“We gotta open more coal mines again!” So runs the sly call from those who wish, ever so surreptitiously, turn back the tiny progress we have made so far on global warming. To those in poor communities, the lure of jobs, even terrible ones deep underground, can be alluring. Then there is always the need to counter the machinations of Mr Putin and his attempts to freeze us all to death this winter. Tempting. Attractive. Understandable. But first, read our link to a story by Renee Jacobs for Huck, who has been following the disastrous story of the town of Centralia in Pennsylvania, USA.
It was a mining town, one of many in the Appalachian mountains. Hardscrabble poor, but proud, and a home for the lives of many. Until the 27th May 1962 when a huge fire erupted in the mine galleries under the town. It is inextinguishable. It has been burning ever since. It will burn for at least 250 years. It spews out carbon monoxide gas and palls of smoke. Every of often it opens huge chasms in the ground, hundreds of metres deep. Eventually the whole town had to be razed, and now only five people live there. So much for prosperity.
Not every mining town will share exactly the same geology and engineering as Centralia. But as a concentrated metaphor for the long term consequences of the carbon industries, it is hard to beat. Leaving aside all that global warming, we still don’t know the health consequences of all the pollution they have spewed out. You are reading this on an electrically-powered computer. Some of those electrons will have been dug out of the ground in places like Centralia, Pa. There’s no getting around it. But attempts to keep on doing so are incredibly short sighted, and bring little benefit to the people who do it. The quicker we move to safer sources, the better it will be for all. Especially mining communities,
We thank Mr Peter Seymour of Hertfordshire for this story