Let’s follow their example and retrain our American miners and other skilled workers.

“How to retrain coal miners and create new jobs”

Today, the scene at Zollverein is very different. Inside the coal washery where Heinz Spahn once worked—the largest building in the Zollverein mining complex—the air is clean, and its up to 8,000 miners have been replaced by one-and-a-half million tourists annually. The whole complex is now a UNESCO world heritage site: Spahn, who worked here as a fusion welder until the mine shut down on December 23, 1986, is employed as a guide to teach tourists about its history. “I know this building in and out. I know every screw,” he says fondly.

Zollverein is a symbol of Germany’s transition away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy—a program called the Energiewende that aims to have 80 percent of the country’s energy generated from renewables by 2050. That program has transformed Germany into a global poster child for green energy. But what does the transition mean for residents of Essen and the rest of the Ruhr region—the former industrial coal belt—whose lives and livelihoods have been dramatically altered by the reduced demand for coal? The answer to that could hold some useful lessons for those undergoing similar transitions elsewhere.


At Zollverein, the viewing platform offers a 360-degree view of the physical change the transformation has brought about. The Ruhr’s low-built cities intermingle with lush forests and parks. Amid smokestacks stand the spires of wind turbines. Zollverein’s 55-meter- (180-foot-) high winding tower, perched above the underground mine shaft, itself makes a striking contribution to the landscape: Since the mine’s revival it has been dubbed “the Eiffel Tower of the Ruhr,” highlighting an important trend: the cultural rebranding of the Ruhr’s industrial history.

People 30 years ago would have scoffed at the thought of holidaying here, says Frank Switala, a local tour guide who works at Zollverein. “Now the number of hotels has increased,” he says. “There are new museums. We have five philharmonic orchestras in the Ruhr area, and so many theaters.”

Read the full article here: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/germany-rsquo-s-transition-from-coal-to-renewables-offers-lessons-for-the-world/

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