July 5, 2011
Locals call this city “carbon central”. But in the polarised Australian climate change debate, this mining hub is not central at all, but firmly positioned at one extreme.
Wollongong, 50 miles south of Sydney in New South Wales, is home to 300,000 people and millions of tonnes of coal.
The steep hills around Wollongong afford views of endless queues of ships on the watery horizon, waiting for their cargo of black gold. Coal has been the lifeblood of the city for 150 years and the backbone of its steel industry.
Regardless of the climate extremes, the droughts, wildfires, cyclones and floods that are ravaging Australia, locals do not want to give it up.
“It’s all right for greenies to say this carbon tax has to happen, but we can’t all hug trees for a living,” said Brett Withers, who has worked as an industrial cleaning contractor in the steelworks for 20 years. “It might just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. If the tax comes in, this area will be devastated. It’s not just the steel industry – it’s the butcher, the hairdresser and the baker. Everyone will suffer.”
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