We are stopping by at a small plot of land. An old man is coming out of his cabin, his bandana displays the bald eagle, the symbol of the country. Chickens are running around the cabin, the little grassy area is embraced by thick bushes and tall trees. The nature has lustfully overgrown the area, leaving a bit for the old man, which he modestly occupied. It turns out that the stream flowing in his backyard is polluted. In the last couple of years, 10 percent of Central Appalachia, approximately 500 mountain tops, has been exploded to extract coal from its depth.
Any form of strip mining causes significant harm to the environment because the surface vegetation has to be removed, the soil is scalped by bulldozers, then the exposed overburden is moved leaving the bald mountain behind so that the mineral can be extracted. In the end, a big hole remains, into which the overburden is backfilled and may be covered by topsoil. The most devastating form of strip mining is the mountain top removal method when the mountain top is actually removed by explosives. The exploded poisonous overburden is filled into adjacent valleys, often by burying streams. The devastated plants and soil do not absorb rain water any more, exposing houses to flooding. Companies find loopholes in the environmental regulations or simply do not comply with the rules, and the Environmental Protection Agency is too weak to make them accountable.
|Jeff Chapman-Crane: The Agony of Gaia|
Agitation is not easy in the closed communities of Appalachia, which relate to coal mining through numerous ways, says Kristi Kendall, KFTC's community organizer living in the region. Kristi often runs into folks who yielded to the coal companies and are not ready to act. Through the decades, they have learned that the companies can easily retaliate, so they had better not raise their voice, because one of their relatives or acquaintance works for the coal company. One of the features of rural organizing is that people are often tied by web of close relatives. Even if they do not agree with the mountain top removal and its effects on the community, they do not come to a meeting or a protest, because their neighbors or relatives would frown upon them. Kristi had to face becoming an outsider in her own community and to confront the disapproval of her own family for taking an active role in the fight.
A local fellow has driven up to us in his four-wheeler. He belongs to the nearby estate where probably three or four families live in their dwellings. He was curious about what we are doing.
"What do you think about the mountain top removal?," I asked.
He thinks there has been no problem. He will start working in the mine from the fall, just like his father did. Local folks do not usually ask questions about the mountain top removal. Strip mining is a taboo, nobody needs unnecessary fights.
Read it in Hungarian.