Sunday, August 3, 2008

Mountaintop removal: taking the “mountain” out of… well, mountains!

Familiar with mountaintop removal? If you live in East Tennessee, you’ll likely become more familiar with it sooner than later. Before long, Tennessean’s will see the effects of mountaintop removal on a first hand basis in some areas of the state. This process affects the economic activity in the area, the environmental conditions in the area, and perhaps most importantly, the communities and families themselves. Removal of mountaintops is not an easy task for coal-mining companies. But what’s worse are the negative effects that these coal-mining companies bestow onto neighboring towns.

Take explosives, for example. That’s right, explosives are used both day and night to break up and loosen the tops of mountains. These explosives can be heard and felt miles away from the explosion site. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be sleeping at night and then wake up to what sounds like the start of World War III right outside of my window. Then, if my house and car are lucky enough to have survived the meteor shower of debris from the blasting, I can enjoy the rest of my day cleaning up after the mining companies and their dirty work.

(For the record, this has textbook negative production externality written all over it. But I digress…)

After the blasting demolition is over and I don’t have to worry about the aftershocks and dust clouds hitting my house, I can go and enjoy the outdoors (well, what is left of them). One of Tennessee’s main attractions as far as tourism and recreational lifestyle includes the outdoor activities they have to offer (It is no wonder the Smoky Mountains are consistently ranked among the most visited national parks). But mountaintop removal is slowly destroying this great aspect of the state that I have come to love (and what vacationers have come to revisit time and again). Now when visitors come to Tennessee and want to go hiking or camping, they’ll have to be weary of the map they’re reading - when they think they’re headed to the top, they’re really already there. Before you know it, a three or four-mile hike up the mountain has turned into a one or two-mile stroll that wasn’t worth the “view” in the end.

When I hike to the top of a mountain, I want to look at the beautiful scenery, not the bareness created by humans. I urge you to take a stand against mountain top removal by contacting your local politician. Otherwise our grandchildren’s grandchildren may never know what a Great Smoky Mountain looks like.

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