Lost Mountains Part I

I recently started reading Lost Mountain A Year In the Vanishing Wilderness – Radical Strip Mining and the Devastation of Appalachia by Erik Reece. If you have not yet read it, I highly recommend it. I feel compelled to share some of the book with you…

“Unfortunately, Blanton’s problems were about to get much bigger than a slurry puddle. Since moving back to Dayhoit, Blanton’s two children had been constantly sick. Sometimes, after bathing, they would break out in what their doctor called “a measles-like rash.” But they didn’t have the measles. The groundwater that fed their well had been poisoned with vinyl chloride, trichloroethylene, and a dozen other “volatile organic contaminants,” or VOCs….they sprayed tichloroethylene-based degreasing solvents on transformers and capacitors. They piped PCB-laden transformer oil directly into Millard Sutton’s large garden. They even sprayed it on the dirt roads of the next-door trailer park to, as they said, “help keep the dust down.” They were just being good neighbors…”

“…Finally, after many of the wells were found to be contaminated by chemicals from the plant (which has since been sold to Cooper Industries), the EPA declared Dayhoit a Superfund site in 1992 and put it on the National Priorities List of hot spots…the EPA excavated five thousand tons of contaminated soil from around the plant, then trucked it to Alabama, where it was stored next to a poor African-American community.”

“In his essay ‘The Last Americans,’ Jared Diamond argued that while wealth and conspicuous consumption are certainly signs of social status, they may not indicate success for a society as a whole. In fact, if Mayan civilization is an indicator, material prosperity, overpopulation, resource consumption and waste production are actually signs of a society’s impending collapse. Like the coal operators of Appalachia, the Mayans stripped their forests and polluted their streams with silt and acids…‘Why,’ Diamond asks, ‘did the kings and nobles not recognize and solve these problems? A major reason was that their attention was evidently focused on the short-term concerns of enriching themselves, waging wars, erecting monuments, competing with one another, and extracting enough food from the peasants to support all those activities.'”

“And we Americans are masters of short-term thinking. We think in election cycles and the weeks between car payments. For a nation whose economy is based on planned obsolescence and ever-increasing consumer spending, thinking about the personal and the environmental future might hurt sales.”

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In part II, I will go into more detail about American coal mining and it’s consequences.