Ah, the industrial revolution! A time of innovation and boomtowns. A time for a chance to make it big with mining. Parts of Berks County and Schuylkill County actually played a a major role in Pennsylvania’s mining industry, particularly with coal. Victoria and I actually come from the Coal Cracker Region in Schuylkill County. A proud region with coal flowing through our veins (pun intended). I come from Minersville, which was a hotspot for coal mining in the 1800s, but now it is a small town that has retail that took mining’s place of being the leading industry, with just a dwindling 2.5% of workers still involved with the mining industry, stated by the 2000 census.
These small mining towns seem to hold on to their deep history rather than evolve with the rest of our ever-changing world. Throughout the years, scientists found that burning this important energy source is actually too good to be true, like most things, and actually produces carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Due to the negative affect these carbon emissions have on the environment and the public, the Clean Air Act came into play during Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency. Ever since, there has been movements to find better energy sources and to take care of the environment; now we can utilize renewable energy sources like: wind, solar, geothermal, hydro-electric, tidal, and even biomass to create electricity for us! Plus, a lot of could provide energy for free instead of having to spend money for actually retrieving the fossil fuels and spending more to clean and process it for consumers over and over again.
For some reason, if you were to ask about twenty random people on the street in Schuylkill County, and ask if he or she thinks we should switch to renewable energy, some would most likely say, “sure, but we already are producing coal and that works just fine. It has been fine for years.” I believe this is because the average citizen who doesn’t normally pay attention to the carbon levels in the atmosphere simply because they do not need to in their daily lives, such as someone like me who has a strong interest in the environment and is literally trying to have a career in it. However, I do think it is possible if you were to take those same people and physically show them the impacts the coal industry had on our creeks (we are known for our orange ‘criks’) and explain to them what was implemented to clean our streams and prevent the seemingly ever-flowing abandon mine drainage water from getting into our main watersheds. I’m positive that if they could see the damage the mines had done to our waters, they could then begin to imagine what damage the mines can do to our atmosphere.
I am proud to call Schuylkill County my home and I will never disregard our history and our working families, but I do think that we need to shift our attitude of associating pride with current coal production to pride with being innovative and creating strong healthy communities.