Saturday, November 21, 2009

Strip Mining: The government says ‘Take your top off’

With all the bans on gay marriage in the United States (45 in all, in addition to the federal prohibition) you might be saying to yourself, ‘Gosh, I’m going to be unmarried for a long, long time!’ And you’d be right, except for one thing: Soon, sooner than many of us would have ever dreamed possible, people are going to come together to achieve a common goal: making human life impossible by wrecking the environment.

As we careen toward our own doom, one of the major practices contributing to our destruction is strip mining. Prior to the industrial revolution, there was no reason to mine for coal, which is the principle product extracted in the mining process. But, thank goodness for freedom (or free enterprise, in this case) national laws quickly adapted to the spirit of the times. Despite the calls from some corners that strip mining was a public health hazard and a moral outrage, excavators were soon clearing as much as 12,000 cubic meters of useless untouched wilderness per hour.

Now, I bet you’re wondering the same thing I used to: ‘Is it really that bad? Aren’t many of these mining sites reclaimed after the allegedly essential coal has been ruthlessly extracted?’ The answer is, ‘Of course not, you big silly!’ While federal and state mandates exist that require areas damaged by mining to be ‘reclaimed’, this term has been steeped in bureaucracy, wrapped in a thick layer of local provisions, and deep-fried in the interests of big business. After a mountaintop has been efficiently flattened, it can be ‘reclaimed’ in ways that include the construction of an airport, storage facility, golf course, trailer park, landfill, or penitentiary, just as nature intended. Who would even consider the option of planting quick-growing, non-native grasses when you can have convicts occupy the site instead?

Perhaps you’re thinking, ‘Ok, this sounds almost as bad as gay marriage…but it’s not like people actually die because of strip mining, right?’ Well, ask the family of Jeremy Davidson. You certainly can’t ask him: in 2004 a boulder dislodged in a mining operation rolled hundreds of feet and crashed into the house where the three-year-old was sleeping, crushing him to death. As far as our research indicates, gay marriage never rolled down a mountain and crushed anyone. It also never buried thousands of miles of Appalachian stream, poisoned anyone’s drinking water, or flooded a whole town out of their houses.