Electronics salesman Leszek Jaworowski says he can’t discuss Poland’s coal mining with his father. They end up at loggerheads, just like many families in the southern mining region of Silesia.
Unlike his father Edward, Jaworowski defied the area’s centuries-old tradition and didn’t become a miner. The 42-year-old believes it’s time for Poland, heavily dependent on coal, to move away from the dangerous, costly and polluting industry. But to those working in the mines, coal lies at the very core of Silesia’s identity, despite the huge safety and health hazards that it brings.
“Coal mines should be shut, Silesia doesn’t need them anymore,” said Jaworowski Jr. “They’re destroying the region, the air and the people. The heaps of money pumped into maintaining them should be better used for creating jobs in innovative and clean industries like IT.”
Not everyone thinks that way. Tomasz Mlynarczyk, 43, who operates heavy extraction machinery at the Wujek mine in Katowice, thinks coal is a “treasure.” “If there was no coal there would be no jobs,” he said. “If we close the mines, then everything around goes bankrupt — shops and other firms that produce and deliver goods to the mines.”
Poland has chosen to host this year’s global climate summit in Silesia’s main city, Katowice. The two-week conference starting Dec.2 will see governments, scientists and activists from around the world haggle over how to implement the Paris climate accord.
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