The long and winding road trip - A lump of coal

A lump of coal

Much more than a lump of coal, actually. This is Part Two of my earlier post describing our recent road trip.

This is strip-mining and mountaintop removal in operation. Mountaintop removal to extract the coal within has been going on throughout Appalachia since the 1970’s.

According to the EPA: “Mountaintop removal/valley fill is a mining practice where the tops of mountains are removed, exposing the seams of coal. Mountaintop removal can involve removing 500 feet or more of the summit to get at buried seams of coal. The earth from the mountaintop is then dumped in the neighboring valleys.”

aerial photo from

It’s hard to comprehend the scope and scale of these excavations from a photo. Here’s a screen capture from Google maps of mountaintop removal in southeastern Kentucky. It’s more than two miles across the brown excavated area:

More than 500 mountaintops — 1.2 million acres — across Appalachia have been removed so far to extract coal. Here are a few of those mountains:

mountaintop removal - Kentucky and West Virginia

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million.

Please take some time to watch this video and to visit for more information and interactive features that allow you to find out if your electricity comes, in part or whole, from mountaintop removal. And what you can do if the practice of mountaintop removal seems terribly wrong to you.

I realize the irony of privilege that allows me to plug in my computer to write this, especially since at least part of that power comes from Kayford Mountain, West Virginia :(. And to post pictures taken during a fossil-fuel consuming road trip.

Still, I just finished reading The Secret to Turning Consumers Green in Monday’s Wall Street Journal. According to the author, Stephanie Simon, it isn’t financial incentives or more information that work to change one’s behavior toward consumption and the environment. It’s guilt. And peer pressure if you think your friends or neighbors or fellow bloggers are doing something that you could or should be doing as well.

God knows the whole Russian angst thang I specialize in has given me plenty of practice with guilt. 🙂

Awareness is a first step toward understanding the impact of our own footprints, toward action, toward change.

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find that going to the mountains is going home. ~ John Muir, 1898

What do these mountains mean to you?

3 comments to The long and winding road trip – A lump of coal

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>