’ve been reading the letters section of our local newspaper with interest since the argument for High Speed Rail vs the Airport was proposed then countered a few weeks ago. I don’t want to chime in on that particular argument as the people involved are more than capable enough to fight their own battles without me confusing things but what I do want to do is share the thoughts that were triggered within me.
The idea of a super fast train making its way through some of the most densely populated parts of Australialand fills me with joy if I’m completely honest. I am a train lover and have lived very close to railway lines twice in my life – now and between the ages of 5 and 8 (I actually lived in that same house until I was 14 but the railway track was ripped out when I was about 8 leaving a lovely long stretch of cycle way but no trains….).
What my own personal experience has shown me is that trains are not quiet. Occasionally the creaking and screeching of breaks and engine wakes me from my sleep as the coal wagons chug past at an ungodly hour. Living in the Blue Mountains this is par for the course with many homes hugging either the train line or the highway or both (often both as the lines do run parallel mainly). As a consequence it can sometimes be noisier at my house than in the leafy streets of Sydney’s Chippendale, Glebe or Annandale.
Noise is one of the reasons people don’t want an airport out west but it isn’t the only one. The exchange of letters above included comment along the lines of ‘ you do know that high-speed rail is noisy don’t you?’ or words to that effect. I want to shout ‘the idea that trains travelling at super high-speed would be somehow eerily silent never crossed my probing mind’…..
The next big truth bomb that detractors sometimes throw like a hand grenade into a glitter rainbow party is one that highlights the amount of land that will need to be reclaimed and dug up for this project. Again I’m left wondering why this completely obvious state of affairs is worth pointing out and I am left feeling slightly sad by the reality that some people might indeed hold the view that high-speed rail greenies are imagining the train to either hover like a butterfly or shrink to fit the space already given over to road or rail. Of course it will take up space and so it should! It’s a key piece of infrastructure that deserves all the space it needs to get done.
And so we go on.
I think it is fair to say that plonking a high-speed rail line between Brisvegas -Sydney – Canberra and Melbourne is going to churn up some of the brown stuff and may even have to cut through some ecologically sensitive areas. Hopefully these risks will be mitigated with the usual level of care and attention (Ahem) but nevertheless it will indeed be a case of ‘you can’t please everybody all the time’.
But for a greeny type (I’m not even sure I am a greeny type but let’s just go with it) like me this project is different.
All of my life I’ve had to watch as fields get churned up and replaced by crappo eco-inconsiderate housing estates and by-passes that solve nothing much. Sat in road cone restricted motorways as they widen and expand further and further. Had to concede defeat as the second and third runways get built to take more and more people on CO2 guzzling trips ‘for their convenience’ and in the name of progress when real progress would have been a conference via SKYPE or a once-in-a-lifetime long tour rather than an 8 hour shopping spree in Paris before coming home for Corrie and dinner (something that would happen when I lived in England). High speed rail is not like that, high-speed rail is visionary.
The prospect of being able to travel up and down this huge land by train is, for me, one of the most exciting prospects ever to have entered my consciousness. It would allow me to take my bike out into those little country areas, to shop in Melbourne or go see my friends in Brissie or take an international flight out of Canberra while leaving the car at home! It would also allow for people living in rural areas such as Shepparton or Grafton to get into a capital city and work if they wanted to. Australia can finally spread out and enjoy its self instead of cramming everyone into the kitchen sink we call Sydney! What’s more it COULD allow me to do all of this without expending a CO2 cent thanks to technology that exists today – ZERO emissions trains run from solar power thanks to advances in solar technology. Sure the reality might be a little less idealistic and it is also possible that at least in the first few years the power might come from a mix of solar and coal but the exciting thing is that this could, with the right will and enthusiasm, happen now and be something amazing!
As for the money and people side, the ‘we can’t afford it’ and ‘we don’t have the population for it’ then I would finish on this. Value capture is a concept that could work and is one that has been touted by the very people who are all for Badgery’s Creek. The government could raise money that way. In terms of population if the current government gets its way we are set to swell in numbers at a rapid rate so planning this on current population is all a bit silly and anyway, it’s not just about population numbers it is about the travelling population, where they are going and what they are doing and little old Australia has proved her worth in that regard with the Sydney to Melbourne air commute coming in at number 4 in the WORLD!!!! Sydney to Brisbane is number 10!
The last thing I’m going to say on this is if I was Kerry Mather (MD and CEO of Sydney Airport) and co I’d be looking at how I can get my investment dollars into this high-speed rail thing as that’s the future – not another airport. Sure planes are becoming lighter, more fuel efficient, bigger and even quieter but they are a long way away from being able to run on zero emissions and fuel security in terms of future stocks and prices is a very real issue.
So yes, high speed rail may well be noisy and will probably run right through some rare flower and bird habitat and might even take my house but I still want it because to have it would make me really, really proud to be Australian.
PS: just coming back to the noise issue once again, while the noise from a train line can reverberate through a valley it is usually concentrated along and around the area surrounding the tracks. The trouble with planes is their intrusiveness into wilderness areas. Wilderness is a valuable asset for Australia and will become an even bigger draw card for tourists looking to escape and explore ‘the middle of nowhere’. A fast rail could secure our airspace and thus ensure our wilderness hikes are not rudely interrupted by a Boeing 747….
As 2016 came to an end the Australian Government ticked the last in a series of boxes that are required to make the building of Badgerys Creek airport legally possible. With that final tick came the end of a long and drawn out process of on-again-off-again process and debate. The only thing missing now, as we hit our 2017 stride is the cash.
Who will pay?
But that small, insignificant job of raising the several billion needed to make this thing fly so to speak is outside of our (layman’s) control. What we can control is how we feel about the whole thing and what we do next.
Predictably, what ‘we’ feel at this moment is becoming increasingly interesting.
This is cranking up to be a shit fight.
So for the last year the major voices we’ve heard on this issue have been as follows:
- Australian Liberal Government. Love it, can’t get enough of it, do it and do it 24/7 over Blaxlands house.
- Australian Labor Government (the opposition). HQ loves it, can’t get enough of it but then they remember they are labor and labor is the people’s party and decide that they are all for it as long as it’s not all over Blaxlands house.
- Australian Labor Party, Western Sydney Division AKA those lucky buggers who will be living with it 24/7 and especially those who just got elected to the job or received an increase in support. OK so not all hate it but the cheerleading is more ‘groan’ than ‘yippee’. Why can’t we have a curfew? Why not high speed rail? What do you mean we have to cop the pollution? Why not throw in a massive F**K me incinerator too! Show me the detail? Excuse me for being more than a little suspicious over the fact that a bunch of Mosman and Beach living city slickers know what’s best for us. Do you even know where Badgerys Creek is people?
- Australian Liberal Party Representatives Blue Mountains pre-election – Not really liking the idea that the current EIS promotes thank you very much. Mucho concerning and not 100% convinced on the ‘what’s in it for us’ package on offer. Post election – OK so two have now decided that we should just embrace the awesomeness that is the BC airport much to the bemusement of the rest of council (allegedly).
- Local residents group RAWSA. A heady mix between NO AIRPORT, NO 24/7 Airport, NOT THIS AIRPORT and NO IDEA WHY WE CAN’T HAVE HIGH SPEED RAIL INSTEAD?
- Interested local residents against the airport. Read, think about it, act then get on with life.
- Interested local residents for the airport. Get with the program people, this is an amazing opportunity and I want it written in as many places as possible.
It’s fair to say that the majority of residents local to me here in the Blue Mountains have taken a somewhat less active interest in the whole debacle over the last 14 months and I can’t really blame them – there is only so much any one of us can do. But now, as I said things have changed.
The anti has been upped.
And some of the people who were quiet before, including elected councillors have decided to speak up and what they are saying is that this airport is going to be GREAT.
I wonder if this is a bit like the Trump victory where lots of people want to say ‘I’m voting for HIM’ but felt somehow unable to do so. On the other hand I wonder if, like the Trump victory the supporters are still in a minority when it comes to the popular vote but that again like Trump they might win anyway (as the Government is on their side after all….). Whatever way this plays out the ‘for it’ camp are starting to sing out and I for one feel that is a good thing. We have to air it and share it is my motto (well, one of them).
So what are they saying?
Well one thing that is coming across loud and clear is the notion that we should just accept this airport as a done deal and make the best of it.
While this risks making me come over all over-reactive and hysterical I do find that attitude most perplexing given this is an entirely man-made project that can ONLY go ahead with popular support and money (potentially OUR money) and that we live in a democratic country where (supposedly) our voices and opinions all count. I mean sure I can understand that ‘stiff upper lip’ attitude when some other country just invaded you and will kill you if you try to resist but this isn’t a siege, it’s a minor domestic economic situation.
Also in my head I liken that attitude to the mindset of someone who has been groomed for something against their wishes. Be it a hostage or a victim of domestic violence or abuse the air of surrender just leaves me cold. As my blog says the only choice we have is how to respond so why not respond with your whole heart be that for or against?
From where I’m sitting I would say this, Goliath doesn’t need the extra support thank you. He seems to be bigger, better resourced and has the power of the law (he makes them), the media (he controls them) and the people (both major parties officially support this) on his side. To turn now just because apparently ‘it’s happening anyway and we might miss out if we keep sulking’ would be the ultimate sheeple thing to do unless of course we had ‘seen the same light’ that the other true supporters have.
But let’s pretend we did do that, we did just go with it.
What would the Blue Mountains Council do next?
Well I for one would want answers to the following questions based on the following assumptions upon which our support is now resting:
The Future is Rosy Scenario.
The Badgerys Creek airport will drive more tourists to the district, increase house prices, make the place more desirable to live in, give local businesses more customers and generally make the area more prosperous.
- How are the thousands of tourists who fly into Badgerys Creek planning to get up to the Blue Mountains being as though there is no direct train link planned between the airport and Penrith and that the current line servicing the mountains is practically fully utilised?
- If there is no train link between the new airport and the mountains how are the roads going to cope with what would have to be a dramatic increase in traffic to produce enough income to deliver these benefits and off-set the costs (peace, potential change to UNESCO status etc)?
- As the area becomes more desirable and the population of Western Sydney grows how will the Blue Mountains balance the increased pressure to provide for a growing population with bush fire risk and the desire to maintain the Unique ambience of mountain living (why people come here)?
- How can we best promote the Blue Mountains as a destination for longer term stays and environmental appreciation and protection rather than as a one-day drive through that takes from the mountains more than it gives back? Do we really want to encourage thousands of day trippers over weekenders and honeymooners?
- Why do people come here anyway? If it has anything to do with wilderness, nature, peace, clean air, space, quaint village life and independent retailers and cafes how are we going to protect that?
That’s enough for starters.
So we have a pretty much believable and credible scenario of an opportunity for growth and prosperity if only we just get on board. But most people can see that while building an airport might create some opportunities, fully realising and integrating those into our Blue Mountains community requires further investment and work.
This is where the psychology gets interesting.
I wonder if the people urging us to support this are worried that we might miss out if we don’t get on board? If we’ll be punished, given the cold shoulder for not playing ball.
In addition there are murmurings that we are at risk of missing out on our chair at the negotiating table by being like this.
That may be true I guess but if we are just going along with it because we are scared of missing out and can only go if we agree to swallow our opposition and sit on our hands I’m not sure its at all worth it.
What would happen if we just continue to oppose this (if that’s what we collectively believe)?
I really do think that there is a FEAR brewing that we really will be punished by being starved of funds, infrastructure and attention if we pursue with this obstinance of airport opposition but it makes no sense for the government to even do that and in any case, it won’t be just the government invested in this.
Why cut off your nose to spite your face?
There is just too much money, time and political energy at stake here to risk that type of behaviour – if the airport is going to be built, and the rhetoric about jobs and growth and tourism is true the Blue Mountains just HAS to receive attention regardless of whether we voted yes or no for the airport thing. The pressure from the Australian Tourism Board, the airport operators and the international market would be much more powerful than that of a few hundred angry or enthusiastic residents shouting yes or no into cyberspace.
Just imagine the global embarrassment that is an airport 70km from the iconic and heavily publicised Three Sisters that is IMPOSSIBLE to get to in under two hours due to the slowness of the train, the congestion on the roads and the cost of the Uber driver. It only takes 2 hours from Sydney by train now AND it only costs $5.81 each way. You can even drive it in 90 minutes which is only 30 minutes more than the current BC-K Town estimates. Better for tourists? I’m not so sure…..
In some ways I see this airport as a Trogan horse that bashes the door down to allow for mass immigration, population growth, high-density living and the commodification of nature. Think this is too far-fetched? Then look at the predicted usage figures that justify Badgers Crack and also look at all the housing development that’s going in around the base of the mountains already! Anyone would think we’re looking to re-house the whole of Syria out here and then invite each family to have 10 children each!
But I digress.
The questions that I’ve got in my head are just as relevant for me to have answers to (as a no airport supporter) as I believe they are for people who are all for it. It makes no sense financially to spend billions on a project that won’t actually deliver on what it claims to promise and if the new airport isn’t promising greater wealth opportunities for the Blue Mountains and beyond and more convenient travel then why do it? Overseas visitors don’t give a shit if this thing has been on again and off again for 50 or more years, they only care if it makes sense and makes their holiday or business trip easier and comfortable.
I do accept that in any situation where there are conflicting points of view that one side will lose out and that there does come a time when one does have to make a decision to either get on with it or leave but that time and that decision is not for now. This thing isn’t built and open yet.
For now I think it is pertinent for all sides to acknowledge that there are big, important questions yet to be answered and a shit fight of name calling, shutting down, bullying and shaming is not helpful.
The worst that can happen at the moment is that neither side likes, trusts or respects each others point of view. I do feel that is starting to happen and one place that can’t happen is with our leaders on council (thankfully it hasn’t yet).
This airport has the power and support to go ahead whether the Blue Mountains support it or not.
This airport deal also has the potential to be shelved whether the Blue Mountains supports it or not.
At the end of the day it is, and always has been outside of our jurisdiction and budgetary control.
What matters is that the Blue Mountains City Council create space for each and every person interested in getting involved to do so. That all residents and councillors are listened to and that their views are acknowledged, addressed and represented moving forward.
If we don’t manage to do that we have wasted our time and achieved nothing.
And as for the amount of money spent then I say this. What is spent is spent and has been spent with council approval. Going forward it is important we re-evaluate our position and what we are prepared to spend to back that up. I believe that is exactly what the council proposes to do at the next meeting which is to be held on 31st January. I will be there.
My final thought for today on this is as follows, I believe it is time that our collective argument against this airport moves beyond just NO.
I also believe that it is time that our collective support moves deeper than just ‘yes’.
It’s time to talk and more importantly, it is time for everyone to listen, really listen.
I hear this said a lot lately. Especially in circles objecting to the Western Sydney Airport, a cause that has absorbed a huge chunk of the last 12 months of my life. The shout is that we must ‘protect our unique lifestyle’. Playing devils advocate I want to say ‘and what is that exactly?’
Lifestyle: The way in which a person lives.
How do we live up here?
I have my own thing going on as I’m sure you do too, a ‘thing’ that isn’t always mirrored by my local friends and neighbours – people who have gravitated up here for what seems to me to be a myriad of reasons. I personally came up here because I loved it from the time I first visited as a backpacker in the 1990’s. By the time we emigrated the mountains offered us somewhere that was still close enough to family but far enough from the city to give us the ready access to mountain bike trails, big gardens and walks we desired. We really did come here for fun! My relationship with the mountain has deepened and matured somewhat over the last 13 years.
I observe that some of my friends have come from what I call the ‘flatlands’ of Riverstone, St Mary’s, Penrith and Emu Plains. I know that for some of these it was the bigger lot size of houses and gardens paired with affordable price-tags, the family friendly atmosphere, good schools and safe community feel that attracted them. For others who have come from the city it was the lure of fresh air, bush walks and a slower pace of life – somewhere to bring up the kids! Others have been sort-of pushed up here (and most are OK with that) after suburb after suburb became either more and more expensive or less and less desirable. The Blue Mountains have often seemed like a drive-too-far for most suburban Sydneysider’s, too close to flammable bushland, snake-infested and lacking in Westfield shopping centres to boot until now. Now we have the Greater Sydney Commission ramming down our throats a mantra of ‘high density housing, shopping centres and gardens replaced by green open community spaces for all’. Everything we are not, thank you. As a consequence, we are now starting to attract more people looking for that sort of thing, the airport proposal even seems to be encouraging it. Also, we are no longer seeming so far, far away, the city and more than that, that city mentality, is coming to us.
That makes me feel uneasy on many fronts.
I’ll ask again, what is this lifestyle we talk about?
What is MY lifestyle?
Why did I feel physically sick when I saw the way a block of new low-rise apartments was being advertised in my local paper, apartments in an area of Springwood town centre that I’m actually OK with being developed in this way. It wasn’t the development I convulsed against, it was the language used to pitch them. The values being projected, values that just don’t resonate with me.
It was while I was out bushwalking this morning that it came to me. I bush walk as often as I can, it’s my oxygen, my sanity. I need the smells as much as the sights, the sound as much as the crispness of the air I taste. I am it and it is me.
The connection I felt with the mountains today epitomised what my lifestyle is – a great respect and a maternal love for this place, a place at the centre of all I do and am. I don’t want to use the word ‘environment’ to describe the mountains here even though that clearly and technically is what it is because I feel that word has become tainted with politics and what I feel is beyond political stripes, beyond the ‘it’ and ‘me’.
The Blue Mountains pulls people like me (I think) because of this powerful longing for connection, for family, for one-ness. Again, conscious of becoming too ‘hippy trippy’ (although I feel there is nothing inherently wrong with that) it’s as if we have come home and just like when we are in our worldly homes we have our responsibilities and duty of care. We must remain vigilant and care for this place, we can’t just switch off or brazenly try to capitalise off it in a one-way transactional relationship. It would feel like selling our mother!
So to answer my own question I have come to the belief (at least for now) that the Blue Mountains lifestyle that I talk about (and I understand that not everyone will share the same view) is centred on the philosophy of connection to land in a way that is deep and emotional. I see this as a monoculture of sorts, one that, wherever we travelled from, whatever other worldly beliefs we hold pulls us together in our love and respect for the mountains and its role in our life.
And this isn’t just some romantic fling that we indulge ourselves in on high days and holidays. This is serious, this is us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:
We are reminded of our environment every spring when the magpies come out and defend themselves from our bike culture.
Are alert to the bush-fire danger that each hot windy, dry day brings and yes, our houses do burn down and many of us have smelt the fear while hosing down our gutters.
Struggle to hear the radio over the clicking of cicada or the ribbit of frogs after a downfall.
Manage our wild, sloped and wooded blocks from wild winds, rain and termites.
Take care to shake out our shoes for Blue Mountains funnel-web.
Shoo lizards out of our lounge rooms
Watch water-butts for snakes
And stand in awe at each and every perfect sunrise and sunset over hectares and hectares of trees and bush and wilderness, longing for the next free weekend that we can get out there and camp.
But when I hear mention of ‘our unique lifestyle’ I want to say no, our lifestyle is not unique, Australia’s first people have been trying to model this way to us for as long as ‘we’ set foot in this country well, at least as far as I can gather not being an expert in these things.
However, unique or not we are distinct. We are not like Penrith or St Mary’s or Blacktown or Castle Hill or Newtown or Marrickville or Glebe or Windsor. These places have their own cultural identity, their own brand if you like! Why try to mould us, make us something we are not?
People don’t just come here to live IN the Blue Mountains, they live here and BECOME the Blue Mountains and to let the Blue Mountains run through their veins. That feeling is contagious and is part of what draws in tourists from all over the world. Tourists that take a bit of that connection and identity home with them in the art, music, photography and hand-made products they invest their dollars in.
To put it in neoliberal terms our lifestyle is valuable, has value and should be invested in, protected, developed, marketed. And it is but in a world obsessed by sound-bites and instant-gratification we simply cannot sell this enough.
So that’s the conclusion I’ve come to.
Yes we do have a lifestyle.
Yes that lifestyle is unique in terms of the Sydney and surrounds suburbs.
But that lifestyle is rooted in a deep human calling of the wild.
What we feel up here is timeless.
And sadly that feeling is becoming quite rare.
And time is running out.
Josh is the guy that gets to sign off on the Environmental Impact Statement for the Western Sydney Airport. If the rumour mill is correct that date is coming up thick and fast, November probably or just over a year since this whole thing hit the fan again.
If you are for the airport that’s great, good on you.
I’m not for it. I think it’s a terrible idea for lots of reasons but this time I hit Josh up with this one.
I am trying to be the best citizen I can be and this airport won’t help me or families like mine in achieving that goal.
In his first speech to parliament in 2010 Josh said he wants to see an Australia where each citizen has the opportunity to be the best they can be so I thought this was a valid place to start a discussion.
See I’ve just completed a carbon audit for myself and my family. I run a business, a small but profitable one and one that has me serving a variety of customers all over Australia and beyond. Travelling to see these customers is something that I do limit and that is mainly because I am worried about my carbon footprint.
Being a small business (only me at the moment) every day I’m on the road is a day that I’m not directly making money. Therefore taking the train (10-14 hours) or driving (8-12 hours) to Melbourne or Brisbane on a regular basis would lose me 2 productive days each trip – well, I guess I could write my blog posts on the train or even do some research but still, it’s a big chunk out of my week. It’s just not practical really so I try not to do it. When I do do it I mostly fly unless I can rope someone else in to sharing the driving (reducing the chances of me actually dying at work thanks to fatigue).
The Badgery’s Creek airport will not make it any easier for me to see my Melbourne or Brisbane customers without racking up a big carbon bill. Fast rail could allow me to do these trips in the same time it currently takes to get a flight and for practically zero carbon depending on how the electricity for the trains is generated. Attractive? You bet!
Aside from all of the other reasons why I think the Badgery’s Creek (or Western Sydney Airport) is a bad idea this one is pretty important to me. I am gutted that there is no fast rail in this country – a country so huge that it is bordering on physically impossible to get between major centres in one business day. To ‘invest’ in a future that just gives us more of the same reminds me of the classic Henry Ford comment that you can have any colour you want as long as it is black.
Air travel is essential, especially in a country as far away from everywhere else as Australia – our nearest foreign neighbours are at least 3 hours flight away whereas in Europe I could be overseas in what seemed like no time at all – by car or by plane. So I’m not saying that we should ban air travel and nor am I saying that air travel can’t become more sustainable. Indeed, it was only last week that the aviation industry agreed to try to curb Co2 emissions so progress is possible, but in a time when zero emission transport ALREADY EXISTS it seems mightily irresponsible to ignore it, especially when high-speed rail is a proven and safe alternative with broad public support.
So, I wrote to Josh Frydenberg today in the hope that he would see some benefit in helping me and other people like me to become the best citizens we can be AND to grow our businesses in the meantime. Surely that’s a win, win for Australialand?
Interested in putting your ideas across to Josh? There is a public meeting being held on 15th October in Glenbrook, Blue Mountains. Please do consider coming along. Click on the image below for a link to the event on Facebook.
PS: If you are reading this and thinking ‘yes but High Speed Rail is so expensive’ I’d answer that by asking if you have really factored in the cost of global warming. If global warming isn’t something you subscribe to please leave me alone. I have no energy to argue with that in this day and age. My approach to Global Warming is this ‘if we can do better, we should do better for no reason other than the fact we should and we can’.
prepare or train (someone) for a particular purpose or activity.
What have we become?
These questions fill my head this week after reading the letters in my local newspaper, letters that make my conclusion easy to justify.
Yes, this is correspondence about the airport again.
Yes I know that some of you want it.
Yes I appreciate that your reasons ‘for’ might be as justified as mine ‘against’.
But that’s not what I’m talking about here.
What I’m talking about is apathy.
Apathy either for or against.
‘I worked outdoors in the mountains over all four wards and was never conscious of any impact from these 230 per day aircraft (the number of over-flights currently passing the mountains – over the highway usually and usually at between 13,000-30,000 ft). So what’s all the fuss about?”
What indeed? I feel absolutely put in my place now thanks to that sort-of-angry outburst.
The writer finishes with a neat seasoning of apathy (in my opinion).
“Council, the No Western Sydney Airport action group and the majority of local residents are fighting a losing batter against inevitable growth and progress. It’s time; time to move on”
Awesome. I’m as good as told, what a wally I was for thinking that the majority of local residents, our representative council and a community action group could actually be listened to or at least heard in a democratic society. I really do need my head looked at and by the looks of it I’m not the only one….
This part of the letter comes after the writer apologies for the offence caused when said writer told us all to ‘shut up’ in the last correspondence. Bless….
“All the bickering has got to me because I and many others know that the development is a given and that many thousands of people will be relying on it for employment and travel well into the next 50 years or longer”.
Well that’s Ok assuming the next 50 years will be like the last 50 years and that the accounting world fight off the global push for not only triple-bottom-line-accounting but full ‘six capital’ accounting that takes things like emissions, environmental degradation and social costs into account.
I’m certainly not as confident as the writer on that score. 50 years ago we didn’t have the internet, could only account for value in terms of solid items traded and iconic books like the Club of Rome’s ‘Limits to Growth’ and Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ was so new and so niche that business didn’t rate it a mention.
The use of the word bickering did resonate with me though. As much as I don’t mind sticking my neck out and standing up for what I believe in (even if it seems pointless to everyone else- I’ll be the judge of that thank you) I HATE arguing. I mostly hate it because it usually happens when people are angry, wound up, hurt and feeling vulnerable so what we end up doing is arguing not about the issue but about how we feel or, more accurately, how the other people have made us feel. As such I feel the use of the word ‘bickering’ (and its stronger cousin ‘arguing’) give us (the ‘no airport’ side) a powerful insight into how we are coming across.
I’ll park that thought for a moment as there is another thing said here.
That the development is a given.
We use the words ‘development’, ‘progress’ and ‘growth’ freely without really questioning the value system that they are framed within and I feel that is dangerous.
Our economy is stridently neoliberal in its values – the word liberal in this sense doesn’t mean the liberal party, both liberal and labor politicians follow the neoliberal school of economic management which, in a nutshell is basically ‘money trumps everything’. I am not a fan. It’s not the only way that capitalism can play out. I am a fan of capitalism by the way – well, for now I am – I think we could move beyond that but probably not for a couple more hundred years so for now it works.
So when we say that the development is a given we are really saying that given the fact that we live in a neoliberal society where money trumps everything the airport was always going to go ahead no matter what as nothing is more valuable than money and money is more valuable than trees, 24 hour over-flights, a bit of air pollution that, let’s face it can land anywhere on the planet, a few birds and some noise.
I reserve my right to question the neoliberal agenda that underpins the way we currently justify developments such as this in areas such as Western Sydney.
I also reserve my right to disagree with the notion that this IS progress. As a business owner myself and consultant in the global beauty industry I witness every day what people power is doing to the beauty industry supply chain. More inclusive company accounting is coming and if I was about to invest millions in an airport that has to operate 24/7 to make its returns I’d be worried about getting my investment dollars back. Accountants might just kill this off and what then?
Anyway, I go on too much.
There was more from this writer but I’ll leave it at that other than to say that the writer finishes off by questioning the mental health of all residents up here by referring to the way our council areas are called ‘wards’ and not districts or zones. It is par for the course to attack the character of ones opponent in order to gain more support for your own cause. This parting line really does sadden me. It’s so Daily Telegraph.
On to the last letter, letter 3.
Now I must say I like a bit of humour but this last letter wasn’t my kind of funny.
“My partner lives right under the flight path at Lilyfield in Sydney. The aircraft roar over at 1500 feet. Her tomato plant has been producing for some nine months and only now is showing signs of having had a good innings. So perhaps some of the Blue Mountains Nimbys could advise if this is a direct consequence of the aircraft flying overhead’.
When the Chernobyl-fall-off disaster happened in 1986 it didn’t happen in England, where I lived but the wind carried the pollution to the Welsh and Scottish countryside as well as over Scandinavia. 369 farms including 190,000 sheep were affected and as this article shows, by 2009 some farms were still feeling the effects.
Now before I get lambasted (excuse the pun) for that and told ‘The chernobyl disaster is nothing like an airport, stupid’ I know that. My point is that air pollution travels. My other point is that it takes a lot for plants and life to stop completely, usually things will continue to grow and look normal, whether they are normal can often only be known by testing. I am a chemist and as luck would have it I tested roadside vegetation for lead and heavy metals as my honours project for my Uni Degree. I found that lead levels in roadside vegetation were significant up to a couple of metres from the road, this is in spite of the fact that petrol had been practically lead free for at least ten years prior to me carrying out the test. So I’d say to this tomato loving writer, I’d be sending those samples off for analysis before dismissing us as Nimby’s and minimising our legitimate concerns.
So to conclude I strongly feel that we, as a nation of citizens are being and have been groomed for one of two things – apathy and anger. These are traits we see in families affected by domestic violence, not in free, intelligent communities. Is that really what we want?
For my activist friends my concern is that the public can easily turn against us because of this and because of the lack of framework and support that exists for challenging the status-quo in this neoliberal world. I know there is another way and I know the fastest way to get there is to fight this with facts and alternatives – including alternative transport methods, job investment, accounting methods, business values etc – but it looks like many others have lost hope and have taken to attacking us because it is just easier.
I thank the letter writers for continuing to make me think deeply about what I’m doing. I am more convinced than ever that it is the right thing to do.
No airport for Western Sydney.
I am not angry or apathetic because I am not under their control.
PS: This is a good book. If I had money to invest I’d be having a read of this. The world is watching and it has an opinion.
As in ‘it is ridiculous to build a second Sydney airport at the base of a national park out in the populated (and soon to be super-populated) ‘burbs’.’
I shout it, wave signs saying it and don a T-Shirt with the same message but somewhere inside me I feel uncomfortable because I am well aware that for humans the idea of nothing is nearly always scarier than something.
Death – endless minutes, hours, days, months, years of nothing. Imagine that? No thank you….. Why else to we imagine a heaven full of all the lovely things and people we miss in the ‘real world’.
Darkness – feeling alone, vulnerable, chilled, disoriented, anxious.
Nothing = All.Of.The.Above.
A ‘No’ campaign is good to a point but there becomes a point when people go home and say ‘well, what DO we want?’ This is especially true when the ‘Yes’ movement is offering enticements.
In the case of the Western Sydney Airport (Badgery’s Creek) the good fellows at spin HQ have been smart enough to package deal the airport as the key to unlock an economic bonanza for the west of Sydney, an area that has been sorely neglected for pretty much ever really. The western outskirts were where the ‘poor’ and ‘undesirables’ were pushed in the rush to gentrification of the inner suburbs. New migrants also gravitated ‘out there’ thanks to the cheap housing and larger blocks of land (making some level of self-sufficiency possible).
I can see how the inner city elite might feel that the west must be gazing on with wide eyes, looking up to their inner city ‘betters’ and wishing that they too could be like them. I feel that this attitude is epitomised by the Greater Sydney Commission headed up by Lucy ‘where are we talking about?’ Turnbull’ et al. After all, why wouldn’t they feel that way being as though ‘they’ kicked ‘us’ out and for the most part they are stinking rich in a world that thinks that’s all that matters. The have’s vs the have-nots. Only when you look closely that isn’t what happened ‘out there’. We are not in need of charity and neither do we want what ‘they’ value. I say ‘we’ because although I’m not a flat-land westie (I’m a mountains girl) , to those in the capital (and I’m channeling my hunger-games Katniss here) WE are just pawns in Their game and as long as we are compliant we are rewarded (within reason).
So our reward this time is an airport. An airport with jobs. We need jobs, so many of us commute out of our ‘burbs to earn a living because ‘their’ imaginations haven’t been able to stretch the 50 plus KM from Sussex Street to create or stimulate the creation of local jobs ‘out here’ over much of the last 80 years but we are supposed to forget about that. About how they have not given a shit for years. But now, now they plan to solve that for us with a 24/7 polluting Aerotropolis. Nice touch.
So when we say ‘No’ to an airport we are, by default (and though no fault of our own) saying no to jobs and growth, to government investment and to rewards.
Let’s think about that for a moment.
Let’s think about power and control.
Master and Servant.
Bondage vs Democracy.
Nothing is scarier than something.
I’m taking you down this path of thinking because what the pro-airport lobby has done is neatly enslaved ‘us’. Be a good servant (let the airport happen) and we will give you a reward (investment and jobs).
They have groomed ‘us’ into this with years of underinvestment and interest. They have abused our trust.
As far as ‘we’ go, when ‘we’ know our place we can become good at it. Become good citizens / slaves, better than someone else maybe. We feel part of something again, we stand a chance of being rewarded, of winning one of the jobs and benefiting from some of the cash splash, the new roads and the shiny new parklands that were once covered in bush. We can even frame our efforts as making a sacrifice for the greater good if we so feel. It’s all less mentally taxing than just saying No and then being left hanging and far more rewarding in the short-term no doubt.
And that is what they want of course. The master wants to maintain paternalistic control and what’s more he wants you to do his bidding for him, to ‘remind’ people of the ‘fact’ that ‘it (the airport) is a done deal’ and that ‘if we don’t go along with it we will be left out’ because it is messy work trying to convince all those people who this is the right course of action to take because people have their own varied minds about these things and some of them might not like it.
Anyway, that’s by the by. I see this happening, I don’t assume that everyone going along with the airport feels enslaved and neither do I feel that everyone supporting the airport is deluded – there are many benefits that airports can bring to a region and I’m not denying that.
I personally feel somewhat immune to that master and servant game having come from a background of privilege, education and money (sort of). I feel strong and unthreatened by the establishment – fuck them, I have other options (even other passports if it came to that). I am dangerous that way. Not because I want to undermine the authority of the government in an anarchic way – I work within the rules – but because I am secure in my ability to access and utilise the full power of the law to defend my rights to say no and stand strong in that. I am legally entitled to say no and protest. But I am aware of the delicate psychology that is behind this game and I want to shine a light on that, not least because it is this very thing the government is trying to barge on past.
So how do we shift the power in this game?
Turn a negative into a positive, you catch more flies with honey as the pro-airport lobby know all too well…..
The No Airport campaign has, to date been about educating the public at large on the facts surrounding the EIS proposal, an EIS that came out in October last year. Education was and is needed as some councils (thanks Penrith) decided NOT to inform / educate their communities. The facts do speak for themselves, no spin, mis-representation or sensationalising of what is in the EIS is necessary to convince many people of the flaws in this proposal. Now whether these flaws lead to people adopting a ‘no airport’ or ‘no 24 hour airport’ or ‘please explain’ is up to the individual but you get the picture.
In my mind the time for the next step is NOW.
We (out West) can’t afford to be held ransom like this, to have our values or our economic value misappropriated, we have to make a counter proposal.
Fast rail is a good alternative to the airport but it isn’t enough, not least because for us in the Blue Mountains the fast rail hub will never be under our jurisdiction. Fast rail is, however, the proposal that could bring the west together and be jointly and wholeheartedly supported across the councils as part of the solution. But beyond that we are still left with a vacuum, not least for us up in the mountains.
The Mountains – focusing on what we can directly control.
The Blue Mountains stands to lose much in the way of tranquility and unique character if the city limits are allowed to encroach on the National Park. Pressure on existing roads will grow if we really are to get more tourists pumping dollars into our economy (and why shouldn’t we?) so we really should be asking ourselves, what type of tourist are we trying to attract? How will they get here, where will they stay and what are we selling them? While at the same time asking ‘what can we do to grow our local economy?’, “what skills do we have” and “what does the environment lend its self to that can boost our economic value?’
It is clear that the government is looking to the west to fill gaps in its budget projections. This is not new to me, corporates do this to their sales teams all the time – the corporation needs a 20% increase in sales when the market is in recession – don’t argue about it JUST DO IT OR LOSE YOUR JOB OR CREDIBILITY. Of course, the government, as in corporate will have to face whatever reality is real and if aspirational targets are not met they are not met but what isn’t tolerated in corporate or government is a lack of effort, a lack of a plan.
So can the Blue Mountains increase its revenue (and thus the money it returns to treasury) by 5%, 10%, 20%, 40%, 100% whatever AND maintain its identity and clean air? I am not sure but surely THAT is the conversation we need to be having outside of government – a conversation we can have between friends and families, neighbours and council representatives. There is much here to value and as the world gets crazier we all wish we could retreat to the hills……
But retreat is not enough.
So when nothing is scarier than something we stay empowered by presenting SOMETHING.
I believe the key to achieving a just outcome in this situation is to state our values and our value firmly, factually and in economic rather than emotional terms (as it is clear from how the government treats us that emotional value is lost on them).
Which begs the questions ‘what is our value and how can we best work the assets we have in our region?’
What kind of community do we want to encourage? What economic activities could be promoted up here? Who do we want to attract and why?
I was at an art exhibition opening yesterday – three local artists, much talent, expensive paintings some inspired by the local landscape, sell-out crowed. We have the capacity to generate wealth up here, on our own terms, celebrating what we value WHILE we value and protect the environment.
And there is not ‘just’ talented painters up here, we have film makers, ceramic artists, musicians, singers and actors drawing inspiration from these surrounds. And not just that, there are our towns full of unique and independent retailers, our coffee shops, restaurants, co-operatives and community hubs. We have education providers, tourist attractions, historical buildings, song lines, flora and fauna, stories, festivals autumn leaves and winter snow!
So what are we waiting for? Let’s spell out our potential and show them that it isn’t us that’s scared of change and ‘progress’ it’s them that’s scared of us. We are far more powerful and valuable than they can possibly imagine especially when, instead of presenting nothing we can present something far, far more attractive than an airport.
I believe that nothing is what they are offering, not us. That they just happened to put it into a shiny gold-painted box and used a loud-mouthed sales man with no imagination to shove it into our stunned hands.
Well I think it’s time we presented a box of our own only our box will be full of something and not nothing.
Because nothing is scarier than something and we know we have something good up here don’t we?