The Human Cost of Coal

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.