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Thread: "Friend of Coal"

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    "Friend of Coal"

    It's a spring morning at Marmet Elementary school in West Virginia. The sun strikes the front sign — “Kindness, Respect, and Accountability” — as Helen Southall’s second-grade file into the classroom.Each student is wearing a fluorescent yellow t-shirt emblazoned with a picture of a tree, its flowering branches stamped with the names of various products — lipstick, plastic, medicine, soda water, varnish — all growing from a thick trunk labelled “Coal.” At the bottom of the t-shirt is printed “West Virginia’s Coal Tree.”

    Today, the students are in for a treat. Southall distributes two dozen chocolate cupcakes among them, each topped with a slick layer of green frosting. She instructs the children to pierce their cupcakes with a long, transparent straw, drawing it back up again to slowly extract the marbled layers of yellow and brown sponge and green frosting.

    This is “Cupcake Core Drilling,” Southall explains, part of the nine-week Coal in the Classroom program designed to “educate children about the history and importance of coal.” The cupcake sponge represents mineral-rich rock, the frosting the topsoil and vegetation above ground, and the straw a coring drill used to extract and analyze coal deposits. After they have punctured the cupcake with their straws, and sliced it open to examine the jumble of tunnels created within, the students bite into their mock coal rig, brown crumbs and green icing smeared across their faces.

    This is certainly the tastiest part of their coal education — other lessons include talks from coal miners, a visit to the local coal museum, and written activities that highlight the advantages of coal as a source of clean and profitable energy. Southall has a knack for weaving Coal in the Classroom materials into other curricula — for instance, her students learn math skills by pretending to run a coal company, or a science class is taught by analyzing the different types of coal rock.

    Marmet Elementary school is the first public school in the country to participate in Coal in the Classroom, a program funded and propagated by the women’s-only chapter of a group called Friends of Coal. Friends of Coal was established more than a decade ago by the West Virginia Coal Association, a century-old industrial lobby group that aims to protect coal’s business interests across the United States. Its 250-strong member base includes the industry’s major global players: Arch Coal, Caterpillar and Murray Energy, with a long list of smaller, more regional companies.
    And while this organization is implanting the coal identity in children's heads, Trump is poised to cut funding to the Appalachian Regional Commission, which has been providing infrastructure jobs to areas that overwhelmingly voted for Trump in 2016.



    Anyway, I recommend this article to anyone interested in what's going on in coal country. It's rather long, but well written and easy to read.

    Inside the coal lobby’s campaign to win the hearts and minds of central Appalachia.

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