Monday, 2 September 2013

CSG - It's time to recognise farmer stress

By Rebecca Beissel
The Coal Seam Gas Industry’s contribution to the economy is well advertised by APPEA, the voice of Australia’s oil and gas industry.  It is alarming that there is no such recognition or any research of the massive health and social issues the industry is leaving in its wake in rural communities.  Does the rush for resources really come at any cost?
Photo sourced from SODD (Save Our Darling Downs)
Farmers are renowned for their resilience.  They relish the challenge of calling on all of their resources and skills to efficiently produce quality and sustainable food for our spite of what Mother Nature may throw at them.  They are battlers and they have been for generations.  Farmers take their role as custodians of our land very seriously.  My Dad and Mum have always been driven to improve their management practices, efficiencies and sustainable farming practices so that they can pass on the land to the next generation in better shape than when they started out. 

So when Coal Seam Gas projects and associated infrastructure are forced upon these people in a timeframe that is always urgent, I hope you can understand the genuine distress that is felt.  It is not as APPEA, the voice of Australia’s oil and gas industry, would have you believe - that farmers are ‘gas nay-sayers’ or that they ‘don’t care enough about losing Australian jobs and investment’.

The truth of the matter is that farmers are genuinely fearful for the safety and future of their homes, families and businesses.  What farmers are trying to negotiate is simple - for the CSG Industry to ensure that their activities and infrastructure does not prevent people from continuing to live and run their businesses in a healthy and prosperous manner.  What kind of country are we living in where people actually have to fight to protect this basic human right? 

When any human being is fighting for the safety and future of their homes, families and businesses there are always high levels of stress, anxiety and distress involved.  I am overwhelmed and alarmed by the ever increasing social and health issues my community is enduring.  Instances of stress related illnesses and symptoms are all too prevalent.  Stress related - anxiety, depression, sleeplessness and heart problems have all been reported in my community by people specifically targeted by coal seam gas projects and infrastructure.

Photo sourced from The Conversation

When an employee of these coal seam gas companies experiences stress, there are processes and resources in place to support that person, as should be the case. 
When a farmer develops symptoms of stress when trying to negotiate suitable outcomes with coal seam gas companies, do they offer support, do they show compassion?  Do they afford the farmer some time out from negotiations to take care of his health and wellbeing?  NO.  They up the ante.  They strategise and increase the barrage of phone calls, emails, demands and urgencies.  They increase the number of employees the farmer has to deal with and they rely on these strategies to force people to breaking point.  The end result of these tactics are damaging and long lasting.

So with all of the money that is being generated from the coal seam gas industry, please invest some of it into resources that will support the farmer in the battle to protect homes, families and businesses.  Please invest in resources and expertise that protect and support the health of our farmers and rural communities.  Otherwise, it appears inevitable that there will be a massive fall out not only socially but also to the agricultural industry as farmers are left to carry these massive burdens on their own.
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1 comment:

  1. A study into the mental health impacts coal seam gas exploration may have on farmers by Methuen Morgan is soon to be completed. Methuen is formally a farmer from Condamine who has gone back to study and is conducting this research for his PhD.

    From the article Researcher soon to release findings on CSG mental health impacts

    "Mr Morgan said he was nearing the end of his thesis titled ‘David vs Goliath’.

    “It looks like we’re seeing some interesting profiles occurring with regards to stress,” he said.

    “Most of the stress constructs within our measure are usual stressers, so they’re things that farmers are familiar with like droughts, floods, bank managers, and commodity price fluctuations but my speculation is that coal seam gas, or extractive industries in general, is a unique man-made stresser.

    “They don’t feel like they have any control over it, rightly or wrongly, and this has come from out of left field and they’re not equipped to deal with it.”


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