Australians and millions of people around the world hit the streets recently in support of school children calling for leaders to listen to the climate scientists.
It caused a few debates in the media, but the climate change debate is very different once you get outside urban bubbles.
The striking students had three requests. No new fossil fuel projects, a transition to a 100 per cent renewable energy grid by 2030, and a just transition for employees of fossil fuel companies in Australia.
Anyone aware of the scientific recommendations to avoid climate catastrophe would agree with these requests.
Although the Hunter Valley's economy isn't entirely dependent on coal (royalties only make up 2 per cent NSW revenue, and the biggest companies usually pay no tax), it forms a big part of our culture.
The landscape between Singleton and Muswellbrook has become saturated with a mix of underground and open cut coal mines, for both thermal and coking coal.
Nine thousand employees drive into the region every day to work in mining.
Coal communities either need big investment in transitional employment options from government, or someone in the private sector with the capital and courage to help.
The effects of coal mining are not only physical, they're emotional.
In the Hunter Valley, thermal coal mining is creating an adversarial culture in coal communities as both those against and for continued mining advocate for a future that they believe will best look after themselves and their families.
The workforce employed in the mining of thermal coal in the Hunter has in recent years become much more casualised. Many are now employed through labour hire companies.
There is a palpable fear of job insecurity, and for some the despair has already begun due to redundancies.
Despite the Minerals Council of Australia's assurances, we are seeing a global shift away from thermal coal from those countries on target to meet emissions reductions targets.
Experience from overseas, for example Wyoming in the United States, tells us that without a transition plan these workers will be left seriously disadvantaged if all countries follow suit.
The call to transition workers from coal mining to reduce greenhouse gases is yet another cause for concern for many coal workers.
They see it as a plan to take away their source of employment and livelihoods.
While workers' concerns are understandable, the Hunter Valley cannot continue to expand the lifetime of existing mines or to open new thermal coal projects.
Climate change induced extreme weather events, such as the past week's bushfires in NSW and Queensland, are already having an impact on Australians and people across the world. We need to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to have any chance of limiting average global temperatures to less than 1.5 degrees increase since pre-industrial times.
We can no longer unfairly shift responsibility to the downstream customers of thermal coal.
The lack of a just transition plan for the Hunter Valley creates anger and anxiety for those who want to avoid the climate catastrophe.
Those who want intergenerational equity are left feeling helpless in the knowledge that millions of tonnes of thermal coal are still planned to be dug up and burned.
Farmers are also anxious that the ongoing drought and its link to worsening climate is not only hurting their financial security, but in some regions, food and water security.
Towns in the Upper Hunter Valley have already run out of water.
The other major concern with open cut thermal coal mining is air pollution which in the Hunter Valley is consistently breaching national standards, leading to higher rates of lung diseases, heart diseases, lower birth weight children, dementia, type 2 diabetes and other negative health effects.
Families have left town fearful of the damage the air pollution will do to their children.
The lack of leadership on these issues needs to be addressed urgently.
Coal communities either need big investment in transitional employment options from government, or alternatively someone in the private sector with the capital and courage to help.
There could be potential employment in rehabilitation of existing mines, renewable energy, agriculture, tourism, manufacturing and many other industries.
A transition from coal won't be easy, but we have the solutions, let's implement them.
It'll be worth it.
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