A Coal Miner’s Adventure


Rustina Mullins
Nick Mullins, the Thoughtful Coal Miner, gets some photographic help here from his wife, Rustina Mullins.
The tile of this photo is “Sunrise After the Third Shift.”

We wanted to point you to The Thoughtful Coal Miner blog, written by Nick Mullins.

Mullins is a fourth generation coal miner. Or, rather, he was. A fire took his house in July “and gave us a much clearer perspective on life, love, and happiness.” Mullins quit his job in the mines and he and his wife and children have “set out upons an adventure, seeking a better future for them outside the coalfields.” His blog is about that adventure.

The blog is a regular account of how Nick and his family are doing.

Here’s Nick on his decision to leave underground coal mining:

Every Sunday afternoon my wife and I would take the children up to their mammaws and pappaws to enjoy the day. My father mentioned he had a show he’d recorded on the DVR from the Discovery Channel called Coal Country. We both watched it. Damn had I been blind. I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know how bad. It wasn’t just the coal miners who were getting the short end of the stick, but everyone in the coalfields. Afterward my dad, a life long coal miner, went outside and scraped the Friends of Coal Sticker off of his truck window. He knew the coal companies were at it again, this time they were abusing the land, not just coal miners.

What had I become? I used to hate the coal industry for their greed. It tore me apart ten years earlier when they performed a mountain top removal job above us, destroying the ridge and filling in the valley my brother and I spent so many years playing in. I had felt powerless to do anything so I just accepted it. Coal was not our friend. Coal had never been our friend, not from the days of the coal camps and Baldwin Felts agents to the 1989 Pittston Strike and Vances Security. If anything made the coal industry “good” it was the miners who worked for them and who fought to make a decent job out of coal mining.

Why had I ignored it, why was I living a lie? I had become dependent on the nice checks and the security of a good healthcare plan for my family. I allowed myself to be bought, just like the many folks who sold their mineral rights when the land men first came to Appalachia.I was utterly disgusted with myself. I had principles once before. I swore to never work on a strip mine. I chose to only work underground because I had always hated strip mining.It didn’t matter I was still working for and supporting an industry with no regard for the people of Appalachia and our environment. Profit, that’s all they cared about.  How could I just let things be, accept the status quo? It was time to take action. 

• The West Kentucky Journal reports that an effort in the state to diversify sources of electricity could result in the creation of some 28,000 jobs.

The Journal reports on a study of a bill proposed by a Kentucky state representative that would require utilities in the state to buy or generate more of their power from renewable sources. A study on the economic effects of the bill found that this would result in job gains for the state.

• A poll of farmers attending the Farm Bureau convention in Honolulu found that 75 percent said they intended to vote for the Republican nominee for president. Most farmers attending the convention supported Mitt Romney over Rick Santorum.

A similar poll of delegates was taken in 2008. At that time, Democrats received only 5 percent from Farm Bureau convention attendees.

• DTN’s editor Urban Lehner writes about the Labor Department’s proposal to restrict the work children may do on farms. Good read.

• The protests have started on the Department of Agriculture’s plans to close 259 field offices.

“A ‘cut first, ask questions later’ attitude in Congress toward investing in agriculture and rural America is now showing its true cost to farmers, ranchers and rural citizens,” said Chandler Goule, a lobbyist for the National Farmers Union. ,

• The Postal Service’s Inspector General wants to hear from people about the plan to close 3,652 local post offices. You can leave your comments here.

• There’s a battle in Arkansas over a proposal to raise the severance tax on natural gas.

Rural legislators are asking the Arkansas Municipal League to reverse its support of the increased tax. The tax is being pushed by former natural gas executive Sheffield Nelson, who is trying to get the proposal on the ballot in November.

Money from the tax would be used for road improvements.

•AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka (former president of the United Mine Workers) gave a speech yesterday about global warming. Here’s some of what he had to say:

Today, as we meet together, scientists tell us we are headed ever more swiftly toward irreversible climate change—with catastrophic consequences for human civilization. We must have a stable climate to feed the planet, to ensure there is drinking water for our cities but not floodwaters at our doors. A stable climate is the foundation of our global civilization, of our global economy—the prerequisite for a profitable investment environment.

And to those who say climate risk is a far off problem, I can tell you that I have hunted the same woods in Western Pennsylvania my entire life and climate change is happening now—I see it in the summer droughts that kill the trees, the warm winter nights when flowers bloom in January, the snows that fall less frequently and melt more quickly.

Even so, some will ask, why should investors or working people focus on climate risk when we have so many economic problems across the world? The labor movement has a clear answer: Addressing climate risk is not a distraction from solving our economic problems. My friends, addressing climate risk means retooling our world—it means that every factory and power plant, every home and office, every rail line and highway, every vehicle, locomotive and plane, every school and hospital, must be modernized, upgraded, renovated or replaced with something cleaner, more efficient, less wasteful.

READ MORE COMMENTS ON THE DAILY YONDER

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