On The Bentley Effect
By Dr Wayne Somerville
14 October 2014
For the Gasfield Free campaign to be successful there had to be a place where previously unbeatable forces were turned back for the first time. At Pollock’s Road, we protested as Metgasco built wastewater ponds. At Glenugie, brave locals inspired the region. At Doubtful Creek, determined Protectors delayed the drilling. But at Bentley, the gas vandals were stopped dead in their tracks.
Faced with the gasfield threat, a critical mass of Northern Rivers’ citizens defended their country and community. We woke up to the truth that we could not rely on politicians, and we had to protect ourselves. We resisted the radical, extremist agenda that seeks to degrade our country for the profit of a rich and powerful few. We accepted our duty to conserve what is truly precious – the water, air and soil that sustain us and all life.
Our Protectors stood up for what is right. Many were ready to put themselves in harm’s way. Politicians tried to scare us with riot police, but we responded with good humour and determination. It takes effort, sacrifice and courage to take such action. Our resistance was non-violent, non-negotiable, and very successful.
People now talk about the Bentley Effect. If the action of butterfly wings can lead to a storm on the other side of the planet, then the wisdom and compassion of the Bentley Effect can overcome the politics of fear and greed. Our actions could ignite a self-sustaining process to heal the world.
The Bentley experience has changed us, and the world, for the better, forever. The victory at Bentley belongs to everyone and great good has come from all this effort.
Our community is now strong, educated and better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. Politicians hoped that our writing mountains of submissions and letters would distract us and wear us out. But what really happened was that we have become perhaps the best educated and informed people on the planet – not just about gas, but about politics, democracy, social justice and the environment. This hard earned wisdom and knowledge of the truth now immunises our community against the propaganda of the gas industry and others who would threaten our way of life.
The old politics of fear, powerlessness and isolation is giving way to a new age of compassionate, determined action and the bonds of fellowship. We are learning about unity in diversity. Would it have been possible just a few years ago to imagine the way that this community has come together? People now go beyond the superficial. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, or what you do for a living. If you love this country – if you are willing to defend it – then you are a friend.
Despondency has given way to people power – to a reawakened spirit of self-sufficiency. Our community has learned how to protect itself. I used to hear “we agree with you, but you’ll never win” – I don’t hear that anymore.
Fly in fly out CEOs try to divide and fracture. They talk about the “interference” of “out-of-town activists” – but Australia is “Common Wealth”. Australia belongs to everybody. We have a long tradition of helping other Australians in times of crisis. Northern Rivers’ volunteers fight fires in Canberra and Victoria, and help with floods in Queensland. We are not about mate against mate. The true Australian tradition is mate helping mate.
We are all in this together. An attack on citizens in Bentley, Gloucester, the Liverpool Plains or the Darling Downs, is an attack on all Australians. We cannot, and we will not, allow mining interests and their political backers to lay waste to our country.
Gasfield Free Community Declarations break the isolation of individuals and prepare the ground for a rebirth of genuine democracy. By surveying and talking to our neighbours, we now know that we are the majority. Legitimate power belongs not to politicians, but to the people, and only to the people.
Our efforts point the way for all people to do what they need to do to leave the world better for their having lived in it. We are changing the world, and the best lies ahead for the Northern Rivers.
Dr Wayne Somerville