When cancer is spread throughout, as a last resort, doctors sometimes have to remove the most sensuous and beautiful places on a woman’s body. They do it to save her life. They do it with a scalpel.
When coal seams are spread throughout, and as a cost-saving measure, coalminers often remove the most sublime and beautiful places on Mother Earth. They do it for the money. They do it with dynamite.
The environmental impact of mountain-top-removal mining (henceforth MTR) is hideous on every front. Some of the most diverse habitat in the country is replaced with exotic grass. Headwaters to major rivers are buried in backfill and retention ponds for toxic slurry. Increased rain run-off has cause massive flooding problems for local communities. Blasting breaks the foundations of nearby homes. Wells either run dry, drained by the blasts, or run black, off the charts with heavy metals. More than a million acres have already been destroyed, and 1,200 miles of streams buried. Paradise is rendered an uninhabitable wasteland.
The defense is usually an argument from economics, but even this has proved bankrupt. MTR employs more machines and less people than underground mining. A recent study revealed that in Kentucky subsidies to coal mining exceeded revenues from it by $115 million.
The time to act is ripe. There are bills on the table to help address this. The senate is currently considering the Appalachia Restoration Act, which would prohibit filling in valleys. A report on the senate hearing.
Nonviolent, direct action is also increasing, and the opportunities are plentiful. Former NASA climatologist, James Hansen, and former WV representative, Ken Hechler, were among those arrested at the recent Coal River protest.
For more information and ways to help, look at the websites of Mountain Justice, Christians for the Mountains and ilovemountains.org. Also, the documentary “Burning the Future” is excellent and invaluable.