Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mountains

Today is Blog Action Day which we've celebrated before. Today I want to say that in Glenville, West Virginia the church needs a coat of paint. That is a sign that people are poor. A lot of US 33 through West Virginia is poor. I have to say that in the midst of that, there are people fighting to keep their mountains whole, to keep the coal in its place in the ground. People with shabby clothes and a mountain song in their hearts. Almost heaven....

West Virginia has produced over 13 billion tons of coal since 1863, about twice the current annual input of carbon into the atmosphere. So, West Virginia is responsible for driving about 1% of world gross domestic product. Yet the poverty rate in West Virginia in the period 2005-2007 (15.2%) was only exceeded by Mississippi (21.1%), Louisiana (17.1%), Texas (16.4%), New Mexico (16.3%) and Kentucky (15.7%), all energy producing states, and DC (19.2%). Why would energy production be associated with poverty? It is pretty simple. We value energy sources that don't take a lot of effort to acquire. So, there is little economic benefit for the region from which energy resources are extracted. This can be changed by charging royalties. Alaska has an 8.1% poverty rate. But in most places the people get raped just as badly as the land.

Fossil energy extraction is a leading cause of poverty around the world even as it seems to boost prosperity elsewhere. Death and human rights abuses also follow in its wake. Closing the book on poverty is going to mean ending our use of fossil fuels.

1 comment:

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