transport | urbanism | adventures | pontification
China is the world’s largest consumer of coal, using more annually than the US, the EU, and Japan combined. Coal-fired plants are the primary source of electricity, and coal is also used extensively for household heating and cooking.
Shanxi Province is one of the leading coal producing regions, and the railways and highways between Shanxi and the east coast of China are full of hoppers and trucks. Even as renewable energy production has ramped up in recent years, there is a long way to go to catch up with coal generating capacity.
The Environmental Studies Program at Swarthmore sponsored a great talk tonight centered around mountaintop removal coal mining in West Virginia. Ken Hechler (Swarthmore Class of 1935), the former long-serving Secretary of State of West Virginia, and Larry Gibson, an environmental activist, shared their perspectives on the harms of coal inherent in its mining, processing, and combustion. I met both of them before the talk and was impressed by their passion and energy. At 94 years old, Ken was a little hard of hearing, but had a vast amount of experience and perspective to share. Larry shared some deeply personal stories about his childhood in West Virginia; more about his work is available at the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation. While Appalachia is a vastly different setting than Roxbury, MA, where I was working this summer, I definitely consider the issues they discussed tonight to be ones of environmental justice.