February 8, 2006
Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness, Radical Strip Mining
and the Devastation of Appalachia (Hardcover)
One of the most tragic effects of the Bushevik ability to keep all opposition at bay through use of the "fear factor" and tampering with our system of justice is the assault on our environment.
When Americans are being killed daily in Iraq and the world is a powder keg because of Bush incompetence and the administration's inflaming of hatred, our media and our politicians pay little notice of how the landscape and natural resources of our nation are being ravaged by corporate profiteering run amuck.
"Lost Mountain" is a must-read book that reawakens us to the fact that the Bush Administration has used the "War on Terrorism" not only to consolidate its power, but also to provide a cover for the scarring of our national environment.
Erik Reece is a native of Kentucky and now teaches creative writing at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. He wrote "Lost Mountain" because he was deeply disturbed by how strip mining was despoiling the natural landscape of his native state, polluting the environment, and creating potential catastrophic dangers for the future.
Reece, who won a Columbia School of Journalism Award for a story in Harper's Magazine upon which the book is based, writes with a clarity, credibility and sense of passion about the strip mining of the ironically named "Lost Mountain" in his home state. The cover photo on the book, which shows the catastrophic disfiguring of the coal industry's greed, we first mistook for a dam. That photo alone is consistent with the sad shock of reading this heartfelt and professional lament of how we are allowing "America the Beautiful" to be devastated by rapacious profiteering in the era of Bush's "deregulation" of the corporate world.
It's a complicated story, because the poor residents of Appalachia are in need of jobs. And many of them defend the strip mining because it brings employment to an economically hard hit area, but at the cost of self-cannibalizing the very region that the workers live in -- and endangering their lives and land.
Reece chronicles the life and death of a mountain, but he could well be writing the metaphor for the Bush/Cheney creed of looting our environment without any regard for what we will leave behind and how we are disfiguring and poisoning America for a little temporary profit.
This is a marvelous book that comfortably moves from personal reflection to geology to environmental law (and lack of enforcement) to literature and philosophy. (You have to love a book that manages to convincingly weave into its fabric a discussion of Spinoza and a tense encounter with highly reluctant Kentucky state environmental "enforcers.")
The last paragraph of the book states clearly Reece's perspective on the "erasing" of "Lost Mountain" and what it symbolizes: "Material gain, speed, and convenience are the most dominant forces within this country, and they have done much to crush the spiritual, ethical, and aesthetic elements of our nature. If we understood the natural world as a spiritual presence, we would also see that all living things are kin to us. If this realization led to a moral attitude toward the natural world, then our destructive behavior would change. We would change. We would become more fully human. And we would recognize the natural world not merely as a resource, but as something more profound -- what Thoreau liked to call the Poem of Creation."