These are photos I took looking out across an active mountain removal site on Kayford Mountain in West Virginia. It's hard to get a feel for the size of the mining site without being there. It's even harder to imagine what it looked like in its natural state, but look at the dark green, tree-covered hills all around it to get some idea.
We'll be bringing you more about what's happening on Kayford Mountain soon, but I wanted to get these images out there right away. Larry Gibson showed us around here. He grew up on Kayford Mt. and now the land his family and others lived on for generations is being irreparably destroyed. He came with his cousin that day to mow the grass in two family cemeteries that are here. We walked past them on the way to what is now a cliff over the mining site where I stood and took these pictures. Another of their cemeteries has already been destroyed by the mining company as they've blasted the mountain apart and carted away ton after ton of coal from inside of it.
Larry told us not to waste his time. He wasn't showing us around for no reason; he wanted to make sure we were going to do something about what we saw. Larry is for abolishing the use of coal altogether, despite having family members who work in the industry and are upset by his stance. Unlike many people we spoke to who expressed support for continuing mining in a responsible, less destructive manner, Larry told us he doesn't believe it's possible to mine and use coal in a way that is not harmful.
Over and over again last week, people mentioned supporting the Clean Water Protection Act as the most important thing anyone can do right now to help bring an end to mountaintop removal. Contact your Congressmen and make sure they support it!
We spent our first full day in West Virginia visiting people in their homes, taping interviews. People shared incredible stories with us that we'll be bringing back. I recorded about 6 hours of audio today alone. We saw a 90 year-old woman's fingers turn black with coal dust from running them across her tv screen. Again and again, people expressed their respect for the old ways of underground mining. At the same time, they spoke with outrage about mountaintop removal and the unprecedented level of destruction coal companies have caused in this area over the past 25 years or so.
Antrim took this picture of Patty Sebok and her husband Harry "Butch" Sebok in their kitchen. Patty is a community activist who works for Coal River Mountain Watch. Butch is a union miner who worked underground for almost 30 years. He was forced to retire when a doctor told him he risked paralysis if he continued working after an injury on the job that resulted in a herniated disk.
We'll be up bright and early in the morning to tape some more interviews before heading up Kayford Mountain to see an active mountaintop removal site and meet the last man holding onto his home as the mountain is destroyed all around it. I encourage everyone to do their own research to learn more about mountaintop removal and the history of coal mining in West Virginia and beyond. Please let us know if you have any questions or thoughts to share.
When we flip on a power switch in our homes, where does the electricity come from? How is it generated? There's a good chance it's from a coal-fired power plant. Click here for an easy way to trace your power source with nothing more than your zip code. With all the talk of developing new, sustainable energy sources, we're still relying heavily on the old standbys like oil and coal.
Last November on The Marc Steiner Show, we had a coal industry spokesperson and a group of West Virginia residents as guests on the show to discuss coal mining. The conversation centered around mountaintop removal, one of the most widespread and quickly growing methods of mining coal in use today.
We were all blown away by what we learned in the process of putting that show together, and since then we've been wondering why this issue hasn't been getting the attention it deserves. So, we decided that it's something we should keep an ongoing focus on. Look for us to have continuing coverage both on this website and on the air.
Rather than covering the issue from afar, we decided to go straight to the source. This morning, I set out for the coal fields of southern West Virginia, along with photojournalist Antrim Caskey, who's been working for the past 3 years to get people to pay attention to and do something about the environmental, including human, destruction caused by modern day coal mining practices in Appalachia. We'll be spending this week down here lining up as many people as possible to contribute first-hand coverage to CEM on an ongoing basis. We'll also be coming back with tons of new audio, photos, and video.
We're spending the night in the Coal River Valley with Debbie Jarrel and Ed Wiley. You'll hear a lot more about and from them if you stay with us here, for now check out one of the major projects they've been involved with, advocating for the safety and health of the students, teachers, and staff of Marsh Fork Elementary School. This site is full of info on that; briefly, it's a school down the road from them sitting right down the hill from a huge, leaky sludge impoundment, or what Ed describes as a 2.8 billion gallon toxic waste dump.
The picture at the top is from this afternoon, during a beautiful hike Ed took us on in the woods behind his home. The pictures below are from this evening. They're taken from the road, as we drove past an area being cleared by a coal company to put in a new beltline to transfer coal from the mining site to the processing plant.