Front Porch Blog

HUGE: NYT – “Taking On a Coal Mining Practice as a Matter of Faith”

In what may be a pivotal turning point in the effort to return integrity to America’s energy policy by ending mountaintop removal coal-mining – the New York Times has printed a must-read article called “Taking On a Coal Mining Practice as a Matter of Faith”

…From there, she could see what she loved about Appalachia and what it had lost, and she wanted her visitors to see it, too.

The old rounded peaks of the mountains encircled the ridge, dense with trees smudged red and gold. But in the middle of the peaks, several stood stripped bare and chopped up, a result of an increasingly common and controversial coal mining practice called mountaintop removal.

“Doesn’t it say in Scripture, ‘Who can weigh a mountain, measure a basket of earth?’ ” Ms. Chapman-Crane said, recalling descriptions of God’s omnipotence in Isaiah 40:12. “Well, only God can. But now, the coal companies seem to be able to do it, too.”

Ms. Chapman-Crane, her colleagues at the Mennonite Central Committee Appalachia and other Appalachian Christians are trying to halt mountaintop removal, and at the heart of their work, they say, is their faith.

We were lucky enough to work with Allen Johnson – who heads “Christians for the Mountains– at the MTR week in Washington in September. He is a fantastic man. Listen to him talk about what he is most passionate about as he urges religious people to take up mountaintop removal “as a spiritual issue.” You can see him online in Bill Moyer’s special Is God Green?

Mary Yoder, who had volunteered to come on the trip for her congregation, Columbus Mennonite Church in Columbus, Ohio, asked, “So this is the kind of place that gets blown up in mountaintop removal?” Mr. Chapman-Crane replied, “This is what would be lost, is lost, when they blast a mountaintop.

What does industry guy have to say?
The usual garbage, without looking at the 90% job losses they’ve already caused coalfield residents.

The coal industry asserts that mountaintop removal is a safer way to remove coal than sending miners underground and that without it, companies would have to close mines and lay off workers.

And the mines are closing because the coal is running out. The US Geological Survey says that there are AT MOST just 20 years of high quality coal left in the Appalachian Basin.

Ahh…the pure unfiltered joy of listening to a coal stooge trying to defend himself with words:

Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association, a coal lobbying group, said that by fighting mountaintop removal religious groups might find their priorities colliding.
“They find themselves in a difficult position,” Mr. Popovich said, “because they’re expressing support for those who purport to protect nature, and, at the same time, that activism carries implications for the human side of the natural equation. Human welfare depends on the rational exploitation of nature.”

If MTR is rational for human welfare, then I’m all for some welfare reform!! Who says that MTR is rational? NYT, thanks for letting Mr. Popovich open his mouth and insert his own foot. Its much easier than us having to do it for him.

I think that the following sentiment is vastly underappreciated in the United States at large.

But as in much of Appalachia, pastors and churchgoers here are reluctant to stir up trouble: many work for coal companies, or the people next to them in the pew do. Others believe stopping mountaintop removal would eliminate the few jobs that remain.

Hmm…who wants them to think that there will be fewer jobs and more trouble to mine responsible than to have their homes be bombed by coal companies? How about Darrell Claudill…who works for a what?

Mr. Caudill, 57, works for a coal company and believes in being a good steward of the earth.

Sure…never heard that one before? Will he at least try and be creative in getting out of this rat-trap?

“Why did God produce coal then and put it underground?” said Mr. Caudill, who attends a nondenominational evangelical church. “He produced things that we need on this earth. Without coal, you wouldn’t have the warmth and light you have right now.”

Unless we lit a fire.
Or built a windmill or a solar panel or used hydro-electricity or methane or put a few desperate coal junkies like Mr. Claudill on a giant mouse-wheel and let them run round and round in circles towards a dollar bill they would never get to.

I wonder if he thinks, since God produced the things that we need on this earth…that we should also protect the drinking water that coal poisons or the toxic air filled with coal dust that the children of Appalachia are forced to breathe.

My bet is no.

The end is devastating.

Late in the trip, the tour group drove Lucious Thompson, 63, a former coal miner, to the horseshoe of peaks above McRoberts, where he lives. The peaks have been leveled. The woods where he had hunted are gone. The new grass on the new plateaus barely clings to the soil, which means that McRoberts often floods now after hard rains, he said.
“I’ve been flooded three times since they started working on the mountaintop,” Mr. Thompson said.
He talked of neighbors whose house foundations had been cracked because of the daily blasting, of a pond lost to sludge and of respiratory ailments because of the coal dust flying from the coal trucks.
“The coal company says it’s God’s will,” he said. “Well, God ain’t ever run no bulldozer.”
People like Mr. Thompson and the woods and mountains of Appalachia seemed to make the point the tour’s organizers hoped for. After the tour, Ms. Yoder returned to Columbus to tell her congregation of about 200 what she had learned.
“My comment to the church was that I would do the tour with an open mind,” she said, “and my conclusion is there is no room for mountaintop removal in our country.”

The fact that we have made the weekend issue of the New York Times is a big step, because when Americans simply see and begin to comprehend the rape of their country that is going on with mountintop removal coal-mining, mountaintop removal coal-mining is going to stop pretty quickly.

Pardon the length, but if the subject of faith and environmentalism is particularly of interest to you, you might also enjoy “Green by the Grace of God” from the Roanoke Times and “Is God Green” – a fantastica PBS special with Bill Moyers.





Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Comment