Beyond Coal - 2017 - Present
Lizzie Jones sat quietly looking over patches of dirt and gravel as a warm wind pushed gold strands of hair from her face. She had come to visit her parents, both of them buried in the hillside of this gravesite in Eastern Kentucky. Sitting quietly, letting herself “just be,” was her way of having an internal dialogue with them. “Even though they are not here, I feel like their memories are still alive,” she said.
During her sophomore year of high school, Lizzie’s father passed after a tumultuous battle with black lung. Just over a year later, her mother followed. Lizzie still isn’t positive what killed her mother. She has a theory that part of it was the heartbreak from losing her life-long partner. Both of them were proud coal miners; they even met in the mines. Still, Lizzie has a complex relationship with coal. She understands that her parents’ killer was the very thing that gave them a stable life. She sees herself as an example of both the prosperity and devastation caused by the coal industry.
During the 2016 presidential election, then candidate Donald Trump promised to bring economic prosperity to hurting regions in Appalachia. He said he could bolster the coal economy by repealing the Obama administration's legacy of environmental protections. Then candidate Hillary Clinton said it was time to move away from coal and echoed decades of speculation that the industry would soon die off.