The Coal Curse by Judith Brett [7/10]

Academician and biographer Judith Brett shines a light on one of the most crucial global sectors, at least in terms of Australia, in “The Coal Curse: Resources, Climate and Australia’s Future: Quarterly Essay 78.” An extended essay, it’s what we’ve come to expect from Brett, a readable, coherent, passage through history to our present impasse. She covers the years after the wool trade segued into a growing mining sector; the battle for indigenous rights; the backlash in the 80s as the mining companies organized lobbying and advertising; what Brett calls “state capture” in the 90s and 00s as the Minerals Council seemed to be able to persuade Australians to support mining despite few actual jobs on the ground; the climate change denial campaigns that brought down leaders on both sides. The pernicious influence of the mining industry has been clear for a long time, but Brett is superb at succinctly summing up both history and current status. In the end, The Coal Curse does offer some hope for Australia to shift before the country is assigned a climate action pariah status: “Public concern about climate change is as strong as when Howard was in government, the financial calculations are much more favourable to renewables, and business leaders are more aware of the risks of a heating planet.” The Coal Curse is a masterful insertion into our national debate, and is heartily recommended.

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