EVEN THOUGH I have been lost in the pop-culture megastores of Tokyo, and touched the bronze horns of the Wall Street bull, I never truly appreciated the redemptive power of capitalism until I visited an auction of equipment from a decommissioned coal-power station. It was where I learned there is a legitimate market for 3,000-horsepower motors and semi-used spools of insulated cable. An auctioneer told me a bright-red fire door – ten feet by twelve feet of tempered steel clad with pounded aluminium – was to be re-purposed as the entrance to someone’s ‘man cave’. Whoever had the unenviable job of cataloguing this industrial detritus had alleviated his or her boredom by coming up with sarcastic descriptions for some of the more underwhelming items: ‘Divorce Pack’ (three fridges, a microwave, two heaters and a cabinet); ‘The Trap!!’ (a mysterious steel cage contraption); and ‘quantity grease tins on wall’. All of this was being sold to clear the way for the demolition of Alinta Energy’s brown-coal plant at Port Augusta, a dirty old giant of industry that had sat on the saltbush tip of the Spencer Gulf for six decades. We had come here on a cold Tuesday morning to wander through the carcass of the power plant, which had incinerated enough little brown rocks to power a few thousand homes for something like 65 million hours, and either pay our respects or make out like carrion. One guy, David, whose father had worked at the power station for two decades, had brought his camera to document this piece of local and family history.
‘When are you ever going to get to see something like this again?’ he said, gesturing towards one of the cavernous hallways.
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