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Born Into Coal

2012/12/23

There are a wide range of reasons to be against the use of fossil fuels as a source of energy.

Mountain top removal.  Photo: Explore.org.

Mountain top removal. Photo: Explore.org.

From mountain top removal of coal to offshore drilling, to hydraulic fracturing, to the Alberta Tar Sands, the extraction of fossil fuels is becoming more and more dangerous to our health and our natural ecosystems.  Those same extraction methods even create a risk to other industries who happen to share the same area.  Think of fishermen who work near offshore oil platforms.  Or farmers who live surrounded by natural gas wells.

Dead fish stuck in oil after the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Photo: The Guardian.

Dead fish stuck in oil after the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: The Guardian.

The combustion of fossil fuels is also something to be disliked.  Urban air pollution from the use of oil, natural gas and coal is believed to be responsible for 1,3 million deaths per year.  That same combustion is also responsible for the acid rain that destroys forest and lakes and even corrodes our architecture.  And we cannot forget the gravest problem associated with the burning of fossil fuels: climate change.

For all those reasons and more, we absolutely need to, as my wife says, “get off the sauce”!

Coal miner Lee Hipshire in 1976.  Photo: NPR.org.

Coal miner Lee Hipshire in 1976. Photo: NPR.org.

However, in doing so, we cannot ignore the fact that millions of people around the world earn a living thanks to fossil fuels.  These jobs should not be an excuse to continue to burn million-year-old dino-juice.  But, as we transition away from fossil fuels (for the reasons mentioned above), we have to make sure that those individuals who work extracting, transporting or refining fossil fuels have an opportunity to work in our new energy economy.  For example, if we close a coal mine, we should train the miners to build solar panels.  Close an offshore oil platform, train the workers to maintain wind turbines.  That would be the right thing to do.

The video below, titled Born Into Coal, gives us a look at the people who’s lives revolve around fossil fuels (and have done so for generations).  More specifically, the video is about the citizens of West Virginia, many of whom depend on the coal industry.  These are the people we cannot ignore as move away from fossil fuels and towards sustainable sources of energy.

Born Into Coal from Catherine Spangler on Vimeo.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 2012/12/23 11:50 am

    As I was saying to Martin just the other day, part of the solution will come when we realise that we can redefine this ‘job’ thing. Technological widgets are the labour-saving devices they were sold to us as being — for the wealthiest of the plutocrats, who use them to replace humans (and throw them on the scrap-heap). For everyone else, they represent more work, not less. I can understand where the sabot-throwers were coming from. Just call me a luddite…

    • 2012/12/23 2:10 pm

      Actually, I completely agree. I find it rather funny that politicians are surprised that there aren’t enough jobs – as a society, we seem to always be finding ways to replace ourselves with robots! I realize the importance of robotics for certain work that requires a level of precision that humans cannot attain, or for work that must be done in conditions that are not safe. However, there should be some limit.

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