Sunday, October 3, 2010

Coal Mining and "Avatar"

My first churches were in West Virginia, early 70s: Camp Creek and Ridgeview ... and we'll never forget the horrors of big mining, and the tortured lives and landscape left behind when there's no more coal. 

Until then, the beautiful hills of West Virginia are easy targets for the massive corporations headquartered in distant cities, on the 23rd floor of some glass-faced big-box building. The decisions are made by women and men who live in fine homes in expensive suburbs, send their children to private schools, enjoy the ambience and courtesies of country clubs and play tennis and golf whenever they want. 

Do they have any understanding of the human toll taken by their decisions: to blow apart a mountain, render its beauty a pile of rubble, filling pristine mountain streams with mud and industrial runoff contaminated by all sorts of toxic elements, disrupting underground rivulets that once supplied good drinking water to the citizens of this region?

Do they have any idea?

Do they care?

As I read the fine article by Peter Slavin, of the LA Times, reporting from Peachtree, W.Va, comparisons came to mind of Massey Mining in W.Va with RDA, Resources Development Administration conducting mining on Pandora in the movie, "Avatar." Parker Selfridge, the company man on Pandora, would like to use diplomacy to remove the Na'vi, because diplomacy looks better for PR, but he's willing to use force as needed, because if there's one thing stockholders hate more than bad PR, it's a bad bottom line.

If you wanna see what's happening in W.Va, go see "Avatar," and then take a tour of the W.Va, but you'll have to look for the coal mining operations - they're hard to find, because they don't want to be found, carefully hiding themselves one-ridge away from the highways; but right now as I write, massive explosions are ripping mountains apart and driving people from their homes.

The people of West Virginia have long been abused by the coal interests of the nation. Check out the history of the United Mine Workers for the long and bloody story of union organization - to protect minors from unregulated hazards, to provide decent schools for their children, and offer medical care and retirement. 

Do what you can to learn about mountain-top removal mining techniques, and then write to your US legislators. 

There are better ways to mine coal, but, of course, they're more expensive. Until adequate public pressure is brought to bear upon the giant coal companies with adequate regulatory oversight, thousands of square miles of forest and streams and small towns will be wiped from the face of the earth.

Is this what we want?

I don't think so.

I just keep wondering about the big boys and girls in the faraway cities, on the 23rd floor of some marbled building, sitting around a mahogany table, making decisions to blow up a mountain.