Care2 Earth Month: Back to Basics
This year, Care2 decided to expand Earth Day into Earth Month, since there is so much to explore when it comes to the environment. Every day in April, we’ll post about some of the most important topics for the environment, exploring and explaining the basics. It’s a great tool to help you get started with helping the environment — or help explain it to others. See the whole series here.
I spent many of my formidable years in East Tennessee, in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. If you’ve never been to Appalachia, you should know that it’s hard to describe the mixture of lush landscape, Southern hospitality, and folklore that make it a place unlike any other in this world.
Just an hour outside the bustling city of Knoxville, where I spent my college years, you’ll find Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, it is the most visited national park in America.
While the mountain peaks located in the park are safe for now, their counterparts in Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky haven’t been so lucky. These mountains, some of the oldest in the world, are being destroyed by coal mining companies. No longer content to bore below the surface of the earth in search of their black prize, these companies now use a process called mountaintop removal mining to gain easy access to the coal seams hidden underneath.
Using powerful explosives to remove the mountain tops, the process creates thousands of tons of rubble. The resulting dirt, rock, and toxic mining chemicals, referred to as “valley fill” are simply bulldozed into the surrounding valleys, choking streams, and burying plant life all in one fell swoop. Sometimes Big Coal will “reclaim” the now bald mountain top by sprinkling some top soil and a few pine seedlings where hundred year old trees used to be. But most of the time they don’t. Appalachian communities, who have lived on or around these mountains for generations are left to deal with the consequences. And they aren’t pretty.
All images copyright ilovemountains.org
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