The third and final part of my assessment for the controversial science subject was a 2,500 word essay on the coal seam gas controversy. I’ve provided a link to the essay at the bottom of this post but it’s a bit academic and unlikely to be of interest to the casual reader. I had a lot of material to cover in just a few thousand words, so I tried my best to tease out and describe the main threads of the controversy. Here is the opening paragraph:
The practice of coal seam gas mining, while long-established in Australia, has exploded into the public consciousness during the last 12 months, generating extensive media coverage and public discussion as the industry, community and government grapple with the potential impacts of this massive industry. The public has raised objections about multiple aspects of the industry, including mining practices, interactions with the community and land rights. Driving the controversy is a clash of values and an inherent distrust of mining companies. Feelings of distrust strongly influence the way coal seam gas extraction is discussed, particularly in the media, and add an additional degree of complexity to an already complex topic. This essay will describe the ‘coal seam gas controversy’ as it exists in Queensland at present, analyse why the controversy has developed and present recommendations to assist in the resolution of the controversy.
Essentially, I argued that there were two main aspects to the controversy: the stuff associated with overlapping farm and mine tenures, and the science aspects related to health and environmental safety.
Within the scientific aspect, I noted that some of the public agrees with the scientific results but not the way that risk is dealt with (i.e. they agree with the known toxicity of a chemical but are not as willing as the industry to risk contamination of the water supply), while other sections of the community do not agree with the science. I related the science disagreement to a lack of trust between the community and the industry, primarily caused through the (apparent) novelty of the process, poor lines of communication and pre-existing trust issues carried over from the land-access side of things.
It was difficult to make recommendations for this situation. The best I could do was refer to the advice provided by the Minerals Council of Australia with regard to community consultation.
So what do you think? I admit that it’s not my best work. Busy girls write imperfect essays (then beat themselves up about it). I especially cringe at my use of the old “this essay will …” device. Anyway, enough self-flagellation, the essay is submitted and there’s nothing more to be done about it.
[If you'd like to read the entire essay, it can be downloaded here: Coal seam gas essay]