Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.
Two teams of producers are traversing the country as part of CNN Radio and CNN iReport's Embed America project. They're talking to voters about how the 2012 presidential election affects them, and focusing on issues identified during phase 1 of the iReport debate.
CNN visited Hopedale, Ohio, to meet iReporter Amanda Sedgmer. She's the mother of five children and the wife and daughter of a coal miner. Sedgmer told CNN she feared that if President Obama was re-elected, her family's way of life would be threatened. At the same time, competition from natural gas and a new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency are contributing to the demise of some coal plants. The resulting story garnered thousands of comments. One topic the readers discussed was how other fields have changed due to circumstances. Some offered messages of hope for Hopedale.
The decline of auto manufacturing jobs in the Midwest left this reader out in the cold, and she offered advice to Sedgmer.
Jakes_momma: "Ms. Sedgmer, please don't blame the POTUS for the decline in coal production. The energy industry is changing. Coal was once king, now it's natural gas. That's not the government, that's industry moving on. If you and your husband are smart, you'll make a change quickly and leave the area, as much as it saddens me to tell you that. I've had to leave my childhood home of central Indiana when the auto industry shut plant after plant after plant in the city we lived in during the '80s. There are no longer good paying production jobs of any quantity in that area. We didn't wait until the last plant closed to leave, we sold our home and moved on. We would have loved to have had a GM job like our dads but it was not in our control. You may be voting for Romney but you would be wise to keep the Obama 2012 slogan in mind - 'Forward.' What is really in the future of the coal industry regardless of who is president is more closures. I think they have fracking in Ohio; that's the future (at least short-term). Good luck to you, your family and your area! It's hard and very sad to watch an industry change, even if it's better for all."
Some said readers should try to be understanding of the family.
Andrea Dawn Bignall: "If you were in their situation, you would probably do the same. They have kids to think about, and jobs are harder to come by nowadays. Yeah, its bad for the environment, but so is driving you car back and forth to work everyday. Put yourself in someone else's shoes."
One commenter asked if the family is lucky, in a strange way.
whitefences: "Yes. Families like this one have a head start in planning for change. They should be doing so. To help themselves through the inevitable."
Progress happens, said this reader, who added that they feel skeptical of "clean coal" technologies.
boogbop: "I can understand that this lady is scared of the only way of life she has known disappearing but it is the way of progress. It happened to whalers in New England and blacksmiths all over the world. If she thought about it she is really wishing for her sons to enter one of the most dangerous profession in the world and for her daughters to marry those who practice these professions. Clean coal in an invention of the industry and relying on coal for electrical production might be cheap on the moment but is incredibly expensive in the long run when you start factoring in the health costs associated with the extraction and use of coal and the environmental coasts. If the coal mining industry disappears people will survive and prosper just like the whalers did."
At least one person was critical of liberals' record on energy.
FareTaxVoter: "Liberals have failed to give us alternative energy for 50 years. I don't see them coming through any time soon."
Another suggested alt-energy projects be used to put people to work.
Adam Collins: "Couldn't we build alternative fuel plants in these coal mining communities? Build a series of windmills, and solar panels (maybe even nuclear power?) and hire the people who would lose their jobs to the declining coal business."
This reader said they are concerned about the possibility of pollution as a consequence of coal mining.
kat17954: "I have lived in anthracite coal country Pennsylvania my entire life. The few jobs that coal mining has left (most work done by heavy machinery) are nothing compared to the environmental devastation felt by everyone in these communities. ... Don't get me wrong, coal has its place in nostalgia for me, but it is TIME to move on to cleaner more efficient sources of power across the grid."
Several readers said they sympathize with Sedgmer, but believe the energy industry must advance.
BlueVibe: "Unfortunately, you can't support the coal industry without also supporting massive, and irremediable, environmental destruction. Once it's gone, it's gone. This is a way of life that needs to evolve into something else. I'm not a tree-hugger, but coal is just not sustainable over the long run. These people need to realize that they're smart enough to learn new ways of life and not insist on continuing this because it's basically a cultural habit. It's one we can't afford."
Zorf: "Clean coal technology is a marketing scam dreamt up by the coal industry. It doesn't exist."
A few asked about other industries that have declined in the past as technology progressed.
JeremyClarksonEsquire: "We cant hold the world back (or in this case damage it) because people want to keep their outdated jobs. Should we save the steamboat industry too? The typewriter industry? How is coal mining any different than all the other jobs that were replaced with better things? If these people are too stubborn to adapt and find a new job then its not our problem, barely anyone gets to keep the same job their whole life, things change, coal is dead, learn something new like everyone else."
Boater39: "When the telephone company became automated and no longer required manual switchboard operators, a lot of people lost their jobs. That's what progress is all about. Should we go back to the stone ages of technology so those people should have kept their jobs? Or, should have those switchboard operators learned new trades?"
Vivek Saxena: "I totally feel this lady's struggle. However, that's life. As an example, the Google Penguin/Panda algorithm update destroyed a lot of people's online careers. So should Google reverse the update because of this? Absolutely not! Change is necessary to root out mediocrity. Likewise, coal must - and will in due time - GO. It's an antiquated, environmentally unfriendly method of energy procurement. Some will suffer, but again, that's life!"
And then, this reader noted her need to "go where the money is."
cyberidian: "I so agree with all these comments. I would have liked to be a teacher, like my mother before me, but the need to pay off my college loans turned me into a programmer. I would still rather teach kids than write code, but too bad for me. Economic reality shapes our lives and we must accept it, so I am a programmer and volunteer with the Girl Scouts. My point is sometimes you have to go where the money is even if you would have preferred to continue the family tradition - or accept having less money. Also I was a Dramatic Literature major and would have also liked a career in the arts, but there is no money there either. Did I cry and blame the president because the arts are underfunded and Dramatic Literature degree won't get you a job? No, I hit the books, learned to program and got a job with those skills."
What's your take on coal mining and alternative energy? Have you ever had to change your career direction because of changes in the business climate or technology? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.
Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.