An Appalachian Mountain Ecology


Mountaintop removal afflicts Appalachia in many ways featuring both positive and negative repercussions. Mining is the only economic activity in the entire community in eastern Kentucky. Reece points out that “the mountains are situated eastern Kentucky, one of the poorest places in the country, where coal mining has been virtually the only industry for more than a century” (Reece 27).

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The mountain also acts as the major water catchment area for the country not considering the variety of the plants birds and other animals to which it provides shelter. The human activities have scorched the mountains through coal mining. On this respect, Constantz notes that, “to know about strip mining or mountaintop removal is like knowing about the nuclear bomb…It is to know beyond doubt that some human beings have, and are willing to use the power of absolute destruction” (79).

The indigenous species of plants, birds and animals thus remain wiped out of existence. The removal of mountain top issue is therefore a hot topic, and attempts advocated for restoring the glory of the forest are welcomed in two folds bearing in mind that strip mining is the main stay activity of the local people near its environ, and the much campaigned for concerns about devastating consequences of this activity.

Main Body

Mountaintop removal mining method remains negatively received by the local people who have had an opportunity to walk far from the mountains and then returned. The mountain top removal as method of mining coal has negative effects to the local people since it interferes with water wells. Explosives employed to break away rocks to expose coal results to dangerous shaking of the neighborhood homesteads.

In addition, as Mason, a native of Dayhoit, says, “Almost nobody in Dayhoit lives past fifty five” (69), people die due extensive exposure to toxins emanating from both the explosive remains and the large-scale unearthed heavy metals. Despite the negative effects to the locals, the method requires about half the number employees less than the traditional tunnel method. Reece having grown up in Kentucky, with her father working for the mining industry points out that “ strip mining is neither a local concern nor a radical contention, but a mainstream crisis that encompasses every hot-button issue-from corporate conflict and groundwater, to irrevocable species extinction and landscape destruction” (Reece 75).

Consequently, the debate on the environmental crisis facing the mountaintop mining removal requires an ardent settlement failure to which escalated devastating effects at the worst magnitude remain anticipated to both the environment and the human kind. Unfortunately, the few who work at the coalmines companies, believe that “the only way to live in the mountains is by mining the mountains” (Reece 91). Would it then be possible to put a legislation to control the activity?

Upon people registering complains during “…meetings of the people from EPA” (Reece 92) about the escalating work related deaths, the companies respond by accusing the workers as being too emotional. To protect their activities, the companies claim that the industry provide employment for the locals. They also misdirect or seek to solicit the residents so that they do not recognize or remain ignorant to the negative repercussion of their activities.

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On attending a workshop organized by Army Corps, Protection Agency, mining fishing and wildlife service, Reece got worried that the locals were to the support of the strip mining and comments that “if anyone besides me didn’t raise a hand, it was hard to tell” (Reece 129). Kentucky’s, the coal association president, request by the show of hands see how many people in attendance in the meeting had gone to support the strip mining.

The mining companies also claim that the contribution of the coal to national earning is credible quoting a figure of $3 billion annually (Billings 136). They also uphold and campaign for the fact that coal is the cheapest source of energy. Furthermore, the mining corporations liaise with politicians aspiring for positions that would protect their activities by funding their campaigns.

Reece proposes a number of changes that should occur to Kentucky to be sustainable environmentally, economically and socially. He says “…When in Appalachia are we going to start thinking about both at once?” (Reece 147) referring to employment and the environment. Here he implies a change of the manner in which people perceive issues: not only from a mono perspective but also to multi perspectives. On economical terms he argues, strip mining accounts for 5,000 jobs in all the counties of Kentucky, which translates to 167 jobs per county!

The question that he posses is whether such minute number of jobs are worth sacrificing the environment , so that it gets degraded? The scars of aftermaths of mountaintop removal will definitely remain even after the coal extinct. He proposes that carrying out environmental training substantially helps to eliminate ignorance to the environmental conservation and protection strategies. “Going into the forest for a month puts you in a different place where you don’t have urban distractions. You leave the forest a different person” (Reece 151). His points of view warrant scrutiny based on whether they contribute to sustainable community.


Since a sustainable community deserve to be substantially healthy economically, socially and environmentally without over emphasizing on one aspect than the other, I agree with the Reece’s proposed changes in attitudes, perspectives and practices. This inclination is completely opposite from the Kentucky’s mining corporations and rigid unknowledgeable people views which only concentrates economic aspects as opposed to environmental and social concerns.

Works Cited

Billings, Gurney. Back Talk from Appalachia. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 1999.

Constantz, George. Hollows, Peepers and Highlanders: An Appalachian Mountain Ecology.

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Missoula, Montana: Mountain Press Publishing Co., 1994.

Mason, Kristin. Missing Mountains. Lexington, KY: Wind Publications, 2005.

Reece, Erick. Lost Mountain. New York: Riverhead, 2006. Print.

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