The Human Cost of Coal

According to NationMaster.com, we consume 3.5843 billion short tons of coal per person per year in the United States.

This coal is extracted by men working in conditions such as this:

(Think about that next time you’re complaining about how claustrophobic your “cubicle” is.)

Granted, there are more dangerous occupations, namely logging, and fishing/hunting/trapping. And while I think we would all benefit from a little less logging in the world, I guess I would be reluctant to give up seafood Mondays.

It does give me pause, though. As the NY Times article points out, we have robotically-assembled automobiles and pilotless drones, but we still send human beings down into the depths of the planet to work in incredibly dark, cramped places, breathe noxious fumes and coal particulates, and risk death by explosion or tragic equipment accident, all in order to keep our refrigerators and factories humming. I wonder how many trees I’d have to cut down to get sufficient solar power to run my house (and then I have to ask myself, would anyone be injured in the process?)

(Of course, this doesn’t even get in to what the use of coal is doing to the planet, or what the cost will be to us and our children and our children’s children if we don’t find some alternatives and fast.)

I don’t suppose it would help if, for every 1,000 KW of power or every pound of fish consumed, or every time we bought lumber at our neighborhood home-improvement store to add on to our house or build a deck, we sent each of these workers a thank you note and a voucher they could apply towards their life insurance premiums.

Maybe we each ought to be willing to work in each of these fields for a day. Like many vegetarians say — if you’re not willing to strangle the chicken, you shouldn’t be willing to eat it.

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