Kentucky: Two Ends of the Spectrum

Every day more people are starting to think about the environment and what consequences their actions are having on it. I’m not one to get on a soapbox, and I’m certainly not a radical environmentalist–in fact I tend to get into heated arguments with them (and the self-righteous Prius owners) But I did grow up in the middle of the woodlands of rural Kentucky, and I’m a conservationist because of it.

I don’t have a problem with humans impacting the environment, as long as it is justifiable and steps are taken to mitigate damage. But nothing pisses me off more than wanton destruction of our planet, and unfortunately I don’t have to go too far away from home to see it in action.

Kentucky has an incredible amount of nature still left untouched. If you ever get a chance, go visit Red River Gorge when the Magnolias are in bloom, or take a trip to Mammoth Cave to see the largest cave system known to man. This state simply doesn’t get enough credit for the raw beauty it holds within.

Unfortunately, on the other end of the spectrum, Kentucky also hosts some of the most depressing examples of humanity’s ability to foolishly disregard nature, namely in the practice of mountaintop removal mining.

If you haven’t read about this practice before, it consists of three steps: Firstly, all the vegetation is removed from the top of a mountain which contains coal deposits. Second, all of the mountaintop which separates the surface from the coal deposits is removed via explosives. Third, the loose earth is scraped off into a valley, and the coal is mined. Sophisticated, isn’t it?

It should be noted that, at least in recent times, decent efforts are being made on the part of coal companies to rejuvenate the area after the mining is finished and to ameliorate some of the damage done to local ecosystems. However, putting a band-aid on a gaping chest-wound is not good medicine. Mountaintop removal is the destruction of the natural world in the most raw, literal and reckless sense.

Not only that, but as this technique of coal mining is more mechanized than others, there are lower levels of employment in areas where it is used. Some of the counties where mountaintop removal is practiced are the poorest in the nation. Desolation of both the people and the land, is this what we should be pursuing as a species?

If you want to learn more, take a gander at the EPA page on mountaintop removal. or Ilovemountains.org. I’m not affiliated with either group, by the way.

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~ by ethmgallagher on March 23, 2009.

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