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What Once Took Millions of Years to Change the Earth...

This is a piece of equipment called a "Dragline," which is not done any justice by this small picture. The only way to envision the true size of this machine is to imagine yourself in the seat of one of the trucks in the background. Look closely at this picture...


The size of the dragline in this picture is indicated by comparing it with the automobiles nearby, which looks like a child's toys. Such a machine, ten stories high with its giant scoop (53 cubic yards), can dismantle mountains, carve valleys, create whole new landforms at a scale that once took the forces of nature thousands of years to bring about.

Now, however, the money men in headquarter offices and government buildings can decide, as they have here, that the coal beneath such a mountain is more important than the mountain itself. More important than its crucial function in the ecosystem of which it is a part. More important than the people who once lived on or near it, or who hunted over it, or simply hiked to the top to take in the view on a summer Sunday.

The devastation is not yet done. The coal so ruthlessly stripped is loaded into railroad cars that crawl westward to be burned in the power plants that then inject their gasses into the atmosphere. Thus are the toxic waste products of the coal returned to the mountains whence they came… in the form of pollution that grievously injures the forests the dragline has yet to destroy.

The law requires that after the coal is gone, the earthmovers put the mountain back as best they can. Sometimes the executives of the corporations decide to install a golf course on the former mountaintop, and though this green emblem of privilege is appallingly out of place here, the executives nevertheless boast of their corporate responsibility.

(An Appalachian Tragedy, page 131.)


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