Mountaintop Removal as an Issue of Faith

IMG_0539 Silas House and Jason Howard, two Kentucky authors, have written  a new book entitled Something’s Rising: Appalachians Fighting Mountaintop Removal.  The book includes twelve oral histories of Appalachian residents whose lives have been directly affected by mountaintop removal.   House and Howard spoke about mountaintop removal and its connections to faith as a part of the Festival of Faiths in Louisville this week. 

Mountaintop removal mining involves clearing all vegetation from a mountain and then blasting 500-800 feet or more off of a mountain in order to reach a seam of coal.  The land from the top of the mountain is then pushed into the valley, burying streams and wildlife habitat.  (This is just a short description of mountaintop removal – the issues that arise from it are much more complicated.)  Learn more about mountaintop removal.

House framed the issue of mountaintop removal in a theological light, speaking about the need to use technology with a moral consciousness.  In the past, the mountains could not be denied, but mountaintop removal comes with the philosophy that “man is the boss, not the mountains or God as boss.”

Howard shared that work on mountaintop removal is rooted in the message of helping the most vulnerable.  House elaborated that he feels that you cannot live by the Golden Rule and support mountaintop removal.  Along with the damage that mountaintop removal causes to people’s physical health, the land, water, and wildlife in Appalachia, House and Howard mentioned that the affect that mountaintop removal has on people psychologically is often glossed over.  House spoke of the fear that mountaintop removal brings: constant blasting near homes, large trucks rolling through residential areas, and other daily realities that we power users in other parts of the country do not have to deal with.

House spoke about the incident that birthed his activism on mining-related issues.  When he was 12 or 13, his aunt’s grave was pushed over a mountain due to strip mining.  House remembers riding with his family to meet with the mining company and “knowing in that moment that this had really crossed a line…”

It is events like that that underscore Howard’s statement that the issues surrounding mountaintop removal are “about people and culture as well as the environment.”

Howard works on faith-based outreach for the documentary Deep Down: A Story from the Heart of Coal Country, which was reviewed on the Eco-Journey blog in May.  Deep Down is premiering on PBS on November 23 as a part of the Independent Lens series.  The film does an excellent job of putting a face on the issues of mountaintop removal.

Watch Deep Down on November 23 and discuss mountaintop removal with your congregation,  friends and family.  Help spread the word that mountaintop removal is not just an Appalachian issue.  Take steps to decrease your consumption of energy, and learn about other ways that you can work to protect God’s earth and people against mountaintop removal.

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