Think: Mt Vesuvius, Alcatraz, the Titanic. You know, all those things with a dubious past that got turned into a  great tourist attraction. Okay, the Titanic isn’t strictly speaking a tourist attraction but then consider the books, the movie rights and the memorabilia.

Then think, the Adani Coal Mine in the Galilee basin. Didn’t Jesus live there?

Just like Jesus, the project has copped a truckload of criticism for messing with our water. But once it’s done destroying local ground water, along with the Great Barrier Reef, and after the world transitions away from dirty coal to renewables, that’s when Adani will turn into a gold mine: one of the great disaster tourism sites of modern times.

It’s been done before. The Fukushima nuclear disaster site in Japan is starting to take bus tours. It’s unclear how dangerous Adani’s six open cut pits and five underground mines will become but hopefully, tourists won’t have to wear gas masks or burn protective clothing after the visit.

The point is, the destruction of thousands of hectares of woodland (and the production of 128 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year) doesn’t have to be a complete disaster. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Ask Solo East Travel. This Ukraine tour company is killing it on Trip Advisor with their day visits to Chernobyl, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster. Apparently, tourists get to stand metres from reactor number four and test the contamination for themselves. Radiation is invisible, so, not real – just like climate change, right?

Tourists will want photographs. The ultimate selfie is a thumbs up with death and destruction over your right shoulder. Open pit coal mines, classic images of devastation. It all provides a powerful visual for the tourists.

There’s no obvious genetic mutation in Adani’s future tourist brochure but its CEO does have a history with poisoned rivers in Africa where “residents became ill, crops (were) devastated by toxic water”. So, fingers crossed.

In any event, the disturbance area of the Carmichael mine is a whopping 28,000 hectares. That’s fairly impressive in disaster tourism terms and doesn’t include damage to river systems or the Great Barrier Reef. Compare that with the Titanic site, 3,800m below sea level off Newfoundland and only accessible by icebergs or James Cameron’s submarine. The Adani mine, on the other hand, is set to have its own railway line built courtesy of $1 billion from the Turnbull government. Long after the coal price has collapsed and the FIFO workers have taken their last plane trip, tourists could be chugging along in a quaint steam train to take photos of one of the great testaments to human folly.

And the tourists will want photographs. Face book, Snap chat, Twitter; if you don’t have a picture, it didn’t happen. That’s why storm chasers spend bucketloads of money to hoon around the countryside harassing tornadoes. The ultimate selfie is a thumbs up with death and destruction over your right shoulder. Open pit coal mines provide the destruction without the tornadoes and Adani will have six of them: classic images of devastation. The destruction of flora and fauna, the overburden dug out and dumped in valleys, the toxic slurry pits leaching poisons into the surrounding water table. It all provides a powerful visual for the tourists.

The Carmichael mine could be the biggest in Australia. Many doubt it will ever happen. But with each approval, it comes a step closer. A step closer to the biggest stranded asset ever. A $22 billion disaster tourism attraction. Bigger than the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Bigger than Hurricane Katrina. There’ll be books. There’ll be a TV mini-series. There’ll be…

Adani, the Musical”, starring Hugh Jackman.

I can’t wait.

First published by Jim Pembroke in The Big Smoke December 7, 2016

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