West Virginia is my home state and we are known for our mountains. Our beautiful mountains provide scenic views, recreation and habitats for wildlife. These mountains are also filled with coal. Coal has been a controversial issue for some time now. A lot of people in my state were relying on the coal industry to provide for their families. Coal mining is dangerous and comes with a lot of health risks. Although there are safety regulations now, there did not used to be. Coal miners are at risk of breathing in harsh chemicals that can cause respiratory problems. They also are working in tight spaces and are at risk of being struck by falling objects. Even worse, they are at risk of the mine collapsing or exploding. But what makes it worth the risk? The pay. Coal miners make $60,000 a year on average. This is a lot of money to be making right out of high school. These miners thought that they had a career for life. Unfortunately for them, coal is on its way to being dead and miners are laid off every day.
Since coal has been such a big part of West Virginia’s economy, the coal miners are not the only ones being effected by the decline of coal. It is a chain reaction. About a year ago, a company in Rand, WV was shut down. This company was responsible for building coal trucks. Not too long after that, people at a local bolt factory got laid off because their company made the bolts for the coal trucks for the company that got shut down. This effects more people than just the miners and their families. When coal finally dies completely, I believe that West Virginia’s economy will take a huge hit.
Many people voted for Donald Trump in this past election because he has claimed that he will bring coal mining back to West Virginia. Desperate for financial stability, former coal miners and their families believed him and voted for him on Election Day. What they do not understand is coal is not going to come back to West Virginia. We have discovered other ways to produce energy that do not destroy the environment. We have moved past coal and it is not coming back.
My hometown of Charleston is not like the rest of West Virginia. Although it is a small city, it is still a city. The rest of West Virginia is rural. Even the other “cities” are pretty rural. These are areas where most of the coal miners live, and these are the areas being effected the most. In Charleston, we have downtown that is filled with office buildings and an opportunity to start a professional career. We are starting to get more restaurants and more events going on in town. Although it may seem like Charleston is growing, people are still leaving West Virginia. In 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau showed that West Virginia had a population decline of .25%, about 4,623 people, from July 2014 to July 2015. People are moving away because the economy is not the best and there are not many jobs. Even young professionals do not really stand a chance here.
In 2015, Gallup-Healthways released its annual Well-Being Index for 2014. It was no surprise that West Virginia was declared the most miserable state in the United States for the sixth year in a row.
Could all of this be because of the decline of coal? Sure there are other things that factor into this statistic. For example, West Virginia has also been recognized as the state with the most drug overdoses. There are 35 drug related deaths per 100,000 people in the state of West Virginia, the highest overdose rate in the country.
It is very sad to see the place that I call home decline not only economically, but overall as well. West Virginia has a bad reputation but it is a beautiful state with nicest people around. No matter what Donald Trump says, I do not think that big coal will make a return. Even if it did, I do not think that it would stop people from moving to another state. There are better opportunities in other places.