Posted on Mon, May 2, 2005
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For love of Kentucky, stop destroying it

by Bob Sloan

One scenario played out repeatedly in the days when I was a social worker:

After some guy beat the hell out of his wife or girlfriend and got hauled off to jail, I would do a jailhouse evaluation, usually after looking at photos of the bruised, bleeding target of his rampage.

Inevitably he would commence bleating about how much he loved his woman.  The third or fourth or tenth time he put her in a hospital, he still "loved" her.

Those men were beneath contempt.  Their hypocrisy was wider than the horizon, deep as a sea, limitless as sky.  They were moral midgets.

So are Gov. Ernie Fletcher, U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers and most members of the General Assembly.  So are people running a dozen or more federal and state regulatory agencies.

All of them will tell how much they love Kentucky, yet all of them are aiding and abetting mountaintop removal in the state's eastern coalfields.  That's the industrial equivalent of wife-beating.

The experts with language who took the Kentucky Authors' Mountaintop Removal Tour on April 20 and 21 couldn't find words to describe what they saw and heard.

Flying over one mining site, I asked the young pilot to estimate the size of the ravaged ridge system below.  "About 1,000 acres," he said.

An acre is a football field, more or less.

Under us were a thousand football fields where not one green thing was left.  Not one tree, bush or blade of grass.  Their color was the gray death that lies below a few inches of soil.

You can fly over Death Valley and not see 1,000 acres where nothing grows.

As writer Ed McClanahan pointed out, you can't find 1,000 acres where nothing grows at Chernobyl.

We toured the Leslie County farm of Daymon Morgan, whose memories stretch back 79 years.  His healthy hills are surrounded and threatened by the destructive horror of mountaintop removal.

Ten years ago, you couldn't hear traffic noise from Morgan's porch.  Now the roar of diesel trucks and draglines fills the air, along with the irritating beep-beep-beep of monster machines shifting into reverse.

Underground blasts shake the earth from time to time.  Creeks have disappeared under tons of valley fill.

That evening, we listened as people who live every day amid the destruction talked about their lives.  I imagine every one of us took away our own main memory.  Mine is the young mother from Pike County who described how she has to make sure her 21-month-old daughter's bath water doesn't get in the baby's mouth.

Think of it:  Tap water is poisonous in parts of Pike County.

What Bill Caylor, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, says about mountaintop removal is propaganda of the crudest sort.  He claims the coal industry is "creating land for sustainable development for future generations."  And he argues that the land is reclaimed "by growing grass on it and sometimes adding forms of wildlife."

I walked across one of the fields Caylor says has been reclaimed.  From afar, it appears green, fertile and lovely.  But step closer and look down.  The grass is unlike any I've ever seen in Kentucky.  It's a weird stalk 6 or 8 inches long, growing 2 or 3 inches apart, not what you or I would call grass at all.  The field's appearance from a distance is a sham.

So are claims by Fletcher and Rogers and dozens of politicians that they love Kentucky.

If you love a woman, you don't beat her.  If you love a place, you don't allow it to be poisoned and polluted, gouged and leveled.

Once, at Midway College, author Kurt Vonnegut said that not opposing industrial rape and rapine is morally equivalent to watching Nazis take over Germany and doing nothing to stop them.  When I heard those words 10 years ago, they seemed extreme, but the authors' tour convinced me that Vonnegut was absolutely right.

If you love Kentucky, you'll get involved in stopping mountaintop removal.

columns by Bob Sloan:

Roadblocks  (2/27/2003)

Political Penises  (3/24/2003)
A Good President  (4/24/2003)

Un-Social Discourse  (6/19/2003)
Boone vs Rogers  (7/24/2003)

Boone vs Rogers II  (8/28/2003)
Toy Bugle at Vet Funeral  (3/1/2004)

Forgotten Young Soldiers  (6/14/2004)
Flynts Hard to Beat in Court  (8/08/2004)

Homeland Security?  (12/6/2004)
For Love of Kentucky  (5/02/2005)

I Love Mountains  (02/2006)