Monday, November 06, 2006

A Google Earth view: Mountaintop removal

People who live in the coal mining regions of West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky know about mountaintop removal.
It's the easy way to get coal. Instead of tunneling under the surface, or stripping away the overburden along the mountain contours, you just blast off the entire peak, dump it in the valleys, remove the coal and leave a nice flat top covered with quick-growing grass and trees.
That's "nice" if you like your mountains decapitated.
Or if you don't mind the hydrology destroyed, to say nothing of old communities of people and other living creatures.
The problem is, most people don't see this. It happens in fairly unpopulated areas, and even if you see some of it from the interstate, the scope of this damage isn't visible.
Now it is.
A new website uses Google Earth technology along with photos and videos from activists and local residents to show exactly what's going on.
Take a look. It's a good counterbalance to the claims that this process is worthwhile because it provides flat land for development, and all those TV ads with cute kids telling us about how much coal we have in this country.
Yes, we do have coal. And it can help feed our energy needs. But coal has always come at a huge cost. As a longtime resident of West Virginia, I remember the miners with broken bodies and dust-clogged lungs. I remember the mine cracks that made fields unusuable and shattered homes. I remember streams running red from spilled acid water. I remember the (old-fashioned) stripmined areas that never looked natural, but at least preserved the general appearance of an area. With time, nature could heal those wounds. I don't know that the mountains will rebuild themselves any time soon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mountaintop Removal, a subject close to home. I'm glad I don't live right in the decapitation area. Our claim to fame in Calhoun County WV is the oil and gas industry. With all these natural resources you would think that we'd be as rich as Texans, but instead this is one of the poorest states in the country. A Roane county Judge put the fear of God into the oil and gas community recently, but they are crying sour grapes and threatening to take their business elsewhere. Yea, right! Peak oil and all that. If they don't want it, somebody else will...

The reason that WV is so poor is, well, idiots. Instead of beheading mountains, building bigger and better trailer parks, and trying to "run with the big dogs", we should be promoting our old-time heritage and natural beauty as if our very lives depended on it (they do) so that LOTS of tourists would flock here to spend their money. Maybe then folks would take some pride in their home. These guys are trying to move entire mountains but you can't get a soul interested in picking up the damn trash! Go figure.

Val, we both came to the mountains and became a part of them. We both felt a need to SAY SOMETHING. And we both found our ways.

Get in touch. You know how to do it. Google Prophets Thumb (the band) or CalhounUnderground, my blog.



Earthmother and McCloud