Big Coal and other extraction-based industries

Mountaintop removal coal mininga corporate and globally driven, greed-bent destruction of 680 million year old mountains and associated ecosystems in order to furnish only 7% of the total electricity supply in the U.S.

Everyone knows Big Coal is dirty, though many don’t like to use that word because it is often associated with extremist environmentalism. I’ll say it: Big Coal is dirty because it certainly is not clean, and the environmental price tag of MTR coal is awful hefty, too. We Americans take for granted our energy resources we get from Big Coal and Big Oil & Gas without sitting down to think about the ecological consequences those extraction-based industries have – water pollution, noise pollution, air pollution, land fragmentation, wildlife habitat destruction, native plant habitat destruction… I could go on an on.  The one damage that really got my attention is the fact that mountaintop removal coal mining is directly proportionate to the poverty rate in Central Appalachia.  The human cost of coal isn’t pretty either.  Modern “progress” will always deliver ecological damages – there’s just too many human beings competing with ecological processes and functions, land and water, and all the plants and wildlife. Some people just choose to ignore the legacy effects of the myriad of damages, while others talk about it once or twice and that’s it. Others still, talk about it and get out and become activists in whatever capacity they can.

To put it simply, “if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.”

Right click the play button above to open the link in a new tab or window to view the excellent documentary about the damages caused by mountaintop removal coal mining.  It has a sobering, angry message, great cinematography, and very good interviews – minus the ones from the senior VP of the West Virgina Coal Association, of course.

What we do to the land, we do to the people.”

Appalachia gets dealt a double-whammy these days – it gets its mountains leveled and destroyed, then it gets kicked while it’s down and showered in a short-sighted, ignorant band-aid mix of “reclamation grasses”, such as Orchardgrass (Dactylis glomeratus), a native of Africa; Foxtail-Millet (Setaria italica) – Eurasia; Redtop (Agrostis gigantea) – Europe; Weeping Lovegrass (Eragrostis curvula) – Africa; Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis) – Europe; Smooth Brome (Bromus inermis) – Europe; and Timothygrass (Phelum pratense), another lost European import.  None of these grasses belong on leveled mountaintops in Appalachia, much less in North America.  And then there’s the non-native legumes they use – White Clover (Trifolium repens), a native of Europe and North and West Africa; Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) – Eurasia, and Chinese Lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata), a native of China.  What is so wrong with the native flora of Appalachia that they can’t be used to heal the scars made by the globalized greed of corporate America?  Not a thing.  Corporate America is just ignorant and full of ecological apathy, whose company vision extends no further than the width of a dollar bill.

My thoughts are this: the land owes us nothing, as it was here first.  And so too were its water, wind, wildlife, and plants.  We already rely too heavily on our taken-for-granted resources that it sometimes seems near impossible to switch to alternative energy sources, especially when something as silly as politics gets in the way and negatively infringes on our conservation values – take the recent and childish government shutdown, for example, which thankfully has been ended for now.

Clean energy won’t happen overnight, it’s going to take 50-60 years to change people’s stubbornly cemented minds, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start yesterday.  Until the tide of ecological apathy turns in the minds of millions, Mr. Peabody’s coal train will keep on hauling it all away.

Note: For more maps and data on mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia, click here.

Watch the trailer below for an upcoming documentary on coal exports and its environmental effects in the Pacific Northwest.

John Prine’s classic, “Paradise”, is worth a listen and his lyrics are still true today.


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