A recent trip south before Easter led to my poem and to this piece,
What we’re doing to nature and to ourselves brings utter sadness to me.
“In place of untouched natural landscape,
You can now see only a barren wasteland.
You hear the desperate cries of a mother bear,
Who knows that she and her cubs are doomed.”
The National Wildlife Federation
In the last two decades, Mountaintop Removal Mining (MTR) in America’s Appalachian Mountains has already destroyed or severely damaged more than a million acres of forest, and buried nearly 2,000 miles of streams, and destroyed countless numbers of lives – both human and animal. And this is only the beginning.
First, the mountain forests are clear-cut, destroying all living vegetation and all wildlife habitat. Next, explosives up to 100 times as strong as those that tore open the Oklahoma City Federal building blast up to 800 feet off the tops of these mountains.
Huge shovels then dig into the soil, and trucks push all the dirt into adjacent valleys below.
A dragline dips into the rock to expose the coal inside the mountains – machines weigh up to 8 million pounds, and are as tall as a 20-story building. These machines allow the coal companies to hire fewer workers.
Gigantic machines then scoop out the layers of coal, dumping millions of tons of ‘overburden’ into narrow adjacent valleys below, quickly filling them up, and burying everything below.
Coal companies are supposed to reclaim all this land after mining is completed, but there is absolutely no enforcement of this today, so these mountaintop mine sites are left stripped, and bare, and now, lifeless.
And now, in addition to all this horrific destruction of our own mountains, we are learning of bulldozers recently blazing right over the entrance to a bear’s den, burying a mother bear and her cubs alive.
From The National Wildlife Federation:
“In place of expansive, untouched natural landscape, you now see only a barren wasteland. You can hear the desperate cries of a mother bear who knows that she and her cubs are doomed.”
This heartbreaking account came from a local resident who witnessed this tragic bulldozing in his own backyard. It exemplifies the grim reality for bears and for all other types of wildlife in America’s Appalachian Mountains today.
In my poem, I mentioned another local resident who had to fight to save his family’s 200-year old cemetery before it, too, was blown away. Many other residents have not been as fortunate.
Scientific studies also show that mountaintop removal mining has extremely serious environmental impacts, including the complete loss of biodiversity. There are also adverse human health risks, which result from constant contact with now polluted streams and exposure to airborne toxins and dust.
Blasting at MTR sites expels dust and fly-rock into the air, which quickly settles onto private property nearby. This dust contains sulfur compounds, which corrode structures and has been proven to be a severe health hazard for anyone living in or near these mountains.
Mountaintop Removal Mining is an extremely destructive and unsustainable modern day practice that only benefits a small number of corporations, at the expense of local communities and our environment. There is the physical alteration of the landscape, the damage done to the environment, the environmental damage done by the burning of coal for power, and the countless number of both human and animal lives lost.
Yet, despite all of this, our ‘leaders’ and the coal industry continue to so proudly proclaim that ‘Coal Is Our Future.’
The Last Mountain: