Front Porch Blog

Thirty Days in the Life of a Coal Miner

Morgan Spurlock made his first splash in the entertainment industry with his Academy Award nominated documentary entitled Super Size Me. In the film, Spurlock ate only McDonald’s food for thirty days. Americans were astonished by the effects this had on his body, and Super Size Me became a hit. The popularity of the movie even led to McDonald’s decision to remove its famous Super Size option from its menu all across the United States, although the company denies that this move had anything to do with Spurlock’s film.

More recently, Spurlock has been working on a television project. Now in its third season, 30 Days chronicles his and other Americans’ experiences spending thirty days doing a variety of things they would not normally do. Examples include an NFL quarterback spending thirty days in a wheelchair, and atheist spending thirty days living with a fundamentalist Christian family, and a man opposed to illegal immigration spending thirty days living with a family of illegal immigrants.

The third season premiered on June 3, 2008 with an episode that was truly interesting. Entitled “Working in a Coal Mine,” the episode sent Spurlock himself to his home state of West Virginia to view the coal debate from a new perspective, that of the miner himself. Spurlock completed an eighty hour training course in coal mining and safety and then set off on his adventure. He spent thirty days in Bolt, West Virginia in the home of a miner named Dale and his wife.

Besides living with a family that had been mining coal for generations, Spurlock operated under two other rules during his thirty days. He worked regular shifts in a coal mine, facing the same risks the other miners did. He also set out to explore the impact of coal mining on the environment.

During his time in West Virginia, Spurlock gained a new perspective on coal mining. He experienced firsthand the dangers of mining when he and his fellow workers were evacuated for fear of an explosion. He witnessed the horror of black lung through Dale’s brother, who could not walk up the driveway without trouble breathing, and through Dale’s own diagnosis near the end of Spurlock’s time in Bolt, WV.

Spurlock also saw the damaging effects of coal mining on the surrounding environment. While traversing the mining area with a new found mining friend, Spurlock saw deposits if toxic coal slurry and was alarmed when his friend told him that when it rains, the water runs black. He was also introduced to the destructive mountaintop removal mines near the town of Bolton, and his experiences led him to reflect on the future of our nation’s energy supply. He came to the conclusion that with only 250 estimated years of coal capacity left in United States and the harm coal brings not only to the miners themselves but to the larger environment as a whole, the country should begin to look for cleaner, renewable sources of energy.

This show is a must-watch for anyone interested in the coal debate. It goes beyond environmentalists and their arguments, beyond the advertisements and lobbying efforts of the coal and utility companies, and hits rights at the heart of the issue: what effects do coal mining have on our nation’s land and people?

To watch the episode, visit





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