Dirty, deadly, coal
Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:
No, no more, no more this business about ‘clean coal.’ Coal-powered energy is brought to you at the cost of human lives and vast ecological destruction. This issue is not just about CO2, though coal is the largest single source of CO2 emissions and that must end. But even if we did that (and it won’t happen anytime soon), it would be a mere tip of the iceberg, because this is not just about greenhouse gas emissions. It is about stripping away mountains and forests; it is about poisoning rivers, streams, ground water, and what flows in the taps of Appalachian communities; it is about… it is about this:
Between 1900 and 2005, more than 104,000 coalminers just in this country have died in accidents so that we can power up our TVs and recharge our cell phone batteries, to power up our factories and ethanol plants, so that we can turn on our lights and a.c.’s, and to power up all that light pollution in the night that has robbed us of our relationship with the stars in our galaxy. They have died so that Apple could introduce its new iPad. Some 10,000 miners have died from black lung disease just in the past decade, and an average 3 miners die each day from this disease. (Click here for more info.)
Now coal has taken at least 25 more lives in West Virginia.
Massey Energy Company – the record of death, destruction, and ecological ruin from this single company, just one, but the largest in that region, should make us all hang our heads in shame – because it is all of us who protect them by not making this issue one of the most morally urgent of our generation (more on Massey here and here).
All of us suck up the energy that King Coal, Dirty Coal, brings to us. Every time I drive over the Hoan Bridge from my Bay View neighborhood towards downtown Milwaukee, I see the coal piles that the ships bring in. Wisconsin does not have coal; all of the coal we burn comes from somewhere else, from someone else’s human and ecological damage.
President Obama and many, many others see our huge coal reserves and find there “energy independence,” a CHEAP domestic source of energy (if you don’t count the value of mountains, valleys, streams, rivers, groundwater, polluted air, human lives – and they don’t, because if they did coal would quickly become completely unaffordable). Many, including our president, are excited about the potential of liquified coal to replace gasoline.
25 dead miners in West Virginia. Then there’s that coal-hungry country called China where a miraculous rescue of more than 100 miners just occurred after yet another devastating accident. But in China, they measure human lives from these accidents in the hundreds rather than dozens as in Massey’s mine. Human beings made cheap for the sake of industrialization.
Friends, if I tell you we must wean ourselves from coal, I am stating something fairly profound and controversial. To save lives and the planet for human habitation, we must wean ourselves from the economy fueled by coal, and that is no small thing.
But when you think this hard, or you feel the resistance to make changes of this magnitude, please, think of these 25 miners and their families; consider the mountains being blasted away. Even more, think of the world we are passing on to our children.
I am, I confess it, deeply affected by the death of these miners. I know my, our, way of life has something to do with this. We must stop Massey. We must insist on laws that would put the people who run companies in this way in jail. We must be in solidarity with the miners and their families. And we must be willing to change our lives – so that the people and the mountains can live.