Interesting take on our society. And I really can't say I disagree entirely, but I think that my "outside" perspective differs from yours. I'll play devils advocate for a moment and say that I think the problem is and will be much more widespread.
I was born and raised around the Detroit area. Up until I left for college, I had lived there my whole life. I had never heard of people using coal for anything. Why? Well, Michigan isn't really known for coal. But I did hear a lot about automobiles. Detroit has a huge culture with cars. They have since the beginning and will until cars are no more. But lets think about 100 years from now. Michigan auto manufacturers are in trouble. They continue to lay people off and with foreign cars gaining an edge in our country, I really don't see a whole lot of future for Detroit -- sad, but true. In 30 years, no one will even think anything of Detroit when they see autos. They will think that Toyota, Nissan, Honda are cars and the memory and history of Detroit will be lost.
Leaving Detroit, I moved to Houghton MI to go to college. This town was mainly Finnish (in fact the street signs still had the Finnish street names up until the recent past). It was a copper mining town and has a huge history. But guess what? Copper isn't mined up there any more and the history is dying with the older generation who were directly connected to those who worked the mines. Again, sad but true.
I have also spent a brief time in Rochester NY. Eastman Kodak was huge. It was the history and one of the driving forces for the economy. Guess what? Gone.
Now I'm in Binghamton NY. IBM was huge here too. Gone.
What I'm getting at is that it's not an isolated problem. We're forgetting our history and that can't be good. We think of our country as a global melting pot and think this is a good thing. We continue to take on the identity of those cultures that have been brought here, but we are severely lacking any culture of our own. Everyone always talks about baseball and apple pie. Truth be told, apples were shunned by our founding fathers for the same reason they were shunned in Europe -- the Devils food. Baseball as well can be traced back to Rounders -- a non-American game.
Lets get serious here and think what we do in this country to promote the country itself? We've taken freedom of speech to an extreme and parents yell and scream that schools are allowing prayer (well -- perhaps not anymore). We get Martin Luther King day off, but not Washington's Birthday? I'm really not saying one man was greater than another, but it does seem that we are somewhat loosing our roots.
What's more, affirmative action requires us to diversify the workplace regardless of job skill. It's forced upon us to accept anyone and everyone and therefore, any and all cultures and beliefs. But the cost of this is that we loose the history and pride in ourselves.
I realize that perhaps people don't share all my views and that this site may not be the best place to post this. If anyone has any problems, PM me and I'll remove the soapbox part of this post. This is a topic that has a very immediate urgency to me and perhaps I can get worked up about such things.
Bringing the discussion back to coal, it's a true shame that we are forgetting our roots. It's a shame that we are forgetting all the men and women who made the development of this nation possible whether it be coal, copper, autos, etc...
All in all, just my $0.02. Take it for what it is.