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Greyhound Throws Our Climate Under the Bus

Skimming through my newsfeed this week I noticed a stream of posts involving ‘Greyhound’ and ‘Adani’. So, what’s the story behind them all? I was just about to publish my next blog: ‘A Guide to Not Flying (Australia)’, which featured a large section on sustainable bus, train and hire-care companies in Australia, with a huge focus on the bus company ‘Greyhound’. So, I had to do my research and get to the bottom of it. Here’s what I found.

To start with, Greyhound is an Australian bus company…a bus company that prides themselves on being a sustainable alternative to flying…a bus company that just agreed to help transport workers to and from the Carmichael coal mine in Queensland. If you’re not from Australia you’re probably already asking ‘what’s Adani?’, and ‘why is this so important?’ If you’re from Australia, you’re probably just asking ‘what the heck were they thinking!?’

Let’s look at Adani; an Indian mining firm wanting to build a huge coal mine in Queensland, Australia. The company has come under fire in the past for their disregard for the environment, and inability to take responsibility when their projects go wrong. Here’s just one example: in 2017 cyclone Debbie caused mass devastation in North QLD. After the cyclone, Adani breached the conditions of a temporary water emissions license; this breach contaminated important wetlands next to Abbott Point coal port, QLD. For this breach the company was fined $12,000, which they took their sweet time paying (I’m not even sure if it’s been paid off yet). I really struggled to find more information about this scandal, perhaps there was a cover-up?

The Australian Government has just agreed to let Adani build the Carmichael coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin. The mine will extract 10 million tonnes of coal each year to export to power stations…at a time when the rest of the world is moving away from coal.

What’s wrong with Adani?

There are a number of things wrong with this, but here’s a short(ish)-list:

  • Water scarcity: Australia is already suffering from devastating drought. In 2019 Adani was granted a water license allowing them to take up 12.5 bn litres/yr from the Suttor River. This is costing Adani $18.5 million, the deadline for which has now been pushed back to 2021. Do they have the funds? More importantly, do we have the water?
  • The mine is said to ‘bring hundreds of much needed jobs to rural Queensland’. There is 160,000 unemployed people in Queensland today. The government’s solution to this is a coal mine that will provide…wait for it…1,500 jobs, and use automatic, driver-less vehicles. In the words of Richard Denniss, the Australia Institute’s chief economist, ’We would have to build 100 Adani mines to solve unemployment in Queensland’.
  • In an interview with ABC News, Richard Denniss also said ‘It [Adani] doesn’t make economic sense. Adani says it doesn’t make economic sense because they won’t build the mine unless we give them free coal, free water, a free railway line’.
ABC News interview with the Australia Institute’s chief economist, Richard Denniss.
  • >500 coal ships will be granted passage through the Great Barrier Reef world heritage area…every year.
  • Aboriginal land rights: the rail-line used to transport coal, and the mine itself will destroy the ancestral lands and waters of the Wangan and Jagalingou people. The Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council have consistently said ‘no’ to the mine, 5 times to be exact. Find out more here.
  • 4.6 billion tonnes of carbon pollution will be added to the atmosphere at a time when we MUST reduce emissions.
  • To learn more, watch the #StopAdani 30min documentary: #StopAdani: A Mighty Force here or find a screening near you.

“Any company that shackles itself to this project risks a permanent mark against its reputation and must be prepared for the financial consequences that will follow…”.

Christian Slattery from the Australian Conservation Foundation

How is Greyhound involved?

So, how is Greyhound involved? On January 6th Greyhound’s 600 employees received an email from their chief executive informing them the company had signed a 3-month (with possibility for extension) working contract with Adani. The construction company BMD is helping to build the railway line from the mine to Adani’s Abbot Point Port. By signing this contract, Greyhound has agreed to transport BMD workers to and from the railway line whilst it’s under construction. The email warned staff that they could be caught ‘in the crossfire’ of environmental battle over the Adani mine. The emails were leaked, the secret is out and the company sure did come under that ‘cross-fire’.

Why did Greyhound come under such fire? Take a look now at the Greyhound website. The first thing you’ll see on their homepage is ‘TRAVEL GREEN WITH GREYHOUND AUSTRALIA’. Below this is a CO2 emission comparison table for cars, busses and planes for common Aussie journeys.

Screenshot from Greyhound’s website homepage.

In the words of Alanis Morissette, ‘Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?’ The company pride themselves on providing alternative sustainable transport options.

*note since I wrote this article Greyhound has updated their website to contain less content about sustainability and are no longer pushing themselves as a green travel option.

They even work[ed] with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation , providing tourists with low-emission transportation to the reef. Greyhound’s own CEO, Alex De Waal, was the chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. Within hours of the email leak De Waal resigned from his position as chairman and the foundation formally cut ties with Greyhound.

A bus from Greyhound’s previous partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

Supporting the coal mine seems to go against the ethics Greyhound is most proud of. Greyhound cannot play ignorant to the climate controversy surrounding the Adani mine. The leaked email read, “Servicing BMD is not Greyhound taking a stand on climate change or any other important environmental topic facing our nation and the world…”. The email even described a desire to eventually “transition to electric vehicles on reef routes” (whenever the option becomes economically viable…so not until it’s too late to save the planet). The workers were then thanked for “being courageous” and taking part in such business.

Employees were told “You are entitled to your views and we respect them,” but that they should “utilise the internal communication channels rather than discussing sensitive business matters with external parties” ie. don’t challenge our decision on social media or in mass protest (or at all).

When asked by The Guardian whether the company thinks young people will react negatively to their association with Adani, Greyhound responded “Greyhound is not only a comfortable and scenic way to travel, it is the most carbon efficient per person for long distances. We have younger customers choosing bus as a greener way to travel over planes, trains and automobiles.” Should we repeat the question…..?

What could Greyhound have done instead? If big companies, especially ones that promote themselves as ‘sustainable’, start taking a stand on the Adani coal mine the whole project could be called into question. If enough companies – and people – oppose the idea, there is the vain hope that the project will be permanently halted in its tracks. In December, the engineering film GHD ended their 10-year relationship with Adani after frequent protests against their involvement. 

What can you do? 

  • Visit the #stopadani page for this campaign. They provide the Greyhound office contact numbers, so you can call and let the company know what you think about their involvement.
  • Pressure other contractors and companies making deals with Adani. The mine cannot be built by Adani alone, they need construction companies, insurance companies and investors.
  • Join the #stopadani campaign by attending protests. Dates can be found on their website and Facebook page.
Me with fellow USYD’s Sustainable Ocean Alliance students at the School Strike 4 Climate march 2019.

Published by busybeebella

An energetic and enthusiastic young writing passionate about scientific communication.

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