Our Future: It’s time to get our heads out of the coal pit

Like most lifelong farmers, my childhood was lived outdoors. Flooded creeks were our soundtrack to the wet season. That crabby, crank start piston pump playing both backing track and melodious link to our essential lifeblood, water.

Now I’m a grown woman with kids of my own, a farm overdraft to service and dams to fret over as the impacts of climate change push me - and many farming families - to adapt and investigate new ways to cope with soul-destroying drought and water scarcity. 

So while us farmers experience the battlefront of climate change, our federal government constantly fails to tackle the cause of the issue: burning fossil fuels. Instead, they preside over rising emissions and are infatuated with building the world’s largest thermal coal mine. 

Coal mines not only contribute to climate change through increasing carbon emissions, they also put precious groundwater systems at risk. 

Coal mines not only contribute to climate change through increasing carbon emissions, they also put precious groundwater systems at risk.

Extracting large quantities of water from the ground to run coal mines impacts plants and animals that depend on it, and damages natural water inputs into river systems. In fact, many Australian rivers rely more on groundwater than direct rainfall to maintain their flow. Take for example the ancient Doongmabulla Springs Complex, located near the proposed Carmichael mine site. Research suggests the mine could drain the entire aquifer that supplies these springs with water replenishment. 

Nor can we ignore the significant health risks coal mines inflict upon those who live nearby.  

As people breathe in smoke released from coal mine chimney stacks, particles enter their lungs causing respiratory illness and disease.  

Anyone who lives in a regional area knows the importance of clean air and appreciates on a daily basis the beauty of our countryside. We cherish the small and isolated towns we live in. But if we allow big companies to develop in our pristine environments, we run the risk of damaging or losing these ecosystems.

Mining projects such as Adani’s Carmichael and New Hope’s Acland Stage 3 should never be allowed to proceed. The risks to our land are simply too great. So let’s get our heads out of the coal pit and into reality. We must recognise just how hard climate change is already hitting our natural environment and embrace a new sustainable, clean and vibrant way of life.  

Karen Jarling produces chemical-free, grass-fed beef from the South Burnett region in Queensland and is a supporter of Farmers for Climate Action.