“I don’t know what we’re going to do if the mine closes.” The woman’s voice sounds strained and tired through the phone. “I’m going to have to find a job, and we may have to cash in our retirement fund. I guess we’ll move if we have to.”
I hadn’t meant to pry. I had just called to remind her of her daughter’s peewee basketball practice that night. But in a small, western town, you can’t help but run into the lives of your neighbors.
Like everyone else in town, I had heard about the fire in one of the underground coal mines, about the high levels of carbon monoxide that forced an emergency evacuation. And I knew people were worried the company might shut its operation down permanently, putting the top breadwinner in more than 100 families out of work. But that voice made it real. It suddenly registered that nearly half of the girls on my team had parents who worked in one of the three local mines.
I’m a slow learner, but I have my excuses. I moved here to Paonia, Colo., seven years ago, fresh off a stint with the Sierra Club, the nation’s largest environmental group, based in ... Read more