Professionals ready to stand up for health of Australians

Doctors, nurses and health professionals don’t typically spring to mind when you think of law breakers. Yet a group of us were arrested in December at the site of a coal mine planned for central Queensland.

We went there to talk to the public about the disastrous health consequences of coal and climate change for regional Australia. Fossil fuels, like coal, are driving disastrous climate change, and if we’re to protect people’s health we can’t build new coal mines. After all, prevention is better than cure!

Yet work has begun on a rail line for the Adani Carmichael mine, which would be one of the world’s largest. This mine’s been described as “a public health disaster” by The Lancet, a respected medical journal.

Many Australians oppose the mine. At public meetings we’ve heard local concerns about farming, fishing and tourism. People in regional Australia already bear the brunt of climate impacts through extended heatwaves, harsher droughts, more floods, and bushfires now termed “catastrophic”.

Such concerns are being ignored by our governments even though there are better options. Large-scale renewable energy projects can provide sustainable, regional jobs, fresh investment, and local energy. For example, a consortium in Airlie Beach plans to build the first community-owned, solar thermal electricity generator.

That’s a future worth fighting for. That’s why we stood with health colleagues in front of the gates to Adani’s rail construction site, and were two of the five arrested for refusing to leave. We wanted to warn people of the damage to their health and wellbeing from huge, new coal mines.

We did this because we’re prepared to fight for best outcomes, instead of settling for the worst.

Sue Cooke is a former nurse and public health educator and Associate Professor Dr Linda Selvey is a public health physician.