Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mountaintop Apocalypse: Coal Mining and the Destruction of Rural America

I wrote this a while back, and it somehow got saved as a draft instead of posting. So here it is...

I finally got to watch the Focus Earth episode about mountaintop coal mining this morning. That was a quick way to run my blood pressure up. The West Viginia mountains are home to the richest vein of coal in the country, and coal companies are blasting the hell out of the area to get to it. The issue has recently come to the forefront because of famous activists such as Darryl Hannah, but people in the WV hills have been dealing with it for years.

According to the coal companies, they're doing the people of WV and the nation a favor by supplying the fossil fuel, and in some ways, they're almost right. Extremely rural areas of the South are notoriously underdeveloped, and coal mines do provide jobs for some. However, even if they are providing some form of employment, is it worth the consequences? Areas near the mines are covered in coal dust, which causes chronic health problems for the residents. Toxic sludge pollutes the water and land. Not to mention what it's doing to that stretch of the Appalachians. Then you have the problem of what the coal is being mined for...Coal-powered power plants spew tons of pollutants into our air everyday, but instead of weaning the industry from coal, more coal-powered plants are being built all the time. And it isn't just the immediate areas around the plants that are suffering. Polluted air travels well away from the area causing acid rain, which destroys forests, lakes, wildlife, you name it.

So what's the solution? Companies claim that if mining stopped tomorrow, the towns would lose half their population because people would leave for work. I can't argue with that; as I said, the rural South has little development to speak of. Build solar cell factories there, recycling plants, green'd give the people sustainable green jobs and eliminate the problems of coal mining--health and otherwise.

Trust me on this: destroy the rural areas of this country, and the rest will follow.

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