To make things better

To make things better, we have to make them better.

The statement above seems like such a simple premise, but in practice it seems to be one of the hardest things for human beings to actually do.

The mine explosion in West Virginia is a perfect example. News outlets are already reporting that the mine in question has a long history of safety violations including failure to adequately vent methane gas from the mine. Elsewhere, reports indicate that the mine was not equipped with the latest safety equipment to allow miners to have the chance to survive even horrific incidents like an explosion.

Three years ago, I wrote about events very similar to the ones that occurred yesterday with virtually the same thoughts. I understand that changes take time, but if you have followed the coal mining industry at all in the intervening three years, you will know like I do that virtually nothing has changed.

The real problem isn’t just the coal companies or the operators of the mines: it’s really all of us. Go to any city at night and you’ll see why men and women risk their lives everyday to plunge deep beneath the earth in substandard mines with substandard equipment. Americans want as much electricity as they can use for as cheap as they can get it, and they don’t care much about the real cost, whether that cost be in politics, pollution, or lives.

I am not saying that Americans should somehow embrace a spartan existence that some insist we need to have, but we cannot make things better for ourselves, for our nation, or for those miners until we start insisting that they become better. We already possess the technology to make mining safer and cleaner, we just need to insist that it will be used. We already possess technologies that could help us reduce our dependence on coal for electricity that would help move energy jobs out of the mines, we just have to be willing to pay for it.

Unfortunately, I doubt many people will even know that I’ve said this, let alone understand what I am trying to say. Most people are too busy watching reality shows on their electricity-hungry TVs. I’d bet most people don’t even know that at least 25 people just died so that they could do that thing to begin with.

And that’s why nothing gets better.


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