NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC | As coal mines spread like cracks across Australia’s Hunter Valley, the phone in Glenn Albrecht’s office began to ring. It was the early 2000s, and Albrecht, an environmental studies professor, was interested in the emotional impacts of mining on local communities. For generations, the region had been known for its bucolic alfalfa fields, horse farms, and vineyards. Coal mining had long been a part of the economy, but it had suddenly grown as increasing global demand and new extraction technologies prompted a wave of new mining operations across the valley.
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