When you flip a switch, do you think of the people that have died to make it possible for your lights on?
Probably not. But in Washington, where even the Capitol building burns coal, maybe you should.
According to this admittedly left-wing screed, 53 percent of the power generated by PEPCO in 2008 was from coal.
Dozens of people have died just this year to provide us with coal power; nine since the massive explosion in West Virginia killed 29. In conjunction with deaths on oil rigs, like those who were quickly forgotten in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil leak/spill, gathering fossil fuels kills enough people each year to be an immediate problem.
Even if I was going off on an environmentalist tangent, which I am not, I would have to recognize that this isn’t going to change anytime soon. The coal lobbies are strong, advertising in our Metro trains and newspapers, and effecting change on a wide scale takes many, many years. Adding more and stricter safety regulations to coal mining seems politically impossible as well; Americans are decrying anything that could raise costs at all, no matter how well-intended.
I have driven through West Virginia coal country; it is devastatingly ugly and horrific in some places, gorgeous in others. Ditto Pennsylvania, but there I have seen increasing numbers of wind turbines on my drives to Pittsburgh. Those are just a drop in the bucket in terms of satiating American’s electricity needs (or, more accurately, wants).
It is easy to forget that in many countries, round-the-clock access to electricity is years away. In the United States, we are lucky to have this luxury. But life is not so luxurious for those who gather our coal. Next time you flip that light switch or turn on American Idol, take a second to think of the peoples’ sweat, tears, and yes, blood that went into making that lamp or television illuminate. Bet you won’t be so quick to complain about your rising electricity rates.
Addendum: Interestingly enough, coal mining is not one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. Honestly, anytime we bite into a piece of fish or use a piece of wooden furniture we should think of those who may have perished or been injured in the process of creating these products we consume.
This of course would be impossibly time-consuming; also, there will always be dangerous jobs. But for all of us desk jockeys out there, know this: At least our sedentary lifestyles are killing us slowly enough so we can enjoy parts of our lives that loggers, fishermen and miners never will.