So this morning, I heard something about the president signing a bill killing the “stream protection rule”, which restricted coal companies from dumping mining waste into streams and waterways.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know much about coal mining. The only coal mine I’ve ever been in is the replica coal mine at the Museum of Science and Industry. The story caught my eye for 2 reasons: My mind immediately registered “dumping mining waste into streams and waterways”, and I recently met a woman who was born and raised in Appalachia. In a conversation, coal mining came up and she mentioned how horrible it was when it was discovered that you could blow the tops off mountains to get to the coal…and the detrimental effects it had not only on the aesthetic beauty of the area, but also on the environment. Here’s an article on the topic from Wired Magazine:
But if you just stop and take a step back, objectively, you have to ask the simple question, “Is that healthy?”
So what is coal?
a combustible black or dark brown rock consisting mainly of carbonized plant matter, found mainly in underground deposits and widely used as fuel.
Is coal edible?
To some degree, yes. People with certain types of poisoning are given “activated coal” to soak up the poison. Beyond that, I came across this article,
However, if we’re putting coal in the same dietary category as piss, I’ll just go ahead and say that it shouldn’t be a part of your daily diet…and yes, I know that some people do drink urine. I am not one of them. As a final note on this matter, I have stuck some wonky shit in my mouth in my day, but coal has never been on the list, and will not be.
So, do we really need to ask whether we need/want coal waste dumped into our water source? Hell, do you want it dumped into a pool you’re swimming in?
Now, companies have been dumping crap into our waterways for as long as anyone can remember. In an excerpt from the book Great Lakes Water Wars:
“Bubbly Creek” was an ecologically dead branch of the river that was filled annually with enough rotting stockyard offal to equal the pollution from a sizable city. “In the summer, when a hard brown scum settled on its surface, cats and chickens could be seen scurrying across it,” writes Donald Miller in his book, City of the Century.1 There were times, thanks to discharges from the slaughterhouses, when the river ran red with blood.2 After heavy rains it was not unusual to see the rotting carcasses of dead cats—or even horses—floating in the river’s sewage slick as it streamed far out into Lake Michigan. In some cases the polluted plume even neared the city’s drinking water-intake structures two miles from shore.3 The fear of water-borne illness was constant.4 “Cholera, and later typhoid, were a problem,” says Richard Lanyon, director of research and development at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, the metro region’s wastewater treatment agency. “The other problem was just plain old nuisance conditions. The river smelled terrible and, depending on which way the wind was blowing, various parts of the city were ‘treated’ to this aroma.”
Now, with time and experience comes knowledge. We now know that if your river is putrid enough to catch fire (Chicago River anyone), it’s time to make some changes, especially if that waterway is leading to a source of your drinking water, which led some genius to change the direction of flow of the Chicago River. So, haven’t we reached a base of knowledge that allows us to say with some degree of certainty that dumping coal waste into waterways isn’t the right way to go?
And let us be a bit more honest…aren’t coal miners hanging out in the same line as the buggy whip manufacturers?
Do coal miners still get black lung?
Does anyone genuinely think that blowing the tops off of mountains is a harmless practice with no repercussions?
Things change. That is a simple fact of our existence. And with that change, we have to evolve. That’s what I’d like to say to Donald Trump, and his coal mining buddies.
To paraphrase Steve Strauss,
It’s not Natural Gas and renewable energy that’s going to put you out of business…your thinking will. You’re not in the “coal” business, you’re in the energy business. As desirable forms of energy change, so should your business, and your business model.
If the coal industry invested some portion of the millions made each year into research and development into alternative energy sources, couldn’t they still come out on top while helping society as a whole move away from what was at one point a highly desired energy source…but one that we now know has a lot of downsides?
Kind of sounds like smoking right?
Of course it’s a complicated issue…but when you look at it in the simplest of terms…it all seems to make a basic sort of sense.
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