The Truth of the Trade
President Barack Obama has, within the past few days, made a groundbreaking step forward in the interest of the planet Earth. Moving forward with his initiative to treat climate change as a real entity, being an ambassador for this beautiful world that we live in and abuse daily, Obama has halted any new leases for coal on federal land.
This is the first major decision and review regarding the coal mining industry that the United States has seen in thirty years, and its impact is far-reaching. The toxicity of the process of coal mining, as well as the devastating impact on the use of coal as fuel, is undeniable. There are, however, plenty of people piping mad at POTUS for this decision, even among environmentalists.
Part of the cause for consumption of coal comes from concern over miners and their job security. There are those that say, however the mining and use of coal hurts our planet and contributes to global climate change, it is not right to take away the livelihood of laborers. This writer, however, questions the morality of the practice of coal mining at its very core.
From Tennessee Ernie Ford to Loretta Lynn, songwriters have captured the essence of the cyclical hopelessness of the coal mining industry. The state of West Virginia in particular is known for once being a huge industry of coal, but the effects of the industry are profound, shocking, and still seen to this very day, when much of the industry has packed up and left the people behind.
The exploitation of workers is an undeniable evil of the coal industry. It is well-documented that the coal industry in the United States not only exploited immigrants and poor laborers, but children as well. Black lung disease has affected miners for decades, caused by breathing in the dust of coal for years, and is among the leading causes of their deaths, in addition to explosions, collapsing shafts, fires, and much more.
The poverty of such regions as West Virginia in the wake of the coal mining interests, largely owned by individuals out-of-state, has turned an economically depressed region into an even more hopeless one. Workers were exploited into owing more than they earned at the company stores, where their families would purchase goods at hiked rates on ‘scrip’. This created a self-perpetuating system of workers becoming more and more in debt, regardless of how hard they worked and the danger that they placed themselves in daily.
Is this the sort of industry we want to see alive and well in today’s society? Is this the sort of industry world leaders such as the President of the United States are somehow indebted to protecting? In the same sense that children are no longer allowed to labor in these conditions or at all, no one should ever have to suffer under the crushing reach of coal. Human life is much more costly, and even more grave the horrific effect on the environment.