The sin of mountaintop removal
"You can't put a mountain back. Do you think you can do a better job than God?"
-- from Leveling Appalachia, a video from Yale's environmental service, e360.
Five hundred mountains in Appalachia are gone forever.
Glenmary Father John Rausch has little patience with those who excuse this kind of environmental destruction in favor of short-term jobs. "It's a false dichotomy," he says. "The coal industry is actually in business to put miners out of a job."
The numbers prove him right: There are less than a third as many mining jobs in Kentucky today as there were in 1980. Instead of investing in jobs, the coal companies instead have bought larger equipment. The monstrous machines have brought down the cost of mountaintop removal mining to $45 to $50 per ton of coal compared to $60 per ton of coal to mine underground.
Father Rausch, however, sees a number of positive indicators, beginning with Pope John Paul's assertion that every person has a right to a healthy environment. He's also found that evangelical Christians, who ten years ago often saw environmental destruction as part of a coming Armageddon, now are more likely to talk about Creation Care.
A consensus against mountaintop removal mining seems to be growing. Activists in Appalachia believe they can prevail with the American people's support. Here are resources to learn more, beginning with a column Bishop Walter Sullivan wrote about mountaintop removal mining. Other resources include:
Youtube Shorts and Films
- Leveling Appalachia: The Legacy of Mountaintop Removal Mining: A heart-wrenching 20-minute video available online, produced by E360.
- In the U.S., They Blow Up Mountains for Coal: A 2-minute report from Agence France Press.
- Burning the Future: An 89-minute film that the director had intended to be about coal's role in building America. He was so horrified by mountaintop-removal mining and impressed by the people he met who are fighting to stop it - "heroes," in his words, that the film became about their story.
- Mountain Mourning: This 3-minute introduction is one of several efforts from Christians for the Mountains.
- Maria Gunnoe and the connection between our flipping a light switch and the destruction of West Virginia (5 minutes)
Catholic and Christian Organizations
The Catholic Committee of Appalachia
Download the Appalachian bishops' pastorals "This Land is Home to Me: A Pastoral Message on Poverty and Powerlessness in Appalachia," and "At Home in the Web of Life: A Pastoral Message on Sustainable Community in Appalachia."
- Mountain Justice
- Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition -- one of Father Pisano's favorites.
- Appalachian Voices
- Something's Rising: Appalachians Fighting Mountaintop Removal Mining by Silas House (University Press of Kentucky, 2009)
- Bringing Down the Mountains by Shirley Stewart Burns (West Virginia University Press, 2007)
- Big Coal by Jeff Goodell (Mariner Press, 2007)
- Coal River by Michael Shnayerson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008)
GAO Report: The Governmental Accountability Office has issued a report on mountaintop removal mining. See either the one-page summary and 88-page report.