Appalachia Could Be America’s Centerpiece

By Kate Larken

Kate Larken is a member of Public Outcry, a musical group that performs to educate the public about mountaintop removal coal mining. She is also the publisher of MotesBooks, Inc.

There are several Appalachias.

Life at the northern end of our mountain chain differs from the southern mountains’ culture, but both extremes intentionally cultivate eco-tourism vital to local economies.

In between, however, live the troubled coalfields. This region – particularly Kentucky and West Virginia –provides much of the electricity for the nation because of what lies beneath. Low-cost mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining pleases stockholders and

CEOs who profit (but would they live amidst the messes they cause?), yet thousands of communities and families with generational ties to the region are forced to deal with the destruction MTR leaves behind: ruined water, eradicated ecosystems, poverty, job loss, poor health.

Something is wrong with energy policy in America when an industry robs one of the world’s most valuable minerals from the nation’s poorest counties and leaves behind what’s described repeatedly as “moonscapes” and “war zones.” MTR is a practice akin to brazen theft at best, and at worst it’s darkly immoral.

For the coalfields to preserve healthy environment and culture, the Golden Rule must trump King Coal’s gluttony.

America must work to make central Appalachia the centerpiece of energy in new ways. What’s required as part of a sustainable future in the coalfields is that all Americans, wherever their home is, take steps to educate themselves about this dirty little secret: coal. Neighbors must speak up politically and must change consumption habits. If we don’t, we’re guilty of helping destroy an entire
section of America and the culture that has thrived there for centuries.

We can employ more Appalachian people by developing alternative energies to phase out coal. Rows of wind turbines, hydroelectric dams, solar-panel fields: these would be beautiful sights on existing mountaintops, for (unlike MTR) they are mostly positive rather than wholly destructive.

Power from renewables simply must be our future.


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