Thursday, June 21, 2012

Coal is Not the Enemy

I try to stray away from political topics because I really don't follow politics and I guess I figure my opinion doesn't much matter anyway.  Tonight, though, I can't keep silent. 

I'm not sure it is really a political issue persay but I'm thinking that with all of the new EPA regulations and clean energy requirements, that's probably where a lot of it stems from. (and again, I don't even watch the news, so please just ignore if something I say here isn't exactly enlightened. I'm more concerned with the emotional issues in place than an argument of who is right and who is wrong)

My heart is heavy tonight for my fellow Eastern Kentuckians.  At least 500 workers have been told they have nowhere to go.  That's five hundred families with mortgages, grocery bills, kids to raise... 500 of my neighbors, regardless of what county they live in.  And to be honest, I just don't understand.

Coal mining has been a part of Eastern Kentucky culture since the very beginning.  As Appalachians, we have gotten a bad rap but we were taught to be self-sufficient and hard working.  That's gone by the wayside for some, but the coal miner is definitely one who fits the bill.  I'm ashamed to admit that I don't even know what coal mining involves... I know the difference between strip mining and underground mining and I know that regardless it is dangerous.  These folks work long hours, and the work is hard, but they do it because they WANT to do better for their families.  Despite the reputation that Eastern Kentucky has, the coal industry works to help prevent this...

Tonight, though, unemployment looms heavy and makes us wonder why we even try.  Oh, I understand the environmental issues.  I know all about run off and sludge ponds and pollution.. but if you've been to the elk viewing station here in Breathitt County (a recovered strip mine, I believe...) you'd have to argue that.  And what about all of that green grass disappearing in Lexington?  Pretty soon we won't have any bluegrass left.. .but you don't hear anyone mentioning that.

We hear about drug abuse and misuse of the system and poverty... yet the coal industry gets slammed.  It's proven that poverty leads to more abuse... and does poverty not stem from unemployment?  What options do my neighbors have?

Eastern Kentucky has its downfalls. As a nurse, I've seen the men struggle with breathing because of black lung.  I've seen the rampage of drug abuse and the empty bellies of children, their faces dirty as they ask for ice cream at the nurse's station, knowing it's a repercussion of their parent's addiction.  My heart cries for this... but we need jobs.  We need someone to quit feeling sorry for us an pitying us and featuring us on news stories.. we need action.  And my neighbors need prayer.  Uncertainty is a hard thing to face when you've got a new baby or school coming up or a new house. 

And if you're reading this, well, you've been affected, too.  That computer you're typing on, it's probably plugged into an electrical outlet, which is probably provided by... COAL.  Guess it's really not that bad, after all.