Accepted Paper:

'Life. Brought to you by mining': narratives of coal in the Hunter Valley of NSW  


Vanessa Bowden (University of Newcastle)

Paper short abstract:

As the morality of coal is increasingly questioned, the industry has rolled out a campaign which emphasises it’s place in our economy, history and culture. The effectiveness of this is seen in the views of business leaders who imagine our future to be written in it’s past; to them, coal is doxic.

Paper long abstract:

In the Hunter Valley of New South Wales, the morality of coal use is increasingly being questioned. From conflicts over land use, to the impacts that burning coal has on climate change, the industry is increasingly aware of the tenuous place it's social license to operate now occupies. In response the industry has, over a number of years, rolled out a campaign which emphasises the role of the industry in building not only the local regional economy, but it's presence as one of historical and cultural value. Such campaigns build a narrative about the centrality of electricity to everyday life, and present the use of coal as inevitable and unavoidable as long as it is present. The effectiveness of this narrative can be seen in research carried out with business leaders in the region, who reveal a doxic view of the role of coal. This view limits the leaders' moral concerns when it comes to climate change and land use, as the future of the region is seen to be written in it's past. As the pressure on coal from international forces increases, this restrictive view risks hysteresis, with the region potentially being left with no transitional plan as demand for coal slows.

Panel Tem01
Technological visions of the future: political ontologies and ethics