Edit: this comic is now featured on the official protest website!
Our alternate title was “Litters From Iwo Jima“.
Despite nine-out-of-ten opposition from the community and unanimous opposition from the council, McDonald’s are pressing ahead trying to build a store in Tecoma. While writing the comic, Robert and I tried to think of an action that could be viewed as equally distasteful by a global audience, and insulting veterans for advertising purposes was the closest we could come up with.
Okay, so, first, the issue.
Tecoma is a small town in the Dandenong Ranges; it’s on the border of a national park, it has a population of about two thousand people, and it’s more or less unspoiled in the urban-sprawl-and-litter sense of the word. The McDonald’s store will result in litter all over a national park (obviously), light pollution, traffic congestion, and will kill most of the local cafés dead. It’s also across the main road from a primary school and kindergarten; as someone sadly pointed out to me, it’s only a matter of time before a child gets either diabetes or hit by a car once this thing’s built. There’s also a McDonald’s five minutes away in the neighbouring town of Ferntree Gully, making this nothing more than a grab at a foothold for building more national-park-McDonald’ses (if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphor). I could go on and explain the problems properly, but the community went ahead and made a quick and succinct explanation for me. Not only is it an interesting short read, but I explain things neither quickly nor succinctly myself.
(Incidentally, I’ve heard some people say it will ‘bring more business’ to the local cafés when people use the McDonald’s. When was the last time you went through a drive-thru, ate your lunch, and then went and ate again at a local café? The answer is never; you have literally never done that.)
What’s worrying is how the council decision got overturned by VCAT, a body supposedly set up to fairly regulate planning decisions in the state of Victoria, but that actually does whatever it likes. You start getting into a who watches the watchmen type of scenario; do we need regulatory bodies to regulate the regulators? We actually have them already and they are called “courts”, but unfortunately they’re also an arena in which money talks, so in actuality they function as another direction from which multinationals can sink their teeth in.
So, now, onto what’s fascinating.
The town itself hasn’t given up, just because they’re facing an adversary far more rich and powerful than them. The community have pulled together and are punching above their weight, so to speak. They put out a call for support, and are pulling the largest Change.org petition in Australia (go sign it as a favour to me, if you haven’t already). Then they tried to crowdsource $2,500 to send a delegate to Chicago to deliver the petition in person (after delivering it to the Australian CEO didn’t work) and people gave them over $34,000. People are calling them “The Town That Roared”.
I’d say it’s a David and Goliath story, but this is an Australian town we’re talking about, so instead I’ll say it’s like watching a live performance of The Castle. As Shane Koyczan said, we grew up learning to cheer on the underdog because we see ourselves in them. This story has continued to snowball at each and every turn. It’s becoming symbolic. People are the strongest when they’re given something to push against, and as angry as this whole business makes me, I can’t wait to see what the Town That Roared does next.
This specific comic is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported Licence.