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.