‘Slopes and Plains’ – Working Hypothesis

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‘Slopes and Plains’: an exploration into Coal Seam Gas extraction and its effects on the farming community of Liverpool Plains, NSW, from the emphatic perspective of a third generation farmer’s daughter.

Coal seam gas 1 mining is threatening our environment, health and food security. Can knowledge of this be visualised in ways that stir people to question its value?

The Liverpool Plains are situated within the ‘North West Slopes and Plains’ of NSW. The land hosts some of Australia’s prime agricultural farming. Its close-knit community of farmers identify as stewards of this land. Its fertile soils and ample water supplies support extensive cropping and animal production that contributes on average over $332 million annually to Australia’s GDP. Since 2006, this community and the environment have been threatened with the proposal of coal seam gas extraction. Research and development of coal seam gas extraction is relatively recent (Stearns. M, et al, 2005, p. 34). The potential negative effects of mining for coal seam gas on the environment, animal and human life are numerous and are only just starting to be tested. (Price & Bellis, 2012). There is considerable community concern about the rapid expansion and exploitation of this resource, including conflicts over land use concerning agriculture (Rutovitz et al. 2011, p.13).

This project will explore issues surrounding the proposed coal seam gas extractions within the farming community of the Liverpool Plains. Information will be gleaned through interviews with local people and their recipes inspired by generations of successful food production.  Peer reviewed scientific papers that relate to local knowledge will be evaluated for their capacity to generate new and useful iconography.

I propose a re-visualisation of coal seam gas and it’s extraction in order to engage people who are unfamiliar with the science and technology involved. The research will shape an interactive exhibition design that emphatically reflects a farmer’s perspective. It will be employ illustration, maps, diagrams, typography and tangible forms for the audience to interact with. The exhibition will travel around urban and rural Australia, and be supplemented with print collateral, branding and have an online presence.

The target audience for this project is Australia’s adult citizens who are culturally and politically engaged within their communities, but physically and educationally removed from this topic. The project intends to generate informed reflection and inspire educated discussion between audience members, about the issues surrounding coal seam gas and the choices we can make as Australian citizens concerning sustainable energy, water sources and food production security for our future generations.

1. What is coal seam gas? Coal Seam Gas is comprised mostly of methane and trapped within the layers of coal beneath the ground (Rutovitz et al. 2011, p.15). Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, is the process of drilling and injecting fluid deep into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture coal and it’s surroundings to release natural gas (Rutovitz et al. 2011, p.3). Gas can then also escape into the soil and underground aquifers through the fractures in the coal and rock (Sircar in Varade & Meshram, 2010, p.576).

Bibliography

Howarth et al. 2012. Methane Emissions from Natural Gas Systems. Background paper for The National Climate Assessment (NCA).

Price,G & Bellis, L. July 2012, ‘Namoi Catchment Water Study Independent Expert Final Study Report’, Schlumberger Water Services (Australia) Pty Ltd, Level 5, 256 St Georges Terrace Perth WA 6000 Australia.

Rutovitz J, Harris S, Kuruppu N, Dunstan C. 2011. Drilling down: coal seam gas. A background paper.  Prepared for the City of Sydney by the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology, Sydney.

Sirkar, A. 2000. A review of coalbed methane exploration. Curr. Sci., 79(4): 404-406.

Stearns. M, Tindall. J.A , Cronin. G. Friedel M. J, Bergquist. E. 2005, ‘Effects Of Coal-Bed Methane Discharge Waters On The Vegetation And Soil Ecosystem In Powder River Basin, Wyoming.

Varade, A.M.  & Meshram, T. 2010, Coal Bed Methane Exploration: A Journey from Alternative Energy Option to the Environment Polluting Agent. Nature Environment and Pollution Technology, An International Quarterly Scientific Journal, Vol. 9, No. 3, pp. 575-580. ISSN: 0972-6268 http://www.neptjournal.com.

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