I’ve been completely captivated by the horrific story of the 9 miners who are trapped at the bottom of a flooded coal mine in Pennsylvania. There’s no way of knowing whether the miners are alive or dead, and attempts to drill a new shaft down to the chamber where they’re trapped have been frustrated by various delays.

This awful event is yet another reason why we ought to really think about ways to ease our dependency on coal as a power source. Coal mining is incredibly dangerous, awful for the long term health of the miners, and is an environmental disaster. Once it’s extracted from the ground, burning the coal creates amazing amounts of air pollution. Every time I think of coal mining, I think oof the movie Brassed Off, which is the story of a coal mining town in England and the miners who face the prospect of the mine closing down, viewed through the lens of a brass band associated with the colliery. The movie perfectly captures the problems faced by coal miners and people in other such industries — on one hand, they face the prospect of financial ruin if the coal mine closes down and they lose their jobs, on the other hand they face dying young due to black lung and other health problems brought on by their jobs. Not a pretty picture.