Posted by: Jan | 28 March, 2013

Re-united with Newcastle!

Newcastle – that’s where I was when I wrote this (since then this blog has been lost and found….and I’m in Canberra…blogging is so immediate!). Newcastle, you know, the one with Wallsend in one direction and Hexham in the other, with Jesmond and Wickham and Lambton and Sandgate and Stockton.
With banksias and bougainvillia and frangipani and palms in the gardens. Newcastle NSW, that is.
With barramundi and snapper and swimming crab in the Fisherman’s Co-op (we bought mullet for lunch today).
With beaches close to the city and cottages where coal miners used to live in neighbouring streets. A hundred years ago they worked down pits very like those they left on the other side of the world. They came here bringing their skills and the names of home.
But now the coal is mined on a huge scale further up the Hunter Valley, and brought down to the coast by rail. Out at sea freighters queue up to come into port. We watched one coming past the old lighthouse, escorted by tugs, and turning into the Hunter River, dwarfing the other boats and the people fishing from the shore. The next day we saw it at one of the three coal terminals, which line the road for miles, with mountains of coal constantly being added to, the freighters loading up before heading off across the ocean again.
Much of the coal is being exported to China, to add to the smoke of its industrial revolution. People here know that their bustling port is contributing to global warming. And they are angry about plans to build out onto land where migrant wading birds gather – to create a fourth coal terminal. I’m staying with Keith and Helen Weavers, who last weekend joined a large demonstration against it.
The cranes and conveyor belts keep heaping up the coal. The huge ships come in and go out, crossing the oceans of this world which Greenpeace reminds us is so fragile. Last night the lights went out briefly, in Sydney among other places, for Earth Hour. Someone there said, ‘We could see the stars’. But it was only an hour. The ships keep coming…and going…carrying coals from Newcastle.


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