Last Saturday 7 October, over 16,000 people came together across 45 iconic Australian locations to send a clear message to their political leaders and the wider general public: #StopAdani’s Carmichael coal mine.
The “national day of action” – in which protesters used their bodies and other objects to literally spell out their message – was part of the broader movement to stop Indian mining giant Adani’s proposed mega mine being built in central Queensland’s Galilee Basin.
It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that people are protesting Adani’s mine. At the very time the global community has agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avoid dangerous global warming, building a mega mine doesn’t seem like the best of ideas. Indeed if built, Adani’s mine will be one of the world’s largest thermal coal mines – producing 2.3 billion tonnes of coal over 60 years and pumping 4.7 billion tonnes of planet warming greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.
But other than the sheer lunacy of this project, what factors have contributed to #StopAdani becoming the biggest environmental movement in Australia since the Franklin River (1976-83)? Given the theme of this blog series (new media and digital activism), this post focuses on the decentralized network of the #StopAdani movement and the use of digital technologies to mobilize and support local groups in the lead up to the #StopAdani national day of action.
Wow. From Bondi to the Great Barrier Reef, Melbourne to Mackay, the Territory to Townsville, more than 16,000 people came together with one message. #StopAdani
Publicerat av Australian Conservation Foundation den 8 oktober 2017
One of the most prominent features of the #StopAdani movement is it’s decentralized structure. Although spearheaded by a network of environmental NGO’s in the #StopAdani Alliance, the movement is itself both national and local, with over 100 local groups active throughout Australia.
The use of digital technologies has been a key affordance of this structure, allowing local groups to organise without a central authority overseeing processes from above (González-Bailón, 2014, p.209). As well as traditional forms of communication such as face-to-face meetings, group members rely on online tools to communicate, organise and mobilize. The #StopAdani Sydney group, for example, used social media and other online tools to promote their national day of action protest – which saw over 1,500 people from the local community participate – and open and closed Facebook groups to communicate in between meetings (Gleeson, 2017, para 5). Many other groups would also have made use of the resources available on the #StopAdani website, including a detailed guide on how to run a successful ‘human sign’ protest.
Whilst it’s difficult to know if the #StopAdani national day of action would have been as successful in an alternate, offline universe, protest in the age of digital media “is said to have become easier, faster, more spontaneous and ultimately more decentralized, horizontal and participatory” (Dencik & Leistert, 2015, p.3). Digital tools – like the #StopAdani resource page – has made large-scale protest much easier to organize and social media can enhance visibility and increase participation. As Tufecki notes, “many tasks that once required months of years and large numbers of people to organize can now be accomplished with fewer resources and in a more dispersed manner” (2017, p.50).
Dencik, L., and Leistert, O. (2015). Introduction. In: Dencik, L., and Leistert, O. (eds). Critical Perspectives on Social Media and Protest: Between Control and Emancipation. Rowman & Littlefield International
Gleeson, M. (2017). How we organised a human sign to Stop Adani. Green Left Weekly. [online]. Available at: www.greenleft.org.au/content/how-we-organised-human-sign-stop-adani [Accessed 13.10.17]
González-Bailón, S. (2014). Online Social Networks and Bottom-up Politics. In. Graham, M., and Dutton, W. H. (eds). Society and the Internet: How Networks of Information and Communication are Changing Our Lives. Oxford Scholarship Online.
Tufecki, Z. (2017). Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest. New Haven & London: Yale University Press