Book Review

Nine Lives for our Planet by John Watts is a collection of personal stories of nine inspiring women who cherish Earth.

It got me in, this collection of personal stories of nine women who’ve put protecting the natural world at the centre of their lives. They’re from different generations, including my own. I liked that they talked about their parents, early lives and what set them off to protect the environment.

There’s also a strand of social and political history of some landmark battles to protect Queensland and NSW from coal seam gas and coal, and to stop the destruction of forests. Some were mammoth losses against destructive projects that drag on to this day, as well as some inspiring, joyous and far-reaching wins.

My take-aways are about how if you stick your neck out things will get tough, so we need true buddies and to look out for one another. Also the many examples of the women’s capacity to see what’s needed and doing it with determination, courage, love and a lot of juggling.  

Nanna Marie

I particularly like the story of Shay Dougall because her activism just arose naturally in reaction to the appalling events happening around her. Having a background in OH&S, she arrived in the Chinchilla district just before a massive expansion of the CSG industry happened there. Shay was not a natural enemy of the gas industry – in fact, when she first went to Chinchilla she did some OH&S consulting for a gas company, QGC. Then the Linc Energy underground gasification disaster (“the worst environmental disaster in Queensland history”) happened on her doorstep and that of her neighbour, George Bender. Together they were instrumental in getting Linc fined $4.5 million. After George committed suicide, Shay became more involved with helping her neighbours deal with the negative effects of the gas industry. Along the way she has been developing new skills and documenting evidence in the battle to stop the industry spreading.

In telling Shay’s story, John Watts has told the story of the industrialisation of the Darling Downs in a way that reveals it for the tragedy that it is.

Nanna Bronwyn

These nine women’s incredible efforts to protect the areas they love has often been at a cost to their personal life, their finances and their health. 

It is hard to understand how the coal seam gas industry started without knowing Simone Marsh’s story. After a tour of Queensland’s gas fields in 2015, I met Simone and her story changed me from a conservative objector to an activist. 

Back in NSW Anne Kennedy kept me and other activists informed about the impacts of coal seam gas extraction on the Great Artesian Basin, while Jo Evans shared her knowledge of the Pilliga Forest. Her documentation and tours have shown many people the best of the forest and the worst – the destruction by Santos. 

Nanna Kathy

Nine Lives for Our Planet is available for $30 including shipping from

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