Down With Coal!

I was quite surprised to learn that India has the biggest coal company in the world, and even more so when I realized they are ramping up coal while the US and Europe have drastically cut both mining and consumption. While it is still an issue, we seem to be headed in the right direction. While the popular alternatives are also kind of terrible (don’t get me started on fracking) we are at least shifting the needle the right way.

India and China aren’t alone – in fact they’re in good company. Coal seems to be the new “black gold,” promising fortune to those that mine it. This is so disheartening – I feel like history is repeating itself and society is not learning from our cumulative mistakes. Australia and Indonesia have proposed a number of new mines, as well as several African countries. Farmers are losing their land to the giant mining companies, but communities are fighting back. It turns out that when asked to leave your home, lose your livelihood and become exposed to harmful toxins you tend to resist. Waves of grassroots activism are rippling across Asia as farmers and communities stand together – and they’re getting results. From Malaysia to India to Australia to the Philippines, people are standing up to protect their homes and swat down mine proposals. No one, except the mining companies and politicians, actually want them.

Coming from a small town in Pennsylvania where we went on elementary school field trips to visit our local coal mine in Lackawanna County, I didn’t always realize coal was such a bad thing. Back then, anything in a cave was pretty cool in my book. But, after working on a number of environmental campaigns in the US, I have slightly altered my view…and I’m not alone. As the coal boom moves to the East (because they’ve basically lost the West) a new, global anti-coal movement is being born. There’s nothing I like more than a little grassroots activism and sticking it to big business. Maybe that will be my new job – organizing communities against coal in India. It would help the environment AND piss of Ajay Mathur. We’ll see.

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