A key question as we make the long transition to a sustainable and renewable economy and culture is the role of individual responsibility and personal lifestyle. In the end, our individual behavior as "consumers" adds up to the crisis of sustainability, but the causes of this crisis are far from simple.
Conflicted public or not, the state's politicians from both parties have consistently and confidently sided with coal. It remains to be seen whether it is because they have been bought by industry campaign contributions or ultimately mesmerized by the state's century old cultural dependency on coal, just like so many of their constituents.
Clearly, no one country can solve its own environmental problems by itself, let alone those that circle the planet. But better-off nations can share their technological expertise with the pollution-ridden Third World counties, provide resources when possible, and follow a lifestyle that sets a sustainable example.
The crisis of sustainability is a distinctly global crisis, but one that manifests itself in different ways in different places. As we learn more about how to solve problems caused by West Virginia's chemical contamination of its drinking water, we may have lessons to offer local governments in China.