Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness --- Radical Strip Mining and the Devastation of Appalachia

Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness --- Radical Strip Mining and the Devastation of Appalachia

by Erik Reece
     
 

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A groundbreaking work of literary nonfiction that exposes how radical strip mining is destroying one of America's most precious natural resources and the communities that depend on it.

The mountains of Appalachia are home to one of the great forests of the world-they predate the Ice Age and scientists refer to them as the "rainforests" of North America for their

Overview

A groundbreaking work of literary nonfiction that exposes how radical strip mining is destroying one of America's most precious natural resources and the communities that depend on it.

The mountains of Appalachia are home to one of the great forests of the world-they predate the Ice Age and scientists refer to them as the "rainforests" of North America for their remarkable density and species diversity. These mountains also hold the mother lode of American coal, and the coalmining industry has long been the economic backbone for families in a region hard-pressed for other job opportunities. But recently, a new type of mining has been introduced-"radical strip mining," aka "mountaintop removal"-in which a team employing no more than ten men and some heavy machinery literally blast off the top of a mountain, dump it in the valley below, and scoop out the coal.

Erik Reece chronicles the year he spent witnessing the systematic decimation of a single mountain, aptly named "Lost Mountain." A native Kentuckian and the son of a coal worker, Reece makes it clear that strip mining is neither a local concern nor a radical contention, but a mainstream crisis that encompasses every hot-button issue-from corporate hubris and government neglect, to class conflict and poisoned groundwater, to irrevocable species extinction and landscape destruction. Published excerpts of Lost Mountain are already driving headlines and legislative action in Kentucky.

In Erik Reece, the mountains of Kentucky have found an eloquent and powerful spokesman in the tradition of Edward Abbey, Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold, and Henry David Thoreau. Like the work of those writers before him, Lost Mountain will stand as a landmark defense of a natural treasure-and a core part of our national identity-on the verge of extinction, and as the introduction of a mighty new literary voice.

Editorial Reviews

Janet Maslin
Mr. Reece dissects unholy alliances between politicians and the coal industry. He considers the effects of voracious globalism and suggests alternatives to a coal-based Kentucky economy. He advocates that other kinds of Kentucky-based industry (like furniture-making) be encouraged. He underscores the urgency of sustainable forest management. And he suggests that taxes reflect the true social and environmental costs of coal. Why? Because, as a woman who grew up in Harlan County puts it: "We all live downstream."
— THe New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Reece's up-close assessment of a rapacious coal industry is a searing indictment of how a country's energy lust is ravaging the hills and hollows of Appalachia. The first-time author chronicles how, in one year, from October 2003 to September 2004, strip miners sheared away the top of Kentucky's aptly named Lost Mountain. This process of "mountaintop removal" left a barren wasteland that, months earlier, had supported songbirds, fox, deer and other wildlife, and a rich cover of trees. Reece's elegiac book-much more than just an eyewitness report on ecological decimation-also offers a concise history of how the coal industry long exploited workers; hints at harrowing tales of industry intimidation of antimining activists; details how toxic mining runoff has poisoned well water and how landslides have washed away homes and entire hamlets; and in a cautiously optimistic coda, reports how activists have reclaimed a few thousand acres of stripped land with reforestation projects. The Kentucky-born author, who canoed clean Appalachian rivers as a youth, has written an impassioned account of a business rife with industrial greed, devious corporate ownership and unenforced environmental laws. It's also a heartrending account of the rural residents whose lives are being ruined by strip-mining's relentless, almost unfettered, encroachment. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Reece (English, Univ. of Kentucky) uses coal mining in Appalachia and the radical method of "mountaintop removal" (in which the tops of mountains are blown off) as his illustration, but his call to environmental awareness could be applied to many current issues. A Kentucky native and the son of a coal worker, he presents a compelling, considered, and courageous indictment of greedy coal mining companies and their paid politicians, who are responsible for the environmental havoc that has resulted. In detailing the floods, blastings, deaths, illnesses, and more, Reece is not afraid to point his finger, name names, and reveal the heartbreak that so many families are enduring. As for a solution, the author reminds us of what seems to be lost-community. Through a full understanding of ethical, moral, and natural community, he argues, would come the recognition of the value of long-term preservation and sustainability vs. short-term greed and individual gain. Read this book and take action. Important for regional collections, it is highly recommended for all environmental collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/05.]-Nancy Moeckel, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Reece (English/Univ. of Kentucky) spent 2003-04 closely observing the sickly, strip-mined reaches of a mountain in Kentucky's Appalachia; his book stands witness to its devouring. In the old days of contour mining, excavations were carried out along ridgelines. Now the name of the game is mountaintop removal: Blast the high ground to smithereens, scavenge the detritus and plow the waste into the valley below, like so much toxic dust swept under the rug. Reece chronicles these ecological scalpings in anxious chapters written with an eye for abiding, catastrophic imagery. He does not lack material. Once a superb mesophytic forest habitat with an abundant diversity of species, a crumpled and intimate landscape of weathered peaks rich in flora and fauna, the region now resembles the buttes of the American West; pretty as they are in Arizona, they are deeply alien and a sign of trouble in the East. Creeks run orange with sulfuric acid and heavy metals; wells are polluted; the foundations of local homes have cracked; and the local population suffers from illnesses obviously related to the poisoning of the environment. Union protection for workers and citizens is a laugh, government oversight under the Bush administration is a travesty: The current Deputy Secretary of the Interior, Steven Griles, is a former coal lobbyist. Orwell and Kafka in their bleakest moments would have felt right at home in Appalachian Kentucky, mired in corruption and class warfare. Reece appreciates the need for some common ground, but is there no way, he asks, that the local economy can sustain itself without destroying the cerulean warbler and the very skyline?A portrait of coal country as stark and galvanizing asHarry Caudill's classic Night Comes to the Cumberland (1962).

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594489082
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/02/2006
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
6.28(w) x 8.28(h) x 1.01(d)
Age Range:
14 Years

Meet the Author

Erik Reece was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and teaches English and writing at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. His work appears in Harper's and the Oxford American, among other places.

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