Questions beyond economics


Kudos to Elizabeth Shogren (“The Campaign Against Coal,” HCN, 11/9/15) for exposing a wider audience to the ongoing battles raging in Western states over the mining and burning of king coal. Shogren rightly points out that small local communities dependent on the mining and burning of coal — some of which I myself have lived in — need those involved in the controversy to recognize that individual lives and livelihoods are at stake. As in most extractive industries in the West, locals argue that any curtailment of extractive activity would do irreparable economic damage to the local community. The narrowness of this argument is to make human life little more than an economic transaction, as if we exist only to make money to afford a nicer home or another ATV. As those of us who inhabit these Western environs know, however, our decisions about where and how we live often have as much to do with the quality of our physical settings as they do with purely economic motivations. The discussion about coal (and natural gas, and oil, and uranium) needs to include the larger perspective that these are not economic questions alone.

W. Vance Grace
Grand Junction, Colorado