A REGION like the Hunter - where the mining of coal was almost the first act by white explorers more than two centuries ago - is always going to be divided by climate change.
It's been decades since climate scientists first warned that a warming world presented a serious threat, and possibly an existential one. It's been decades since they warned that humans were responsible for that problematic warming, with the burning of fossil fuels like coal as the main culprits.
Since that time it's been the politics of climate change, rather than climate change itself, that has derailed necessary action to deal with global warming, both in Australia and around the globe.
The politics of climate change has seen multi-national mining companies campaigning, successfully, to stop government action to curb fossil fuel use. In Australia we only have to look at how effectively the mining industry was able to weaponise any attempt to put a price on the pollution cost of carbon emissions leading to global warming, by labelling it a carbon tax. Throw millions of dollars towards that campaign and governments cave. We have seen that in Australia and overseas.
In the Hunter now there are very big sectors living uneasily together because of coal, the impacts of emissions from exported coal and potential big shifts as the real price of coal is being factored in by global corporations. The Hunter coal industry, winemakers, the thoroughbred industry and tourism are some of the region's biggest employers.
The call by some Hunter students for support trying to stop a major expansion of Glencore's Glendell coal mine near Singleton is challenging for many businesses who rely on mining. It's also challenging because of the personal impacts of these potential global shifts.
Alisdair Tulloch is a winemaker with a long family history of winemaking in the Hunter. He believes the divisive nature of Australia's climate change debate must end because of the risks this nation faces in future if global emissions are not dramatically reduced. His industry has been forced to accept and adapt to a warming world for years. He believes individual mine applications should be assessed according to the true cost and impacts of global warming, as borne by others beyond mining.
He wants the heat taken out of the debate for the sake of everyone.