Mindless Destruction

Mindless Destruction

The News from Sam’s Branch

   I wrote this for the Lincoln Independent of April 3, 1996

     We are engulfed in a mindless destruction of our home, the earth. The problems we leave our children in unbalanced budgets are nothing compared to the awful and permanent destruction of this planet earth. Look at the trash along the road. I’m like the Sundance Kid in the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”—who are these people? I would like to be inside their heads at the moment they roll the window down and throw out the pop can or fast food debris. I don’t understand people who do that. Are they that stupid, or do they see this place as worthless—so what difference does it make? Maybe they are like James Watt, Ronald Reagan’s Interior Secretary, who said that Jesus is returning in this generation, so it doesn’t matter what we do to the earth. Go ahead and tear it up because it ain’t going to be here long. But the litter people, whose work the beauty of spring will cover as it did with the snows of winter, are no problem compared to what Hobet is about to do to Upper Mud River.

Hobet is going to destroy two thousand acres of West Virginia hills, forever. They will do their so-called “reclamation”, but neither oaks nor hickories will ever grow on that land again. With the rock strata below the surface destroyed the long tap roots of hardwoods can’t find water. Trees that have shallow roots and drink surface water might grow on land where the soil has been turned upside down. We have about three inches of top soil in these mountains; there is no way the topsoil can be skimmed off and put back as it was. The so-called “reclaimed land” is hard as concrete. They have these plants that make it appear the soil is healthy, but when you get close the soil looks barren and rocky in between the plants.

This is the only planet we have to live on, and it is being destroyed at an alarming rate. Our grandchildren are going to inherit a stinking cinder. I would like to go inside the head of the people who can permanently destroy these hills. I would like to know what they are thinking about when they push those hardwoods over and gut the land until it bleeds like a stuck pig. Jobs? Money? We got to eat. But what about the future? Will our grandchildren eat? Will they have jobs when the coal is gone? We get the electricity, the miners get a wage, the companies get millions of dollars and a super tax credit and the mountains are gone. The coal is gone, the jobs will be gone, the electricity will be used up, and what do we have but a stinking cinder for an earth. The stink will be provided by the pulp mill[1] in nearby Mason County, or the chemical plants in the Kanawha Valley; take your choice.

If we think coal is the answer to our problems, take a look at McDowell County…and Mingo…and Logan….Coal has ruined those places. They have the worst of everything–the worst roads, the worst schools, the worst environment, and the worst poverty. If coal is so great how come places that have it are so awful? I wouldn’t live in those counties for all the tea in China.

When the coal companies get through with us they will return to their mansions and beautiful scenery, nice roads, and good schools, and leave us with a stinking cinder. Our children will inherit the gom. With their technology, the coal industry provides few jobs anymore. No jobs, no mountains, and no hope–they get it all.


[1] The pulp mill was defeated thanks to the dedication of the folks at the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to Amazon.com to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (wvhighlands.org), and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation (ksff.org). I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at martinjul@aol.com or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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