From the Ashes

Many people do not realize today that when you turn on the light switch, you are probably using coal energy. In the early 1900s coal began being mined in America for energy. Today, coal is the biggest source of carbon pollution there is today, as well as the biggest source of toxic water, and climate change. Trump’s administration pledged the “end the war on coal” the day they entered the White House, and thus far they are succeeding in deregulating environmental and health protections and creating more jobs, regardless of how safe they are for the workers or those that live in the area.

There are 54,000 coal miners in the US today- though Appalachia alone used to employ hundreds of thousands of workers. Coal costs more than its competitors (i.e. fracking to extract natural gas). Because coal mining industries monopolize jobs in small towns, less demand means the loss of entire city’s worth of jobs.

During the coal industry’s height, West Virginia (a leader in the coal industry) was still at the bottom of US state economies. Bringing back the coal industry to full force again in these communities is not going to change poverty. In Montana, Powder River Basin provides 44% of America’s coal today, taking over Appalachia’s the lead in the industry.

Mercury, lead and arsenic come out into the air when coal is burned- and ends up in the air we breath, or the water we drink. Clean up of these toxins is not worth the money that is made off the coal, so attempts at cleaning up the sites is rarely made by the coal industry without being pushed to do so legally. There are cleaner and cheaper options for energy than coal right now in the world, and the “war on coal” is no more than a natural progression of society. 7,500 people die every year because of coal air pollution, and clean coal- or carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is not a working option.

The film Through the Ashes explores these issues and more- giving equal air time to those losing their jobs, those losing their health, and those attempting to bridge the gaps and solver the problem. Filmed by National Geographic, this documentary was hugely informative and engaged science along with human interest to express a type of environmentalism that is essential to intersectional justice as a whole in the world.

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Originally published at on June 20, 2017.



midwestern librarian, writer, activist

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