Gardens, Guns and Mountains


When I checked into the hotel in Nashville I was tickled to find on the nightstand a complimentary copy of the magazine "Gardens & Guns."  The evocatively silly name, which I must admit instantly appealed to me as a son of the South, belied a genuine literary gem.  

In what can only be attributed to cosmic coincidence, as I flipped through this lushly photographed, well-versed, eclectic magazine I came across a review of the new mountaintop removal book Something's Rising.  Aside from exuberant praise for this work, the essay about the book struck the perfect chord with its eye-opening prose.  Clyde Edgerton -- who hails from western North Carolina -- opened his book review this way:

"I want to hear reasons for removing the tops of mountains about as much as I want to hear reasons for removing my mama's head.  But reasons for mountaintop removal are out there, stated by coal company executives, lobbyists, politicians, preachers, dynamite executives, and some union members.  You can hear them all across West Virginia, Kentucky, and increasingly down into Tennessee and Virginia.  What you'll hear is 'jobs, the economy, energy, clean coal.'  Words like that."

Mr. Edgerton then went on to compare the sight of mountaintop removal to the moon's surface or something akin to what he witnessed after bombing runs over the jungles of Southeast Asia in 1970.  In describing the powerful stories represented in Something's Rising, he writes:

"Reading this book could not only change your life by increasing the chances for saving millions of acres of the Appalachian South destined for merciless obliteration (the EPA estimates that 2,200 square miles of Appalachian forests will be cleared for mountaintop removal mining by 2012), but also by giving you insight into the soul of the people of Appalachia."

He explains, as only a native Appalachian can, that:

"There's a feeling of trust and transcendent simplicity all through Appalachia -- a feeling of home, of peace -- a feeling that's been preserved in part because mountains can keep communities and institutions and companies and sources of power from getting so big."

And he closes his piece by asking: "Haven't we had enough of the power that comes from big coal companies?"

The entire article, entitled "Don't Blow It" is worth reading, as is the rest of the delightful magazine in which it appears.  Ditto the new book Something's Rising.

To learn more about mountaintop removal, check out NRDC's website:

And if you're still in the mood to dig deeper, do yourself a favor by reading the new Yale360 feature story "Mountaintop Mining Legacy: Destroying Appalachian Streams."  As the title implies, this in-depth article illustrates how the mining's most lasting damage to the region's environment may be caused by the massive amounts of debris dumped into valley streams.  Damage so extensive that scientists estimate it could take thousands of years to restore what were once pristine mountain streams that people and wildlife alike relied on for clean drinking water and healthy habitat.

West Virginia coalfield stream polluted with mining runoff.  (Photo by J. Henry Fair)