Monday, December 20, 2010

Glorifying Coal...AT THE MALL!!!

Going in, I had very low expectations for a trip to the shopping mall several days before Christmas, but at least I knew my son and I could spend an hour watching the model railroad trains set up in the atrium.  This year, I was horrified to see an underlying coal theme in the train vignettes!  Yep, that's a coal train chugging along below.

A big train tugged coal cars around the snowy mountain and there were several large piles of coal on the snow, including one next to a house.  The only thing missing were mountains with their peaks sheared off, slag heaps and tailings ponds.

There was a sly reference to the BP oil spill (below) but the creator seemed clueless about the impact of coal on the environment.  Nothing says Christmas like airborne coal particles soiling the new-fallen snow.  But the first thing I thought of Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway's purchase of Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad, which many analysts saw it as a bullish call on coal because BNSF is the major hauler of coal across the West.  Fortunately, the train at the mall was pulled by a Rio Grande locomotive.

But still, coal?  Like any kid, I used to romanticize trains, but coal was an ever present concept that I didn't understand at the time.  My son has developed a recent fascination with trains and (the creepy) Thomas the Tank Engine, and the introduction to the show features the coal mine on the Island of Sodor.  Coal seems unavoidable, but it's hard to make a three year old understand carbon content, mercury levels and particulate pollution.  

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