Coal Chaos

September 3, 2017

President-elect Donald Trump promised repeatedly throughout his campaign that he would revive the coal industry, billing himself as the “last shot for the miners.” And in traditional mining areas—think parts of West Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania—Trump defeated rival Hillary Clinton by large margins. But policymakers on both sides of the aisle say they cannot envision any way for Trump to save the coal industry, whose decline they attribute as much to market forces as Obama-era regulation. (Time) 

Donald Trump and his money-loving corporate sponsors, as well as his ill-informed voting base, really need to take a long hard look at a documentary about coal – Blood on the Mountain. It is rich in the history of West Virginia, and it certainly isn’t positive. As usual, the big corporations win, and the little guy, and the environment, suffer. 

Coal was once big, big industry in places like West Virginia. The big companies came in, destroyed everything around them, left a big mess, and the communities suffer. Worse yet, the workers have been exploited in the area for more than 100 years and they continue to be exploited. They suffer from horrific health repercussions, and the communities surrounding them suffer from major health problems like increased incidences of cancer, lung diseases, and more. 

What is particularly heartbreaking about the film is to see ordinary families fighting off EPA regulations and people who want to help the environment, because they need to feed their families. Of course they need jobs! But, these are not the jobs we need to be promoting. What happened to re-training people for different jobs in the clean-energy sector? I’d love to see my taxpayer dollars go there. 

The beauty of the area is breathtaking, and the filmmakers really capture that. They also capture the destructive power of mining. Looking at aerial views of mountains that have been completely decimated by coal blasting, and waterways that have been completely destroyed is sobering. It is stunning to see so much destruction, while the big companies making the big bucks do nothing about it. Worse yet, people are fighting clean air and water regulations so that they can keep their jobs and keep destroying their own communities! 

These poor people have paid a high price over the past many decades in an effort to keep fueling America with dirty coal. They have diseases, disabilities, and very often suffer from mining accidents in the form of severe disabilities and many, many deaths. Do big corporations ever pay fines or see anyone go to jail? Sure, from time to time – in the form of a couple thousand dollars and a few weeks in jail, no kidding. It’s pathetic. 

Worse yet, these marginalized people have been promised healthcare and pensions as they retire. But, big corporations take over the little ones and all that evaporates. So, guess what? The guy who put in 20, 30+ years in these mines, who managed to survive, now has no pension and no healthcare coverage to cover his black lung. It’s horrible. 

Clearly, these mines need to close down, coal mining needs to cease to exist, and current coal miners need to be incentivized to be trained to work in clean energy. I have no idea how to accomplish all that, because it means an investment by Americans and their tax dollars into caring for each other and that simply isn’t a priority. It’s all about the big bucks for the big corporations and they certainly aren’t helping. 

Shame on anyone who continues to support this industry that continues to destroy people, the environment, and communities. Shame on people who continue to chant and carry on at Donald Trump rallies when he promises to save these few jobs so a few people can get rich off the backs of regular Americans.

Philippians 2:4 (NRSV): not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Serve all with love.

Photo courtesy of: stocksnap.io

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