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Take a moment to compare the two photographs on this page with pictures on subsequent pages. In the tension between these two and the others lies the Appalachian tragedy, a continuing story of a wanton exploitation of a people and their place.



As the photograph of the young hunter on this page suggests, people live close to nature in the Appalachian highlands, an aspect of the self-sufficiency of the Scots-Irish who settled here in the early eighteenth century. Arriving in the New World and finding the tidewater and piedmont lands already occupied, the doughty pioneers took up residence in the mountains where a mule and single-bottom plow was as much agricultural technology as was needed for the small-field agriculture, the only kind of farming the narrow valleys would allow. Accordingly, the mountain people eked out the agriculture with subsistence hunting and fishing, and the use of wild plants, characteristics of their economy to this day. They built scattered villages and towns, as shown on the next page, with houses close together in valleys, hollows, and coves. A neighborliness ensued, and a self-reliance that some mistake for distrust of outsiders. In fact, the integration of livelihood with the natural envi-ronment and with one's neighbors is an ideal American lifestyle that neither flatland agronomists, factory workers, nor people who wear suits in cities can come close to achieving. The caricature in popular literature and films of a people absorbed with family feuds and moon-shining is a perversion of what most of us believe to be admirable qualities. Close-knit families and gutsy independence. Indeed, it was in the Appalachians…not Philadelphia… that colonists first declared independence from Great Britain. In northeastern Tennessee, the Watauga Association dissolved the bonds with the Crown and formed their own government in I772. "They were," as Theodore Roosevelt admiringly described them, "the first men of American birth to establish a free and independent community on the continent." However hard won, the independence of the people of the Appalachians, most notably in the central and southern areas of the moun-tains, has been under increasing attack for most of this century from giant multinational corporations and the agencies of government that support them. In the past several decades…especially the decades of pollution… the corporate siege has escalated dramatically. In one of his bitterest moments, the late John Flynn put it this way: "The shrewder, money-minded people," he said, "control the destinies of those whose values are of a higher order. It's forever been that way and forever will be-until the final lump of coal comes out of these valleys and the final tree is cut." This chapter is about the epic struggle of those that John Flynn described as having values of a higher order, a struggle to maintain their culture and livelihood in the face of the unrelenting compulsion of giant corpora-tions to profit from the destruction of the mountains. The following pages graphically demonstrate the ways the citizens of the Appalachians have been hanging on, in spite of the stripmines and chipping mills of those who worship the bottom line without regard for the Godgiven beauty of the mountains and their people. ~ (An Appalachian Tragedy, Page 127-8.)

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Hundreds of oxygen producing and pollution absorbing trees are uselessly destroyed every second in West Virginia alone in order for coal companies to get to their precious ore.