The battle for a future: farming and extraction

The third event of SEI’s Communities on the Frontline Series explores how Australia can ensure its agricultural future through regenerative farming and transitioning away from harmful coal seam gas extraction.

The IPCC has made it clear that it is now or never to decarbonise. Yet there remains significant investment and prospecting for coal seam gas projects such as Shell and Arrow Energy’s Surat Gas Project in the Darling Downs of Queensland. This panel discussion, hosted in partnership with the University of Sydney’s Institute of Agriculture, explores how extraction of coal seam gas could affect the vibrant farming life and threaten Australia’s agricultural industry.

SEI’s Unsettling Resources research lead Professor Susan Park sits down with farmer Tabitha Karp, gas expert Dr Madeline Taylor, and agriculture expert Dr Rebecca Cross, as they discuss the regulatory failures of coal seam gas, the impacts of extraction on the regions’ ‘black soil’, possible co-benefits for farmers for carbon sequestration, and the future of agriculture in Australia.

This event was hosted by the Sydney Environment Institute and University of Sydney's Institute of Agriculture and was presented online on 25 May, 2022.

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Rebecca Cross is lecturer in Geography in the School of Geosciences at the University of Sydney and member of USYD’s Institute of Agriculture. She is a rural and environmental geographer with a keen passion for understanding how local knowledge and innovation can be harnessed for sustainable, regenerative and Indigenous transitions in agriculture and natural resource management. She employs a participatory, bottom-up community approach to her research.

Tabitha Karp is acting on behalf of her mother’s black soil farm (740 acres), whilst being an advocate for the Springvale community and those who strenuously oppose coal seam gas taking place on Priority Agricultural Areas in the Western/Darling Downs, Queensland. Tabitha believes it is her moral duty to protect Australia’s important underground aquifers and finite black soils from gas-resource activity. Tabitha wants to ensure the Queensland Government legislatively defines black soils as an environmental value without delay.

Susan Park is a Professor of Global Governance at the University of Sydney. Susan researches how intergovernmental organisations become greener and more accountable and how accountability can be used to improve global environmental governance. Her research has focused on Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), including the World Bank, World Bank Group and African, Asian, Inter-American Development Banks and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Madeline Taylor is a Senior Lecturer at Macquarie University, Deputy Director of the Centre for Energy and Natural Resources Innovation and Transformation (CENRIT) at Macquarie University, Honorary Associate at the Sydney Environment Institute within the Unsettling Resources Collective, and Climate Councillor for the Climate Council. Madeline specialises in energy and natural resources law and the complex socio-legal issues associated with the energy transition. Madeline has published widely examining energy regulation and development across complex and multiple land uses, with a particular focus on agricultural regions.

This event is part of the Sydney Environment Institute’s Communities on the Frontline Series, which explores the impacts of a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy on a range of local communities on the frontline. This event series links multiple SEI research projects, including Unsettling Resources and Grounded Imaginaries, and highlights the work of the Institute in addressing those often left behind by systemic changes. The series features multiple events that delve into the social and ethical implications of a just transition in the Australian energy sector.

Header image: Charolais cross Brahman cattle, Queensland by Jen Watson via Shutterstock, ID: 1221703717.

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