If you take time to frequent a pro-coal Facebook page such as Count on Coal, you may or may not be surprised by the rhetoric you find there, most of which aimed at the EPA. What is most disturbing however, is the amount of blind support they receive from the coal mining workforce.
There is nothing new or strange about the coal industry fighting regulations. One need only recall the industry’s sometimes violent resistance to labor unions. From the industry perspective, unions threatened to increase inexpensive labor costs, taking a large swath out of their profits when higher wages were demanded. What’s more, production would ultimately slow through the implementation of additional safety measures. Cheap expendable labor had made coal operators fantastically rich and no reason, not even the suffering and death of over 100,000 coal miners from 1880 to 1950, would be enough to sway their ravenous greed.
The present day coal industry, who I identify as being the CEOs, company vice presidents, board members, politicians, and shareholders reaping the biggest benefits from their business, continued this resistance to unions and have succeeded in removing most of them. Today, neither Kentucky nor Virginia has a single union coal mine.
The power of the industry has been influential over the years. Coal companies capable of committing resources to industry associations give them nearly limited resources to convey their message. Along with the well laid economic trap placed before the people of Appalachia, one in which few job opportunities exist outside of coal (thank your local coal funded politicians), the industry has forced a desperation and ignorance upon the people that has them forgetting their past and fighting for coal’s future. One could best describe it as a regional case of Stockholm Syndrome.
The industry began campaigns offering up biased “news” to miners and their families, convincing them that all of their problems are to be blamed on the EPA, the president, and “treehuggers.” There tactics have been overwhelmingly successful, diverting attention away from the true reasons behind economic stagnation, and even going so far as to co-opt the pride and heritage of coal miners, pitting them against “outsiders intent on destroying a long standing history and proud way of life.”
By maintaining the status quo, of “coal is all we’ve got,” it is understandable that people become easily outraged when the “only job in town” is being “threatened”; still there is a point in which we must stop and ask ourselves, can the coal industry be entirely to blame for the many unfounded assumptions?
Throughout history, and even today, there has been case after case of people raised and taught to believe that an abusive system of government or economics is acceptable, only to stop and educate themselves to the truth of their situation and begin to fight back. When gauged against such people, what does this say about the many present day coal miners who protect the coal industry’s agenda?
In other words, should we be blaming the coal industry for the mess that Appalachia is currently in, or should we blame the ignorance of those who fight blindly for the industry?
There is one point I must make before going further. There is a difference between intentional ignorance and unintentional ignorance. For decades the health effects of smoking tobacco were unknown to the masses due to many factors, including a well funded tobacco industry lobby and the lack of communication and statistical analysis within the medical industry at that time. After it was established that smoking was indeed bad for your health, people had a choice to make –continue smoking as idiotic as it may be, or quit. Those who came before the implementation of warning labels were not given the evidence to make such an educated choice (though it was pretty obvious to most that those who smoked often developed health issues). Earlier smokers were therefor unintentionally ignorant of the fact that smoking was seriously detrimental to their health. Smokers today who ignore the facts have no such excuse and would be consider to be intentionally ignorant.
The following comments were posted on the “Count on Coal” Facebook page. I’ll let you be the judge….
“I personally want to send a big shout out to Obumma [sic] and the EPA. As I sit here at work wondering when the layoffs are starting. [sic] And yes we have already been told there will be layoffs due to the selling of several of our mines. [sic] Will I have a job wont [sic] know for a week or two. But I can tell you one thing even if I do there will be so many others that will not. So thank you. [sic] You Muslim loving America hating so called president of ours.” – Debbie Oates Kadar
“Lets do away with the E. P. A. So our country can get back to useing [sic] COAL and Coal fired Power plants. They want to get rid of our jobs so I think we should get rid of Theirs, [sic] and dont [sic] be long at it.” –Wade Mcneely
“Lets all run the EPA out of America!” –Gail Spooner
“the goverment dose not stop to think how the stupid regulations affect the people in the united states , loss of jobs and health care together . if , we the people , are not put in a position to take care of our families and our country , who do they (goverment) think will be able to support them in the uptown way they are use to . Coal has keep america going for many years and if they will back off it will keep us strong . lets keep the lights on , coal family [sic]”-Larry Rowe
We get to see the truth of how a coal industry funded public relations campaign works well to fuel the ignorance of the public, creating unfounded animosities towards regulatory agencies and the people who support them. But then, people are taking it to the next level by the individuals, who are calling for the end of regulations of which the rest of the nation depends upon to keep from being poisoned by the greed of all industry…not just coal.
I cannot help but hang my head when I see the stupidity of other people calling for the end of regulation–people who never seem to take a moment to consider the consequences of what they are proposing.
For those who keep telling us that we need to get rid of the EPA and other protective federal regulations, they should take a little more time to see what’s going on in the rest of the world–in other countries who do not have regulations.They need to see things such as: