Welcome to Carbon Central

That’s where I live, according to an article just published in the UK in The Guardian.

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." …

The article uses Wollongong as a hook but as it progresses it really has little to say about the place, or the way the debate is going here.

When I lived in Wollongong forty years ago it was indeed true that just about everyone in the area worked directly or indirectly for the steelworks and the coal mines, all of them Australian-owned – well with one controversial exception and that was a Yank company — or in fertiliser making or other metal industries or in clothing manufacture. The place was also a notorious or famous hotbed of left-wing politics, with quite a strong local communist party. The place also stank – literally. You could often see what you were breathing. But it was all pretty stable and sure as the industry was heavily protected and locked into special mates rates for raw materials.

port k

Port Kembla in the 1950s – Frank Hurley, photographer

Back here forty years on and changing times and globalisation have wrought havoc, or at any rate brought great change. The steel industry survives courtesy of some niche products, no longer protected, no longer getting raw materials from itself or at mates rates. Brett Withers really is a bit in the past there.

View from Bulli Lookout

Link there to a great page from Chilby Photography


1930 Steel Works

See also A Brief History of the Steel Industry at Port Kembla, A coal history in the Illawarra and w w w . i l l a w a r r a c o a l . c o m. The last two are from industry-related sources.

Today’s mines – and there are fewer of them – are most often in foreign hands: see Gujarat.

Gujarat NRE Minerals Limited, incorporated in October 2004, is a subsidiary of Gujarat NRE Coke Limited, the largest manufacturer of Low Ash Metallurgical Coke in India. Gujarat NRE is involved in mining, processing and marketing of world class coal products. The Company owns and operates the mine, NRE No. 1 Colliery (formerly know as South Bulli Colliery), spreading over 6421hector with reserves of over 300 million tonnes of coking coal and located in the Southern Coalfields of New South Wales, Australia. It holds the consolidated coal lease and other mining tenements which include mining purpose lease and exploration license to the NRE No. 1 Colliery. The colliery is surrounded to the north, south and west by other collieries.

The mine is located at a distance of 14 km from the Kembla Port Terminal in the Southern Coalfields of the New South Wales Coalfields…

Australia’s Got Talent–and more on talent

Last night? Well the cuteness prize has to go to the 10-years-old tap dancer.

And for amazing – well here’s one: Nigerian-born Timomattic.

And here’s another: Majestic.


More on talent and what education is really about

I have belatedly taken the time to listen to Sir Ken Robinson, sometimes called a “creativity expert” – a term I bridle at, I’m afraid. But what he has to say about education really is excellent. I can well imagine my late friend and mentor Graham Little cheering form the grave! Then I note that fantastic edblogger Darcy Moore – he works down here in The Gong by the way – is a great fan.

Sir Ken Robinson‘s narrative about education is a powerful reading of the institutions at the heart of our societies. It is ‘a reading’ difficult to dispute.

RSA Animate have made this particular paradigm understandable to all with a brilliantly constructed series of drawings. You can see the whole series of RSA animations here.

Please, if you are a student, parent or teacher, in fact, everyone, watch this 11-minute video.

See also:

In June 2009 the 7.30 Report featured ‘Education systems too narrow’: Sir Ken Robinson and Education expert calls for more creativity in schools over two nights – quite a rare thing to do. Why? Because Robinson put his finger on what is so wrong about the path we have travelled in the Rudd/Gillard “education revolution” and before that under Howard as well.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Assuming the core of what you say is true, how much responsibility should the corporate world take for the failures of the education systems that you’re identifying? Are corporations also too narrow in their thinking about encouraging creativity, identifying talents and so on, because often governments will quote business as to why they should be strengthening those basic discipline of maths and science and so on.
KEN ROBINSON: Well I think this is the big irony, you know, that a lot of these restrictions on education are being forced on education by governments acting in what they believe to be the interests of the economy. You know, you say, "Well, why are we doing this?" "Well, because we have to be competitive." Well, if we know anything it’s that the real driver of creativity and innovation is imagination and diversity, and those things are essential to competitiveness. You know, I mean, I live in the States, and the States – America is learning some hard lessons at the moment about the competition coming from the rest of the world, from Asia, from Europe. I’m from England originally, and I was saying this recently at an event in America, that if you had gone to the court of Queen Victoria in the middle of the 19th Century and said, "You know, by the way this empire on which the sun never sets will be over in the early part of the next century, like within 40 years," You’d have been laughed out of the building ’cause it seemed so improbable. You know, the country had the largest navy, military, economic engine, dominant language, colonialism. But it was all done within a generation pretty much. And the same I think is true of all of our countries. There’s a constant rising and falling of merits and of advantage. So nobody has a secure place here. And it’s particularly true in the economy. Some of the world’s biggest corporations have failed in the past few years, and many more will go and some will emerge. A lot of our kids will be working in companies that haven’t been invented yet in industries we haven’t thought of. So, innovation isn’t some soft-edged liberal idea, it’s an essential economic imperative.
KERRY O’BRIEN: And the key to all of that is imagination and you’re saying that our systems. as we know them, our education systems, are at least as much about suppressing imagination as they are about encouraging it.
KEN ROBINSON: Yes, and we could re-engineer that. We could revivify education we did this deliberately. And corporations have a big responsibility here because they need to stand up and start to say politically what I know they say to me all the time, which is we need people who can think differently. And if we get that message – if we get that connection between economic, personal and social development, then we will have the revolution that we’ve been waiting for.
KERRY O’BRIEN: Ken Robinson, we could go on, but that’s where we’ll have to leave it. Thanks very much for talking with us.

The amazing thing about all this is that I can remember being at conferences in the 1970s and 1980s where the same essential and obvious truths were being proclaimed!