Mt Lesuer as a 'space of engagement': a rural-urban, cross-class conservation campaign
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In 1989, the mining giant Conzinc Riotinto of Australia (CRA) announced its intention to establish a coal mine and a privately owned power station near Mt Lesueur in Western Australia (WA). Local farmers initiated a campaign against the proposal, with other residents, unions, environmental movement organisations, artists and scientists being crucial to strategy formation and implementation. Campaigners faced the reality that although the Mt Lesueur area had enormous conservation significance, it was not a pristine wilderness and was not well known, so its importance needed to be communicated to broader publics. Campaigners exploited chinks in the political opportunity structure by means of a collaborative campaign that relied on a carefully developed and well-coordinated campaigning network, with participants respecting others' very disparate identities, contributions and strengths. Unusual features of the campaign included the involvement of the union movement in the form of Perth-based artworker activists, rather than construction workers or coal miners. Conzinc Riotinto of Australia withdrew its plans in 1990, and the WA government subsequently gazetted the Lesueur National Park in 1992. The campaign illustrates the point that in order to understand alliances against the owners of big capital we must stretch the definition of 'worker' and, crucially, pay careful attention to socio-spatial issues if we are to understand how cross-class, rural-urban alliances develop in working landscapes.
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