The Raping and Mutilation of Appalachia... Who Will Stop It?

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Sun, 02/28/2010 - 7:15pm.

I live in a war zone. Mountain top removal coal mining is blasting apart my extraordinarily beautiful home state of West Virginia. And I need your help... Carol Warren

When I stand at a mountain top-mining site, I cry. It is the only sane reaction to the horror, to the daily thunder of explosives that blasts 800 to 1,000 feet off the tops of mountains, turning green ridgelines to dust and rubble, to lifeless moonscape, for cheap energy. The same coal could be removed by cleaner, though more expensive means, but it isn't done. Something to think about each time we turn on the lights.

Entire communities are being forced to evacuate their ancestral homes, overcome by the incessant blasting, disease, and depression. If America were doing this to another nation, we would scream foul. But here we are, doing this unspeakable harm to our own people.

One coal operator compared a mountaintop removal project favorably to the Grand Canyon. "Out West they think this is a tourist attraction!" he exalted. There's a big difference—the Appalachian Mountains aren't supposed to look this way. They are home to the most diverse hardwood forests in the nation, with beautiful clear running streams tumbling down into their hollows. The coal companies leave Mother Earth for dead. "Reclamation" is a farce. You can't restore a poisoned hell-scape.

PHOTO... A view of Kayford Mountain in West Virginia.

The mountain top has been demolished in order to extract coal. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Dozens of little communities have vanished. Coal operators prefer not to be besieged by complaints about blasting, flyrock, and poisoned water, so they simply buy out families. The pitch goes something like this: "We're going to be mining over the ridge top, and we'll need your hollow for our valley fill. You can stay, but we can't be responsible for your safety." The home purchase agreements often include language requiring former residents to move a good distance away, and that they, under no circumstance ever return.

Often, residents resist, determined to keep their homes. But the coal company agents know how to break a community down—offering one homeowner a much higher price than a neighbor, or spreading rumors that others have secretly agreed to sell.

In one little town a woman refused to budge. The agent approached her husband while she was at work, found out that several relatives shared in the property's deed, negotiated a high price with them, and cut the woman's home out from under her.

The companies stop at absolutely nothing to undermine a community and get to its coal. An industry attorney suggested in 2000 that, "The state should make annual assistance grants … to low-income families who choose to relocate outside of West Virginia … and should condemn the land of stubborn people in the way of a permitted surface mine project." Put in clear terms, Big Coal would be most happy if our state were utterly depopulated. Then they would be free to destroy land and water with impunity.

For those who stay, disease and death await. Coal slurry contains a witch's brew of chemicals, the formula for which is a "trade secret." Coal companies legally inject it directly into the ground, then claim surprise, or deny any connection, when toxins migrate into groundwater and people's wells.

Photo... Activist Pauline Canterberry holding a jar of dirty water which she had collected after cleaning the filter of her air conditioner. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Many of my close friends live in places where the tap water runs orange or black. They aren't stupid; they don't drink it. But they have no option but to wash clothes with it, to shower and bathe in it. In some small West Virginia towns, almost everyone is sick. Folks suffer from bizarre kidney and liver ailments, and multiple cases of very rare cancers. Jim, a single parent and friend, weeps as he wonders who will care for his two young sons when his diseased liver fails.

Even when we die, we cannot rest in peace. Rural family cemeteries become besieged islands in the sky encircled by blasted terrain. Sometimes a coal company conveniently forgets the prescribed cemetery buffer zone, denying knowledge of a burial ground. It was wrenching to my friend Walter to learn that his grandma, who wanted to rest forever at a particular spot she loved, had had her bones become part of a valley fill highwall. If we bulldozed Arlington Cemetery or other of America's hallowed grounds, the people would rise up enraged. That consideration is not extended to our coalfield dead.

Most West Virginians are Christians with deeply held religious beliefs. Our mountain mists remind us of the Creator's mystery. Our hollows, of God's loving embrace. The rocks, of the strength of our faith. When we see the results of mountaintop removal, we see not only destruction, but also desecration—it is wrong. Where is our president? Our Congress? Our courts? Our democracy? Justice? It must be stopped. Will you help?


Carol Warren - February 26, 2010 - source TheEpochTimes

Carol Warren is a tenth-generation West Virginian who has spent most of her adult life working for social justice in the Appalachian Mountains.

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Sun, 02/28/2010 - 7:15pm.