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Coal-Blooded – Time To Understand A New Perspective

Factory Smoke, monotype on paper by Degas 1877

A quick Google search regarding coal miners and climate action will spring nearly 1 million results, most of which involve passionate environmental groups exclaiming how terrible and eco-unfriendly this industry is.

Boy, what an ineffective way to accomplish change.

To effect the change required to address this climate crisis, we need as many people supporting and lobbying and agreeing as possible. We need an admirable approach that doesn’t solely point out the flaws of our fuel-guzzling history that we all participated in.

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Left: Mingo Central High School cheerleaders and marching band. Right: Alpha Resources, the company that absorbed Massey Energy, donated the land for the new school on top of an old surface mining site

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Underground shift workers from a dog mine near Feds Creek, Kentucky. Dog mines are independent and small operations nestled between the big corporate mines.

An approach that recognizes the past – namely how much the coal industry has helped build economies and communities throughout generations – and then understands that the new circumstances call for a nonpartisan solution to climate change during which all demographics are in communication. And last time I checked, shouting problems of an industry to workers in that industry doesn’t exactly encourage an open conversation.

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A tour of the Anthracite Coal mine

I find that when I sit down with family members of coal miners, I’m humbled. I used to live happily in my bubble of environmental absolutes where fossil fuels are bad and the people who support them are ignorant. The irony.

But think about the conditions. It’s impossible to delve entirely into a multi-dimensional topic like this, but think for a moment about the lives of coal miners. The only way to make a living might be mining coal. Pay by the hour – maybe around $20, so it’s good pay – and working 6 or 7 days a week. In the dark, sooty tunnels for 10-hour shifts while being able to “pretty much tell sometimes when it is gonna fall and stuff. It’ll start dripping, like raining little pieces. That’s showing it’s taking weight and stuff.”

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A memorial for the 29 miners killed in the Upper Big Branch mine disaster

It’s honorable, keeping a job and taking care of your family. And frankly, immediate pushback against some environmental regulation that will force hard-working individuals to learn new skills for a new career is completely understandable.

That’s why it’s so important to open a conversation, to see other points of view. If we get everyone in on this and talk openly about our concerns and opinions, we will quickly see that we all want the same thing: a livable future – economically, environmentally, and financially.

Check out the eye-opening blog by Stacy Kranitz that’s focused on changing the typically negative presumptions of life in coal country here. All photos were sourced from that page.

Have a great week and don’t be trashy.

(featured image: workers, sketch by Clyfford Still)
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Elke Arnesen

Author: Elke Arnesen

Elke Arnesen is an 18-year-old gap year student interning with Peterson Toscano. She's planning on studying environmental policy in college next year but for now is gaining support for carbon pricing in her free time.

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