August 9 2014
Finding our first two little brown eggs in the chooks’ nesting box this morning was the good news we needed. On the other side of Gloucester there is a vigil taking place outside AGL’s office to protest the fracking of four wells close to people’s houses – and close to a proposed new coal mine. This latest permission for AGL makes their threat of 330 coal seam gas wells very real. We drove through the Surat Basin in the middle of Queensland 18 months ago, where the pursuit of CSG is rampant. We have seen what it is like to live in the middle of a gasfield, and it’s a sad, lonely place. Towns are decimated because the mining companies buy out so many properties, not just for mining but also for buffer zones. The countryside is stripped of its people. The miners establish fenced-off camps to house their workers, who fly in, and fly out again. The land is made barren in more ways than one.
We left the chooks to feel proud of their achievement and spent the day in the pursuit of knowledge, learning about managing fire on our property, the difference between wet sclerophyll and dry sclerophyll forest, and who our neighbours are. We were taking part in our local Hotspots program, run by the RFS and some other government agencies. They took us – about 30 of us – to a property right out behind the State Conservation Area, where we picked up dry leaf litter to see how dry it was, and how easily burnt. We learnt that the fuel load of leaf litter, and any stick smaller than your finger, is the dangerous stuff in a wild fire, and that most wild fires are fires that were started by people then ‘got away’.
We learnt about the different time intervals – maybe five years, maybe 60 years – for fires to go through different areas, and how diversity will dwindle in an area that never has fire through it. Except rainforest. You don’t send a fire through a rainforest. We saw the teeth marks on a gum tree from the yellow-bellied gliders who bite into the tree to suck the sap. They climb down the tree and bite from above so they don’t get sap in their fur. We heard about the glossy black cockatoos and the rufous bettong and the red-legged pademelon, the powerful owl and the local koalas. We spent our day in a world where people care for the land, and want to learn how to care for it better.