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The Colorado Springs Gazette

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The western United States continues to battle a ferocious wildfire season that has seen record-breaking fires in several states. The worst of the blazes is the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado, blamed for two deaths, for forcing 35,000 residents to evacuate, and for the destruction of at lest 346 homes. The area around Colorado Springs has been declared a federal disaster area after the most destructive fire in state history. Wildfires have also destroyed property and forced evacuations in California, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, and New Mexico. [Editors' note: There will be no Big Picture on the Wednesday, July 4 holiday.] -- Lane Turner (38 photos total)
The Waldo Canyon fire burns an entire neighborhood near the foothills of Colorado Springs, Colo. on June 26, 2012. Colorado endured nearly a week of 100-plus-degree days and low humidity, sapping moisture from timber and grass, creating a devastating formula for volatile wildfires across the state and punishing conditions for firefighters. (Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post/Associated Press)

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Coal occupies a central position in modern human endeavors. Last year over 7000 megatons were mined worldwide. Powerful, yet dirty and dangerous, use of coal is expanding every year, with 2010 witnessing a production increase of 6.8%. Around 70 countries have recoverable reserves, which some estimates claim will last for over a hundred years at current production levels. Mining for coal is one of the world's most dangerous jobs. While deadliest in China, where thousands of miners die annually, the profession is still hazardous in the West and other regions as well. Our mining and use of coal accounts for a variety of environmental hazards, including the production of more CO2 than any other source. Other concerns include acid rain, groundwater contamination, respiratory issues, and the waste products which contain heavy metals. But our lives as lived today rely heavily on the combustible sedimentary rock. Over 40% of the world's electricity is generated by burning coal, more than from any other source. Chances are that a significant percentage of the electricity you're using to read this blog was generated by burning coal. Gathered here are images of coal extraction, transportation, and the impact on environment and society. The first eight photographs are by Getty photographer Daniel Berehulak, who documented the lives of miners in Jaintia Hills, India. -- Lane Turner (48 photos total)
22-year-old Shyam Rai from Nepal makes his way through tunnels inside of a coal mine 300 ft beneath the surface on April 13, 2011 near the village of Latyrke, in the district of Jaintia Hills, India. In the Jaintia hills, located in India's far northeast state of Meghalaya, miners descend to great depths on slippery, rickety wooden ladders. Children and adults squeeze into rat hole like tunnels in thousands of privately owned and unregulated mines, extracting coal with their hands or primitive tools and no safety equipment. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

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