A Response to Pope Francis’ Encyclical On Faith, the Environment and the Modern Industrial Economy

By BILL RANEY, president

West Virginia Coal Association

Today, Pope Francis issued a call for major changes in our lifestyles and our energy

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      Bill Raney

consumption as part of a worldwide effort to combat climate change. Francis based his call on the duty of man to act as good stewards towards God’s creation.

I agree with the Pope that mankind has a duty to act as good stewards of this world God has entrusted to our keeping.  And, I feel many aspects of today’s modern America indicate we have, as best as we can with human frailty, been good stewards.  I would point to the fact that the modern industrial economy has created the greatest standards of living the world has ever known.

Today, we have fewer people working in agriculture than any time in the history of the world, but more than enough food to feed the planet. We have conquered diseases, alleviated poverty from much of the world and we have increased human life spans exponentially.

There are many reasons for these improvements, but none, perhaps as vivid, as the electrification of parts of our world, which came most successfully with the continued and improved use of fossil fuels.  I am concerned the Pope does not acknowledge that with his challenge to all of us to improve the way we use the indigenous resources our Lord has blessed us with in this world.

In other examples of progressive stewardship, we have some of the most verdant and healthy forests in the world, our streams and air are cleaner today than they were 50, 75 or 100 years ago.  And this is in spite of having more than six billion people on this earth.

I absolutely agree that we all need to do everything possible to alleviate poverty and the suffering that accompanies it.  In my mind, that is doing everything we can to insure that everyone who can physically work has a job, as opposed to advocating policies that put skilled, professional coal miners out of work.

I wish Pope Francis would have traveled to Logan, Mingo or any of our other West Virginia counties where miners have been put out of work because of the uncertainty created by polices that mandate impossible requirements that reach beyond today’s technology.  The suffering of that unemployment is vivid, stark and extremely concerning.

As someone who has been so blessed to be a part of this country’s coal industry for many years, I have watched the hard work and pride our people put into the fulfilling our responsibility as stewards of our Earth’s resources, I can say unequivocally that our coal miners are the greatest practicing environmentalists in the world.

I invite the Pope to come to West Virginia and take a look at the wonderful work our people are doing.  I am confident he would be impressed by both the work and by the people doing the work.


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