Moving Mountains

I am a member of the Environmental Law Society here at law school, and tomorrow I will be visiting Kayford mountain in West Virginia. The purpose of my visit is to witness a process called mountaintop removal. The process is exactly the way it sounds. The top 600 feet or so of a mountain is removed to reveal seams of coal that can be harvested for a quick shot of energy in the ever-competitive market of power. When the average person thinks about coal mining, a general picture of dark tunnels and headlamped miners with pickaxes is their Hollywood manifestation. However, mining today has become a business for which there seems to be an insatiable demand and the mining companies are trying to get to the coal as fast and as cheap as possible. So, after blasting off the top of a mountain, there is the problem of “overburden” or loose rock laying on the surface of the coal seam and must be put someplace. So the companies push it into valleys and “hollers” blocking streams and rivers that form there and polluting the water. Needless to say, this virtually destroys the entire mountain and all the life that once lived upon it, leaving only a baren stump. Our hoast for the trip is Lary Gibson, a man who has refused to seell his part of a mountaintop that has been in his family since the 1700’s. From what was a great mountain, only his small plot exists around a destroyed mountain. This is the ultra-short version of the mess the coal indusry has done with this great country. For more info, look up Michael Shnayerson. If you REALLY want to know more, look up his book Coal River ISBN:0374125147. The reason I mention it, is to pay a small tribute to Larry Gibson a true spirit of noncompliance. This is a poor man. He does not have any kind of real wealth except for his land and its seam of coal beneath it worth 150 million to the coal company. I saw a video of this guy on youtube and he says to someone “one day you will find something worth fighting for, and you will sacrifice for it.” I say, right on! I shall be honored to be in the presence of this simple man tomorrow, and I can only hope to one day express the fortitude he does everyday.

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