Sunday, March 15, 2009

Blowing the Tops Off Mountains

Here's another reason to to learn how to live well using less electricity, at least until there are better methods of producing it than oil and coal. Videos like this should be required viewing for everyone who uses electricity produced from burning coal.

Appalachian Voices is a website devoted to fighting the practice of mining coal via mountaintop removal. This process involves clear cutting the forests, then removing several hundred feet of soil and stone in order to expose seams of coal. This is done with explosives. The soil and stone are pushed off into valleys, disrupting the flow of streams and burying topsoil.

Homes and people located near the mining operations are damaged in the following ways: structural damage caused by the shock of the blasting; ground water contamination; flooding caused by blocking valley streams; polluted air caused by the blasting.

One of the most traumatic moments of my life was when I was around 10 years old. There was a creek I thought of as my friend. I knew the place it started, bubbling out of the ground and forming a pool that was ringed around with horsetail reeds. I would often follow the creek through the woods to where it joined a larger creek that had a sandy bottom and flowed through a pasture where the sun broke into hundreds of sparkling jewels on the water's surface. There were small black catfish that lived in the creek. I loved to sit very still with my feet in the water and let the black catfish nibble my toes. One day when I came to visit the creek, the water was black, and all the plants that lined the creek were dead. There was an oil well being drilled on a neighbor's land, and the drilling had somehow polluted the spring that fed my creek. I screamed and cried and beat my fists against the ground. I was furious with my parents, who did nothing about this terrible thing that had happened. Several months after the drilling had stopped, the spring ran clear again, and the creek looked almost as it had before. But I never again saw those black catfish.

It makes me cry to think of what's happening in Appalachia. I don't know whether any animal species will die off, never to return, as my catfish did; but the damage to the land is far, far more serious. Nature is robust, and spoiled land tends to recover surprisingly quickly. But I'd guess it will take hundreds, maybe thousands, of years for the mountains to recover from what the coal companies are doing.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautifully told, powerful story.

    There is no such thing as clean coal or oil. And this mountaintop mining should be stopped immediately. There is no way that this activity is not harming people and the entire environment that they live in. If the population of this area weren't so economically challenged I doubt that this would have been tolerated for so long.

    When you think about the production and use of coal from cradle to grave, it is one big dangerous dirty mess; decimating mountains and causing mudslides and erosion into the streams, sludge ponds that leak or flood into aquifers and streams, and finally the belching of C02 and all sorts of harmful particulates into the air.

    This madness must stop.