What's New In Environmental Destruction: Feb Edition

Clearly there is now a growing need for a special section at the bookstore on Mountaintop Removal (MTR). We made a section at this blog for MTR posts when we started, since it is an issue of local immediacy (I'm close to the Appalachian mountains being blown up, at least regionally speaking), a clear case in need of more attention from environmental ethicists, one that has to be understood as part of a far deeper historical context, one that brings up the issue of energy consumption and use patterns, and one (because of all of those) that isn't as easily resolvable as we might like it to be.

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Here are the previous posts on the subject. And here's one in particular that I liked, since in the comments it drew out one of the guys from WV who perversely supports MTR practices based on a very shady sense of environmental ethics.

Below the fold is a bookstore update.

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I haven't read Shirley Stewart Burn's book, Bringing Down the Mountains, although I read parts of her dissertation a few years ago (and assume the book is the revised version of that). In that earlier form, it was a thoughtful historical work about the past thirty or so years in West Virginia. At the time, a mere three years, it was one of the few narratives about mountaintop removal I could find.

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Coal River, Michael Shnayerson's new book, is part of the MTR genre. It's getting some fair media attention too. He was interviewed on the Diane Rehm Show a few weeks ago; today had a review in the Washington Post. Gary Krist's review in the WP considers it part of the journalistic muckraking tradition, appreciates its story and the purpose for telling it, but also wishes it's characters, if I read his sense right and if you'll allow me to slip over to fiction-talk, had been rounder. "Coal River," he says, "like the muckraking classics it emulates, may end up being most valuable as a call to arms." Such a consciousness-raising accomplishment, I'd wager, will more likely happen if the book is seen as part of this increasingly visible genre. By the by, Krist suggests that readers look at Boone County, WV on Google Earth to see what former mountain tops look like. I did so; the image at the top of this post is that view.

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This one is a collection of 35 writers, all of whom, according to the publisher, "participated in a 'Mountaintop Removal Tour' organized by Kentuckians for the Commonwealth." This, after "witnessing first-hand the devastation of this type of mining, the inadequacy of reclamation of mining sites, and hearing from residents regarding the effects of mountaintop-removal mining on the land and the people who live there." One difference in this book, it seems, comes from the following clarification: "The goal of this book is not cessation of all coal mining, but to demand responsible mining practices and an end to the unnecessary destruction to the land, people, and economy of the eastern Kentucky coalfields and the planet caused by mountaintop removal."

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This one is a few years older and is not directly about MTR. It is, rather, a solid historical account of farmers and "working people" in Appalachia to end strip mining. It helps place the MTR literature within a broader setting that holds mining, politics, and the fight for justice together.

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Then there is Moving Mountains, published last year by the University of Kentucky Press. This details the same story Shnayerson's book does, but is written by the investigative journalist Penny Loeb about her work with Joe Lovett (centerpiece for Coal River). If anyone has read both books, feel free to comment below on their differences.

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Finally, the one we've discussed here before and the one I use parts of in my environmental ethics curriculum, Erik Reece's Lost Mountain. The book has received wide attention -- try Salon, Treehugger, Mother Jones, American Scientist. I'll simply repeat the over-used but nonetheless valid claim from our prior mention of this work -- "required reading."

Missing mountains, lost mountains, moving mountains. All full of coal. Here we are.

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We are now full into the election season, and I propose that we all ask both the Republican and Democratic candidates what they are going to do to end the national tragedy of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia. The candidates for the U.S. Senate should be asked the same question. The candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives should be asked a more specific question; Will you support the passage of the Clean Water Protection Act that will seriously curtail the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia?

By Lenny Kohm (not verified) on 11 Feb 2008 #permalink

To see your connection to mountaintop removal coal mining go to:http://www.ilovemountains.org/myconnection/

enter your zipcode, and you will see how you are connected. you can also send an email to your congressperson at this site.

By Lenny Kohm (not verified) on 11 Feb 2008 #permalink