It goes without saying that Australia’s transition from polluting fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy sources will reshape the economy. Local towns on the frontline of fossil fuel extraction and power generation will undergo dramatic changes. In Victoria, towns in Latrobe Valley are starting to adapt to a future without the coal industry.
While some will see the demise of coal as a problem, others see it as an opportunity. As Winston Churchill wisely noted, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
The Earthworker cooperative is a perfect example of Churchill’s thinking in action. The coalition of unions, environment groups and church groups intends to build a solar hot water manufacturing plant in the Latrobe Valley. The coop seeks to create an economic opportunity for the region as it winds down the coal sector.
Friends of the Earth is a longstanding supporter of the pioneering Earthworker Co-operative. “What we have liked about Earthworker from its foundation,” said Cam Walker, Friends of the Earth campaigns coordinator, “is that it demonstrates the practical ways we can address climate change and the phase out of fossil fuels.”
ABC News reported on the push for a solar hot water factory in the Latrobe Valley:
Solar hot water factory mooted for Latrobe Valley
Trade unions, churches and environment groups want to build a solar hot water system factory in the Latrobe Valley.
The Earthworker Co-operative formed in 2009 and will lobby the state and federal governments for about $1 million to get the project up and running.
The president of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union’s mining and energy division, Luke van der Meulen, says the workers would own the co-operative.
He says the project would create at least 40 jobs for the region.
“There’s a lot of talk in the Latrobe Valley about transitioning our economy to other industries,” he said.
“Just knowing that we face serious environmental challenges is not enough.
“We need to take every possible step to deal with the big transition issues facing our community.”
He says it is a project that supports the Latrobe Valley’s transition to greener industries.
“Well the co-operative would be owned by the workers who work in that co-operative, it couldn’t be sold off or anything like that,” he said.
“It would be producing hot water services that are currently produced by Douglas Solar, they’re licensing the project and the plant would produce the hot water services.”
The Earthworker initiative will create 40 jobs, yet Australia can capture many more if it seises the opportunities of the burgeoning renewable energy and cleantech sector. In their 2010 report, Creating Jobs — Cutting Pollution: the roadmap for a cleaner, stronger economy, the Australian Conservation Foundation and Australian Council of Trade Unions estimate taking strong action to address climate change (i.e: rolling out renewable energy and cleantech) would generate 3.7 million jobs by 2030.
Here’s to the clean, green economy!
Become a member of the Earthworker cooperative here.