Conversations with coal miners about climate change

In the second event of SEI’s Communities on the Frontline Series, filmmaker Kim Nguyen sits down with coal industry representatives and climate activists to unpack how we can support coal mining communities in the just transition away from fossil fuels.

With more frequent climate disasters unfolding here in Australia and around the world, the need to act has never been greater. But the pace of change, and the transitioning away from fossil fuels, urgently needs to speed up.

One of the key rationales used to oppose transition is in ensuring the welfare of communities that work in the fossil fuel industries, and coal mining in particular. This consideration cannot be overlooked, but what if we could get these communities to support an energy transition? It could remove one of the last political hurdles to climate action in this space.

Join us for the screening of a new documentary, Conversations with Coal Miners about Climate Change, by filmmaker Kim Nguyen in production with VICE and the Walkley Foundation. The film explores how activist communities and coal mining communities in central Queensland can work together to find solutions to both the climate crisis and ensuring job security for coal industry workers.  However, the discussion and action after the film is when the real work begins as these towns need practical alternative employment when coal jobs run out. Following the screening, we’ll hear from representatives from the coal industry and the climate movement to unpack these conflicting issues and how we can move forward.

This event was held at the University of Sydney on Tuesday 12 April 2022.

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Grant Howard currently works in the black coal industry which extracts over 200 million tonnes from the Bowen Basin west of Mackay, Queensland. He recently supervised underground extraction activities, and trains new mine workers and supervisors in risk management. Grant has worked in the coal industry since 1981 starting on the Illawarra Escarpment. As a mine worker, Grant is trained to know the characteristics of mine atmosphere and monitor the atmospheric concentration of CO2 and CH4. Approximately four years ago, Grant was listening to an overseas news broadcast and learned that the atmospheric concentration of CO2 was 410 ppm, while coincidentally people were demonstrating about climate change in Brisbane. He then became a climate activist.

Robert MacNeil is a Senior Lecturer in Environmental Politics with the University of Sydney’s Department of Government & International Relations. His research focuses broadly on the relationship between neoliberalism and climate policy, with a particular focus on Anglosphere countries. Some of his current work focuses on Indigenous resistance to extractivism; the future of Australian coal communities; the impacts of bushfires on rural communities; and the nexus of pandemics, habitat destruction and factory farming.

Kim Paul Nguyen is a journalist and filmmaker, with a background in climate activism and social work. He’s written and made documentaries for media and non-government organisations including VICE, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, The Big Issue, the World Health Organisation, Greenpeace and GetUp. His most unusual claim to fame is an 18-month bike ride from Australia to Denmark to attend the COP15 back in 2009, his efforts earning him a nomination for Young Australian of the Year (well, for the ACT).

Andy Paine is an activist, broadcaster and writer who has been involved in the climate action movement for over a decade. For most of the last three years has been living in central Queensland as part of the organisation Frontline Action on Coal, who have been using direct action to try to stop Adani’s Carmichael coal mine.

This event is part of the Sydney Environment Institute’s Communities on the Frontline Series, which explores the impacts of a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy on a range of local communities on the frontline. This event series links multiple SEI research projects, including Unsettling Resources and Grounded Imaginaries, and highlights the work of the Institute in addressing those often left behind by systemic changes. The series features multiple events that delve into the social and ethical implications of a just transition in the Australian energy sector.

Header image: Perth, Australia. Image by King Ropes Access via Shutterstock ID: 1371262721.

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