Friday, June 20, 2008

Missing Mountains

I love this book. It starts out with a quote from Isaiah (one of my favorite books of the Bible) that says "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain..."

It has an Introduction by Silas House and an Afterword by Wendell Berry. It is a collection of essays, poems, stories, and personal testimonials by Kentuckians who oppose mountaintop removal--a coal-mining technique that destroys and devastates Kentucky's mountains and the creatures who live there.

None of these writers have a vendetta against the coal industry. They realize that coal mining is an important part of the economy, and it has allowed a hard working and determined people to rise out of poverty. But coal has been mined for decades without completely devastating the entire region. They make an eloquent plea for the proper respect to be returned to the spirit of the land and its people.

It is an emotional book that mourns the loss of woods and rolling pastures as well as the mountains themselves. The authors hope that this book will make the general public aware of the problem, and they want to use it to build hope for all the people who suffer in the shadow of mountaintop removal. It is their stories that matter. Stories of water that ran red as blood with sulfur, or one where a man had to drill five wells in a year's time because the mining blasts caused every one of them to go dry. As Silas House says in the Introduction, "It is mind-boggling that the whole nation is talking about Alaska being drilled for oil, yet no one cares that Appalachia has been systematically scalped for the last 28 years." As one woman at a town meeting said, "I don't care what anybody says, the Arctic Circle isn't a bit more worthy of respect than my mountains."

Thanks to the internet, one can view satellite photographs of the region described. Google Maps has a feature which overlays maps of highways over satellite photographs. These photographs from space clearly show the devastation. Simply search for "Ary, KY", click on satellite view, zoom in and out a bit and observe the region east of Hazard along Highway 80 between Hazard and Hindman.

As John Muir said "Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountain is going home: that wildness is necessity: that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life."

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