This is a guest post by my "real life" friend, Sarah Ferry. Sarah works for an awesome organization called Floresta, that seeks to teach, plant, create micro-enterprise, and share the gospel in developing countries.
A few weeks ago the national news drew our attention to a sleeping giant we are often able to ignore. When the Coal-Ash dam in Tennessee collapsed on December 22nd, it destroyed multiple homes, triggered an environmental catastrophe so severe it will take decades to clean up, and devastated the life and or health of most living beings within miles. Although a horrible event in itself, for a short moment in time the mask was pulled off the face of the dirty monster, the coal industry...the industry we are all linked to as much as petroleum, and we were able to see what lies beneath the advertising myths of "Clean Coal".
This is not just an event that happened a couple weeks ago in Tennessee. This is something we are connected to nearly every moment of every day that we are running our electricity, even from the other end of the country.
A news article about the event from the West Virginia Gazette explains,
"Burning coal produces more than 129 million tons of "coal combustion waste," or CCW, each year. That's enough to fill one million standard railroad cars, or a train that would span the United States from New York to Los Angeles 3.5 times, according to the National Academy report. And ironically, new rules to clean up power plant air emissions are increasing that figure, as additional pollution control equipment that generates more ash is added to aging coal-fired plants. When coal is burned, its volume is reduced by two-thirds to four-fifths, concentrating metals and other minerals - arsenic, selenium, mercury and numerous other toxic contaminants - that remain in the ash."
It is these poisonous metals that thousands of families in Tennessee, and many more states throughout the south east, fear in their drinking water, ground water and air they breath daily near these coal producing plants.
When I hear about the environmental health hazards related to coal production in the south east I remember that this issue is important but contrary to things I may hear now and again about the global impact of my energy use; my use of electricity does not appear to effect me or anyone I know personally, so it is easy for me to forget that I do care about this issue.
Then something like this event occurs and I am reminded that Jesus would have some very profound words to say to us about our use of coal based fuels (which most of our electricity is). In fact, he has already told us a great deal…
In Luke 10:27, Jesus told the disciples great commandment, "Love the lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself."
The disciples then responded with a profound question, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus' reply? The story of the Good Samaritan. To sum up the answer to the story we are mostly familiar with, the story lets us know our neighbor is
1. A stranger, 2. A foreigner or someone who lives far away from us, 3. Someone we might not like on our own good will. What does this mean for us when we interpret the events of this Coal-Ash spill? Our neighbor lives in Tennessee, (and west Virginia, and even China). Given Jesus' response to who our neighbor is, the next question is how do we love our neighbor, especially if we do not know them?
If we can learn to recognize how our local actions impact those we do not know, who are far away or in distant lands, we can turn everyday choices into acts of love for our neighbor.
How then can we love those in Tennessee right now and always?
• Turn off your light, TV and electronics when you leave the room. You don't need it on and your neighbor could use the love.
For more information on the Coal Damn Collapse, check out: http://wvgazette.com/News/200812290514