Community vs. Coal: Australia's Galilee Basin Battle

Last year, it looked terrifyingly likely that Australia would build its largest ever coal project - a series of mega coal mines in Queensland's Galilee Basin and a giant coal port expansion on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef. Not only would this be our largest coal development, it would be one of the world's largest too.

In the Galilee Basin lies enough coal that, if burned, would tip the climate into the red zone, trash the Reef, destroy traditional cultures and condemn us all to a miserable future. Australia's Federal Government was ready give it the green light. Approvals were rushing in, Prime Minister Tony Abbott was declaring coal good for humanity. The political atmosphere reeked of love for this dirty and disastrous proposal.

Word was that construction was imminent. We were ready to cancel Christmas. Friends were calling friends and loved ones urging them to put their plans on hold to help stop this ticking carbon bomb.

For years, groups and individuals had been working hard to fight this monster back but with the stakes rising, an even wider range of groups begun to band together - indigenous people, Reef tour operators, fisherpeople, farmers, environmental organisations, friends in faraway places, mothers, grandparents, celebrities, scientists and more. We wouldn't stand idly by as a mining giant, supported by our Government, cooked the climate, wrecked the Great Barrier Reef and trashed our futures.

People lobbied their local politicians, Reef coast locals organised flotillas, groups took the Government to court, people changed and even occupied their banks for failing to rule out involvement in the project. Indigenous people travelled the world, visiting financiers to explain how this project would damage their cultural heritage and sacred lands.

Over a hundred Australians staged a walk on at Abbot Point, the the gateway to the Galilee Basin. Together they pledged to take peaceful civil disobedience to stop this project going ahead - and then a week later delivered thousands of colourful hand-written pledges to the headquarters of Indian mining giant Adani, the main company backing the proposal.

We didn't know if what we were doing would be enough but there was no alternative. We had to try everything. We had to do the impossible to avoid the unimaginable.

At first, it seemed like this nightmare would never go away. The more we fought, the more Adani and our government pushed back. But then, things started to turn, slow at first but then ever faster. Eleven global banks refused to fund the project, the Adani-friendly state government in Queensland was voted out, it was revealed that its own Treasury Department deemed the project unbankable. Officials and opinion leaders around the world warned that there was no way Australia could damage the Great Barrier Reef and get away with it. Each blow added another seed of doubt, another crippling delay to Adani's dangerous coal plans.

Next, the rumours began and were then confirmed - Adani was firing contractors - engineers, project managers and then even their own staff. Back home in India, reports were growing that the Adani family was feeling increasingly uncomfortable about this messy state of affairs.

And then last week, the dominoes started toppling faster than ever. Following months of hard work, a tiny conservation group won its court case against the federal approval of Adani's Carmichael mine. Later that afternoon, Commonwealth Bank announced it was no longer involved in the project. Five days later, the only other bank actively advising on the project - the UK's Standard Chartered - declared that they were out too.

As I write, the landscape compared to last December is vastly different. After years of organizations fighting this ticking time bomb, victory feels more possible than ever. But we have not yet won. There's still every chance that our government could swoop in to save Adani's day, opening the floodgates for financiers to cash in on this climate bomb. So, our movement must continue to fight this project out on all fronts until there's not a glimmer of hope left that it will ever see the light of day.

And when we do win, it will be testament to the power of community. Fossil fuel fights - be they in Australia or abroad - time and again, are David vs. Goliath battles. From farmers taking on multi-billion dollar fracking companies to indigenous people battling mega coal barons, these fights call upon everyday people to dig deep, organise, think smart and have hope and courage beyond any measure they thought was possible.

Just as we have all doubted that the Galilee fight was winnable, so too have the ranchers and native North Americans fighting the Keystone Pipeline and the Dayak people fighting BHP's terrible coal mines ripping into the heart of their rainforests.

But this fight will be won and it will be won because of the passion and persistence of people who won't be walked over by reckless mining companies, who won't be belittled and betrayed by negligent governments and who won't give in to their own self doubt. The Galilee fight, like so many fossil fuel fights before, shows that when we organize together, we can take on some of the most egregious fossil fuel companies and worst carbon bombs in the world and eventually, we will win.