To the uninitiated and ill informed, shutting down the coal industry seems simple. They might say any of the following: Save the environment; Stop mountaintop removal; Use alternative renewable energy sources.
As an Honorary Harlan County Coal Miner (award given in 1982) and coal miner’s daughter whose paternal and maternal grandfathers were coal miners and as a person who watched her beloved father in law, Roy Blevins, die of Black Lung, maybe I have earned the right to have an opinion.
Additional credentials: I took a course in mining and taught writing to mining students at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College. In the writing class we toured mines at Lynch, Benham, and one of Clyde Bennett’s smaller mines with low coal. I, therefore, know on a very superficial level what it’s like to be in a coal mine.
I also know professionals who live and work in coal mining regions as well as some of the thousands of skilled and semi-skilled workers who keep mining communities viable.
When I receive Facebook postings on a daily basis about the pain that coal miners and their families are suffering or the marches on Washington and Frankfort, I think the EPA and those lawmakers at the national level have a moral obligation to rethink their positions.
I teach my college students that if they are arguing in favor of or against a position, it’s a d#@% sight better if they have first-hand knowledge of their subjects. I encourage them to admit in their presentations that their experience is only theirs and scientific analysis might prove that large numbers in a class of people have a vastly different point of view; however, for them to declaim with passion on subjects that they know little or nothing about from an experiential level disturbs me.
Congress now has a 10 percent approval rating which is very telling. Whom do those men and women in D.C. think they are representing? What have they experienced? What do they know about us and our lives?
And who are the 10 percent who approve of the job Congress is doing? Obviously they are somehow benefiting from the decisions Congress is making. Or perhaps they are benefiting from Congress’ refusal to make important decisions.
For today, right now, it’s time for EPA officials, coal men and women who live at a distance from the mines they own, President Obama and a few members of his cabinet to live among — even for a week or two — the persons whose lives they are drastically altering in negative ways.
The insightful among them might walk away with a new perspective and make better decisions about the families whose lives are being shattered by thoughtless legislation and regulations. We can’t wait.