Monday, 6 November 2017

Almost Heaven, West Virginia song by John Denver; West Virginia coal mining economic crisis; 2016 presidential campaign spotlight

This famous John Denver song is known as "Take Me Home, Country Roads", https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Take_Me_Home,_Country_Roads, but its initial words are "Almost Heaven, West Virginia".

Here's a nice youtube video with picturesque countryside scenery (perhaps of West Virginia, USA) with this song playing in the background: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTeUdJky9rY, 3 min. 19 secs.

Here is a good quality audio of the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vrEljMfXYo, 3 min. 18 secs.

Here's John Denver and band singing it live: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tk4F-sDqF2Q, 3 min 3 secs.

Now about what made me put up this post. Yesterday I saw this video: Hillbillies, Coalminers, Treehuggers and God | Explore Films, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwWWG0RB7B0, 27 min. 11 secs, published on 11th Dec 2014.

I think I had seen the same video a few years earlier before West Virginia and its coal miners came into sharp focus in the 2016 USA presidential election.

The video shows the beautiful West Virginia country side and its beautiful country roads along with its coal mines and how the coal mines have been the vital breadwinner for generations of West Virginians. Coal powers half of USA's electricity says a person in the video (in 2014 or slightly earlier)!

It shows how tough the coal mining work is, the risks coal miners face, the tough and resilient people that coal miners as well as their families are, and how they band together (a 'brotherhood') and try to help each other at the time of coal mine disasters. The faith in God (Christian religion) that they have is also portrayed.

The important role of the railway in transporting coal is also shown.

But the mining town shown in the video (and perhaps similar other mining towns in West Virginia) has fallen on bad economic times.

Burning coal has been challenged by environmental scientists as being bad for the world (adding to global warmning). And new techniques to extract coal like mountaintop removal (for details, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountaintop_removal_mining) has negative impact on the environment as well as the beauty of the countryside. The video shows these negative impacts.

Around 11:15, the narrator in the video captures the challenges this mining town (and other such towns in West Virginia) faces: "They call this black gold (referring to coal load on a railway freight train) - coal. Many say its destroying the planet we live on. Others say, they just want jobs. No one really knows what to do."

The video shows an elementary school which is surrounded by a coal mining processing plant and has a "dam" holding huge amount of toxic waste situated close to and above the elementary school. The big danger mentioned in the video is of the toxic waste leaking from the dam into the school or even the dam giving way with the toxic waste liquid flooding/submerging the elementary school (for details, see http://auroralights.org/map_project/theme.php?theme=hazy&article=3).

Toward the end of the video, there is the good news of a mega donation which will help move the elementary school to a safe new place. The documentary video maker seems to have played a significant role in this donation coming through.

Then the video shows shots of the country roads of this town in West Virginia, the picturesque countryside and its people, with John Denver's great song, "Almost heaven, West Virginia" (Take Me Home, Country Roads) playing in the background.

In the 2016 USA presidential election campaigns, then candidate Donald Trump brought West Virginia and its coal miners in the spotlight, by attacking candidate Hillary Clinton as anti coal miners, and positioned himself as a champion and saviour of coal miners. Here's one video about a West Virginia poor county - McDowell county - from the Guardian, shortly before the November 2016 general elections (note that Guardian has anti Trump views which are expressed in this video but it also captures some frank views of those who are pro Trump): Why the poorest county in West Virginia has faith in Donald Trump | Anywhere but Washington, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqceHviNBC4, 10 min. 30 secs, published on 13th Oct. 2016.

The video notes that Trump got over 90 percent of the (Republican) primary vote in McDowell county!

My best wishes and prayers for the good and God loving folks in beautiful West Virginia to have decent jobs as well as retain their beautiful countryside.

Please note that I have a PUBLICLY NEUTRAL informal-student-observer role in these posts that I put up which touches upon USA politics. Of course, as I am an Indian citizen living in India, there is no question of me having voted in USA elections.

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