In honor of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si (“Praise be to you, my Lord”) and the care of “our common home,” I would like to offer this thought : The people’s right to clean air is greater than the coal industry’s right to make money. Just because something is available doesn’t mean we have to use it.
Furthermore the coal industry continues to be dangerous for all the men and women and their families who work in it and live in the industries’ surrounding communities. How many have died from lung disease? And don’t forget the coal mine collapse in Peru in 2012 and in Chile 2010! These miners died in hazardous conditions in order to support their families and they died for us to have the conveniences we have. Perhaps it was a necessary suffering for “Progress,” but now there are so many more alternatives–ones which can and rightfully require conservation on the part of the public for everyone’s benefit.
And if, at the present time, coal is essential to the world economy as some will argue, the economy must adapt. Industries and governments can help the coal companies transition to other forms of energy, particularly technology. Workers can learn to work in aspects of new technologies in environments that are cleaner, healthier for them and everyone. Everything has its time. Nothing lasts forever except God and the human soul, and perhaps the souls of animals. (Contemporary Christian theologians are exploring this last insight.) The time to move from coal is now.