Knowledge and power in an overheated world. 2017, 72-97
Since the late 1960s a major port in Australia and an important coal port, Gladstone in central Queensland expanded its capacity from 2010 to 2013 through the dredging of its western harbour. This would make it easier for large cargo ships to moor at the new coal terminal on Wiggins Island (completed in 2015), but the main reason for the dredging was the construction of three LNG (liquid natural gas) plants on Curtis Island across a narrow straits from Gladstone. Soon after the dredging began, reports about sick and dead fish and turtles, shell disease among mudcrabs, the disappearance of dolphins and dugongs from the harbour area and increased turbidity of the water led environmentalists, fishermen, journalists, bloggers and others to suspect that the dredging had ecological side-effects which were not acknowledged by the Gladstone Ports Corporation (GPC), which had been in charge of the operation. There were also concerns about the removal of the dredged silt and mud to areas near the Great Barrier Reef. A bund wall built to contain most of the dredge spoil was believed to be leaking, yet the GPC denied that there were any problems.
Since the beginning of the dredging, opposing knowledge regimes have competed for legitimate truth claims. On the one hand, the official expert knowledge commissioned by the GPC has contradicted experience-based, or anecdotel, knowledge among fishermen and locals who have witnessed changes in their immediate surroundings. On the other hand, the validity of various scientific reports has also been contested. The truth claims are compounded by political and economic interests. In this article, I examine the competing knowledge regimes and truth claims, discussing in what ways and to what extent truths are bound to be partial, in both senses of the word.