On The Road: Three Observations From London

May 16, 2014

World Views host Suzette Grillot starts a three-country, four-city, five-week tour of Europe this week for her work as the Dean of the College of International Studies at the University of Oklahoma. This week she’s in London with OU Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Clarke Stroud.

Turkey's Mining Disaster Resonates in England

Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan evoked England’s history of coal mining in the early 19th and 20th centuries this week during a press conference following the death of hundreds of miners in his country. Erdogan said mine accidents were “ordinary things” that happened in many countries, including England and the United States.

Stroud says news that two of England’s three remaining deep coal mines could soon close started conversations in the United Kingdom this week, not necessarily because of safety, but because of the implications for jobs and income tax revenue.

“One of the indicators for the closure of these mines was cheaper American coal coming over,” Stroud says. “As America moves toward shale-based oil and natural gas, what's happened is American coal is cheaper, so it's not profitable anymore for these mines to operate.”

So Do Industrial Lessons From Across The Atlantic

As coal is traded on the global market and mines pop up in countries like Turkey and China, industry pressure causes longtime coal producers like Britain to suffer. Stroud compares it to the decline of the American steel industry in the 20th century.

“We watched international steel and cheaper steel come over, and really change the face of what we now call the Rust Belt in the U.S.,” Stroud says. “So England is really having to struggle through making decisions about how they're going to go forward, and what their commitment is going to be to coal.”

Culturally Diverse, But Economically Homogenous

Stroud describes London as a cosmopolitan, international city, with nearly four in 10 residents born overseas. But he says there’s very little socioeconomic diversity.

“These are wealthier people who are living here because this city is so expensive,” Stroud says. “This is Europe's most populous city, and it's attracting Europeans from all over the continent. [An OU alumna Stroud and Grillot met with] pays $8,000 for a 1,000 square feet in a flat. It's just mind-boggling.”

KGOU relies on voluntary contributions from readers and listeners to further its mission of public service with internationally focused reporting for Oklahoma and beyond. To contribute to our efforts, make your donation online, or contact our Membership department.