Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations

From Coal Mining to Renewables

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Loss of jobs in underground mining

Underground Mining

By Linn Smith

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” Niccolow Machiavelli (1532)

June 18, 2016—-Much has been publicized in the past year concerning the loss of coal mining jobs, often blaming the loss on the move toward renewable energy. Recently on NPR, coal mining families stated this transition would lead to losing a “tradition,” saying the coal mining culture has been part of their families for generations.

Change is a Fact of Life

It’s true that for generations coal mining has been the only job available in many parts of the U.S., such as West Virginia. But change is a fact of life, as farmers in the Midwest experienced, losing many of the small family farms to giant agribusinesses.

I grew up on one of these small family farms, baling hay and milking cows. “Gone, for the most part, are the times when farmers would work together with wives and kids to feed the cows or harvest the year’s crop.” And that’s how it was for our family. If we were still short handed my dad would hire a cousin or two.

Ranchers on the BLM land in the west are also being forced to change. They have grazed on BLM land for generations, often claiming the land as their own, but in fact, it’s land that belongs to the citizens of the U.S. I have had many discussions about the BLM land with people in the Southwest and I have ridden horseback among the grazing cattle, which sometimes look healthy, but often look so thin you can count their ribs, and often riding past fresh carcasses of the not so fortunate cattle.

Underground mining

Today mountaintop mining is replacing underground mining.

Maintaining Traditions: At What Cost?

My point? People don’t always get what they want just because it’s been the tradition of their families for generations! Their way of life can attempt to be saved, as Willie did with the Farm Aid concerts, but often change will happen in spite of our hard work to keep things as they always have been. Today, for the most part, the small farmers are gone and ranchers are sometimes getting challenged by environmentalists and the Bureau of Land Management.

The same is happening to the coal miners! When change happens we all have to be flexible, it’s part of life. And our planet needs everyone to pitch in!

Mountaintop mining

Mountaintop mining blasts away the mountains!

The move toward renewable resources is not the only reason for the decline in underground coal mining. According to http://www.greenbiz.com, coal jobs have been trending down for decades partially because of mountaintop mining (see Planet Earth Weekly article “Mountaintop Coal Mining: The Destruction of Appalachia” http://www.planetearth5.com). Mountaintop mining has taken the place of underground mining and it requires fewer workers, cutting jobs by the thousands.

Mountain top mining in itself is an abuse to our environment, using dynamite to blast the top of the mountains to get to the coal seams–explosives and heavy machinery replacing jobs! In Kentucky, mountaintop mining has caused the decline in over 60% of coal mine workers from 1979 to 2006—over 60,000 workers! Mountain top mining has not only caused the loss of jobs, but it has destroyed the environment, causing erosion and leakage of metals and byproducts into nearby streams which provide drinking water for the local communities. Even mitigation isn’t addressing the environmental problems!.

The Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce Grants

In 2014 the U.S. Dept of Labor began giving grants to help train coal miners for clean economy jobs. The following year $35 million went to the POWER program (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization Initiative). These grants included retraining workers on down the coal production chain, from manufacturing to transportation. In 2016, the coal communities were provided with $55 million more in grants to “assist communities that were negatively affected by changes in the coal industry and help communities plan their economic future and develop a workforce based on plans.” Their goal is to “diversify economies, create jobs in new and existing industries, attract new sources of jobs, create investments and provide a range of workforce services and skills training, resulting in training for high quality, in demand jobs.”

Now is the time to accept change and meet the needs of the planet!

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” Niccolow Machiavelli (1532)

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Author: Planet Earth Weekly

My goal, as a responsible adult, is to leave a planet that people, plants, and animals can continue to occupy comfortably. I am an educator by profession. While educating myself on Climate Change and Renewable Resources, I hope to share my knowledge and images with those that share my concern. Dr. John J. Hidore is a retired professor from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and I am proud to call him my Uncle. His work has taken him to regions across the globe—including the Middle East, where he conducted research for a year in the Sudan. He has written many books, such as Climatology: An Atmospheric Science and Global Environmental Change.----Linn Smith

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