Mountaintop Removal

Megan - Mount Airy, Maryland
Entered on October 22, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: environment

I believe that the American demand for fossil fuels will destroy the Appalachian Mountains. Earlier this year I took a Human Ecology course at Frederick Community College. It was the most eye-opening class I have ever taken, yet it was also disturbing.

My project for the semester was on mountaintop removal coal mining. Instead of digging deep into the earth to excavate coal, this form of strip mining requires the use of millions of tons of explosives to blast the peaks off the mountains. After the coal is extracted from the debris, what is left over—trees, rocks, and lots of dirt—is dumped into nearby valleys, burying and polluting rivers and streams.

Before taking that course I had no idea what strip mining was. I had no idea that something so destructive was happening so close to my home. I also had no idea that money, was so important to some people that it justified blowing up a mountain. Once the mountains are gone there is no rebuilding them. I felt an overwhelming degree of helplessness; this is an awful thing happening, but I don’t think my opposing opinion would have any effect on the large, money-making companies. I would hate to live in an area where I could hear explosives going off several times a day, everyday. To hear that and realize the earth is being blown apart only a few miles away and know that there is little I can do to stop it is a sickening thought. I briefly considered physically standing in their way, but quickly came to my senses and realized that solution would be only temporary and, more than likely, result in my arrest.

Mountaintop removal occurs throughout the Appalachian Mountains, affecting Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia. When I first read the list of states, I could not believe how close I live to such devastation. Less than a two-hour drive from my home in Maryland would put me right in the heart of mountaintop removal country: West Virginia.

After I graduate from college, and have some extra time to relax before starting my career, I might want to do some enjoyable things for myself (hiking, camping, skiing, etc.). But I will not be able to do any outdoor activities in the Appalachian Mountains—in less than ten years they will be gone. It is upsetting that this has been going on for so long and almost unregulated.

Fifty years from now, when the mountains are gone and there is no more coal in the area, the subject of mountaintop removal coal mining will not be as prominent a subject in human ecology, but rather in history courses. Fifty years from now, the blasting and the clearing of trees will have ceased; the pollution from mountaintop removal will not be increasing anymore; but, the coal sludge impoundments will remain a problem for many years to come. Fifty years from now, we will look back and realize what we have done and what we have lost. It is an unfortunate ending for the mountains, which will see no justice.