Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Forgotten Forest

It's name is Lost Mountain. It sits in the middle of the rainforest of North America - home to the most diverse ecosystem on the continent. Eighty different species of trees loom among its slopes and streams. Endangered squirrels fly among those branches and threatened songbirds flit between the leaves.

But that is the past.

Lost Mountain has been lost.

Or more aptly "removed". Explosives blew off the summit. Bulldozers scraped away the bush and hardwood, pushing them into a burning pyre rather than taking the time to timber them. Fertile topsoil was scraped away. Lost Creek, which once meandered through the forest at an idler's pace, is covered under sixty feet of rock and dirt. All life is extinguished.

And then, the coal is removed and transformed into electricity. For us. For our laptops and lightbulbs. To power our refrigerators and television sets. Mountaintop coal at least partly powers every home and business in America (unless the inhabitant specifically pays for renewable energy).

In Lost Mountain, Erik Reece documents the devastation of one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet for something that we all use - electricity. The journey is a haunting one, beautifully written, heartbreakingly told. Of all the books I've read in the past year, this one was the easiest and the most difficult. It was easy in that I could not put it down. It was difficult in that there is a part of me who really doesn't want to know. Who doesn't want to think about my impact - even now. But the walls must come down. We must see and know what happens as a result of the power we use, the food we eat. Without awareness, there can be no change.

Lost Mountain shreds those walls, yanks us through the death and pollution with a gentle but firm hand, and shakes us as certainly as cracked foundations of the homes and buildings abutting the mining sites. It has been the subject of multiple reviews at The Blogging Bookworm. Every one of them rated it 5 out of 5 stars. I give it the same rating and recommend it for the same crowd that Katrina did: "for everyone who has ever turned on a light."

While you are waiting for your copy of Lost Mountain to arrive from the library - because this really really really is a must read - watch this video:

Come back next week for more on mountaintop removal, what you can do about it and how you can turn a mountain of electricity use into a molehill.


greeen sheeep said...

That is really sad. What is even more dismal is that I had no idea.

kale for sale said...

Great review. I do think of this book and the practice of strip mining every day. The story is like a little back hoe that rides around on my shoulder reminding me to turn off, unplug, use less. The story also had me pay attention to the source of energy where I live. The towns in our county are looking into purchasing renewable sources of energy that residents can choose to purchase through PG&E. And you'll love this, they have a light green or a dark green option.

CindyW said...

That is an ugly ugly mountain top. I am sorry for the people who live around these stripped off tops.

Thanks for the book review. Will I get really despressed reading the book?

Mama said...

Thank you Green Bean! You reach more readers than I do, so I am so happy you are posting on this subject! I hope that we will not just get "depressed" reading this book, but we will all get enraged and demand that our politicians don't keep spouting about "clean coal" when the method of extraction remains dirty. MTR needs to be illegal, and we all have to tell our representatives that we want the laws passed to end it! There are other options, and we need to stop talking and get serious about making them happen! I hope you keep speaking about it. Knowledge is nothing without action.

Green Bean said...

Greeen Sheeep: I had no idea either! Apparently the devastation is worse in Appalachia than it would be for drilling in the Artic Refuge - it's going on and we're totally clueless.

Kale: Thank you for getting me to read this book! I have PG&E too and would love to have that option. Right now all I have are offsets under "Climate Smart". Please post or email about it.

Cindy: Honestly, I am not more depressed. More enlightened. More motivated. I've been trying to cut back on electricity for over a year but now every time I think of using the dryer or leaving the computer on, I think of those mountains. You should read it. Really.

Abbie said...

I feel like I don't know what to do. I have the 100% option for clean energy, but other than that and energy conservation, what else can I do to stop this kind of destruction? Give me some advice, please GB!!!

Green Bean said...

Abbie, that is a huge step in the right direction. From there, there are a number of sites you can go to, letters you can write, and so on. I would also suggest you post about it, talk to people, forward the videos. I think most people are completely unaware of this. I was. First step is probably getting the word out - especially as you already have clean energy!

Lisa Sharp said...

Great my power company uses this coal! I'm sick right now so I dunno if I will be sending the letter today or later but I do plan on sending one and trying to get others to join me. I do have my lights turned off right now at least.

Thanks for posting this!!!!!!!!!!! I posted a blog about it-

Donna said...

gb: Thanks for keeping this book in the spotlight! I'm looking forward to hearing if you have ideas on what we can do about it. Here on the west coast, coal is so out-of-sight-out-of-mind! I was shocked at what was happening in Kentucky, but uncertain what I could do to stop it.

And for cindyw: I wasn't sure I wanted to read it either, but I'm so glad I did. It's not depressing, exactly -- infuriating is more like it. But you'll be really glad you know.

Green Bean said...

Lisa: Thank you for posting on this. I was truly floored when I read this book.

Donna: I'm so glad that you guys brought this book to my attention. We NEED to keep this in the spotlight.

Everyone check out Mama Goes Green for more information.

Benji said...

Green Bean,

I just stopped by to thank you for posting about mountaintop removal and

You're making a HUGE difference: to date 31,000+ people have signed on to help end mountaintop removal!

In case you havent seen it yet, we just released a new video about Blair Mountain in West Virginia as part of the America's Most Endangered Mountains video series.

Oh, and please join the Bloggers Challenge if you havent already.

Again, thanks, and take care!

Benji Burrell


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