Ackland is a town in Queensland, Australia. Over the past 20 years of so, a coal mine has been eating it up piece by piece. The only thing standing between the town and total consumption is one High Court challenge.
In a lot of ways, it’s the story of Australia’s relationship with coal told in miniature. We’re sacrificing our future for our love of coal and that’s deprived a town of its present and past. And the miniature here is a crushing story all on its own.
Rick Morton is the rare journalist who’s both a fantastic writer and a fantastic reporter. His article for the The Saturday Paper [$] tells the story of how the mine encircled Ackland and forced people out one by one through the eyes of the two people left fighting it (despite knowing that nothing they do will bring the town back).
It’s worth a read in its entirety. But the ending in particular is powerful.
[Glenn Beutel] tells a story about a time, around 2010, when he came across an old woman living in a campervan by Acland’s war memorial.
She looked worried, and he asked her what was wrong.
She had come back to town for her dog, she said; he was buried in the bottom corner of the park that Beutel’s parents helped turn into an oasis from the brutal Queensland heat.
She was there to exhume his remains, before the town was dug up entirely.
“So, I got my spade out,” Beutel says, “and we went down.”