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137 From Coal to Dignity [27 May 2022]

Today I heard broadcast testimony of a laborer in Minnesota who worked in a coal-fired electric generating plant. He expressed how much more he trusts coal than untried fields of solar panels.

Scientists might have already done sufficient cost-benefit analysis to tip the balance in favor of the solar approach. The reduction in food growing land surface is probably less serious than increased pollution of the atmosphere that affects the whole world.

While the solar industry promises to create numerous construction jobs, it is obvious that the long-term goal is to manage the solar generation field with fewer workers than it takes to run the coal plant. Increased efficiency is intended to reduce the manpower cost of production. We avoid wasting human energy on inefficient and harmful work. We do seek redeployment instead of featherbedding.

Cold, hard facts do not, however, complete the picture. Our hearts must also know the human facts in the story. We must care about the transition we are asking of the worker. Before climate health dominated our attention, it was his life's work and joy to supply the electricity needs of millions. He had learned and performed a necessary role in society. Environmental preservation should not cost this man's dignity.

Progress is not to impose mind control on the population. Progress is rather the result of increased public understanding of better ways. When people understand and want improvements, they will energetically pursue them. The coal worker needs an emotional base on which to build a new identity. His old skills are less appreciated as cleaner energy production is adopted. For him, the key is to grow his self-worth in a new calling. That requires developing a new identity.

The ask is more than taking away his income from electricity production. By taking away the man's occupation we would be taking away his sense of being needed. That amounts to removing a supporting pillar of his life. Respect for the individual requires our patience during his period of adjustment. He should not feel like a circus dog being retrained for a different routine. He should feel like a participant in the give and take whose contribution is respected. In that light, he will cooperate and find the deeper meaning that comes from putting others ahead of self.

We are not fighting this worker. We are respectfully involving him. I ask readers to make their expectations humane.

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