When I moved to Kentucky 15 years ago, I thought I knew a whole lot of things. Among others, I knew that coal was king, but the climate was changing and our addiction to non-renewable energy was driving the massacre of God's creation. Therefore, mining had to go.
Then the stories came, and not just the ones in novels. I listened to the retired miner who reinvented his life, leaving a good chunk of his health underground. I heard the engineer who fights tooth and nail for permits so the crews under her can feed their families. I got to know the security guard who works crazy hours so he can pursue his true vocation of ministry and service to others. Stories like these have turned my tidy, privileged worldview on its head.
Don't get me wrong. Climate change is still real. I believe with all my heart that we should not be blowing the tops off mountains or poisoning our water supply to satisfy our desire for more, more, more. But we need a better plan. You cannot end a chapter as big as coal without making a solid start on the next one. And you certainly can't expect individuals to walk away without giving them a place to go.
There are no satisfactory answers, not even in the 65-plus million dollars meant to create jobs and diversify our mountain economy. It might be a start, but is it enough? Did it get here in time? Why didn't we do that part first, before people got scared and began to lose hope? How can we bring one story to a satisfactory end without destroying the conclusion of so many others?