Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Price of Power

I was thrilled yesterday when I saw the front page of the Toronto Star. Thrilled to see this issue finally rise above the fold in the mainstream media, but also nauseated as I always am when I see these pictures.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is mountaintop-removal coal mining.

I first read about this brutally efficient method of coal mining last fall over at DailyKos, where a number of diarists have been slogging away at the issue for some time now, trying desperately to be heard above the din of the Democratic Primaries. This one in particular just took my breath away.

I think it hit me especially hard because I had just recently driven through a more northerly part of the Appalachian range in Pennsylvania, and was completely blown away by the beauty and peace and presence of these pristine green mountains. Rising serenely above the freeways and the drab grey industrial towns, they loomed impossibly high, covered in an unbroken blanket of trees. I have never seen the Rocky Mountains, but I cannot imagine them to be any more beautiful than these.

So it wasn't all that difficult for me to imagine what those mountains would look like stripped of their trees, slashed by access roads, with the top third of their height blasted away entirely.

Here in Ontario, where we call our electricity "hydro", we like to pretend that abominations like this have nothing to do with us. But the fact is that 20% of our electricity still comes from coal, and 40% of that coal comes from Appalachia. How much of that comes directly from mountain-top removal no one will say, although it is practised to one extent or another by just about every coal company in the region and is becoming more widespread every day.

Still, asking how much of our electricity comes from MTR coal is kind of like asking how much of your hamburger meat comes from human corpses.

Go. Read. Me, I'm turning off the computer now.


  1. Pretty disturbing stuff, to be sure. This kind of mining is irreversible and damaging to the ecosystem and natural landscape. The Rockies are quite beautiful, and so is Appalachia. But you know what, the North Superior landscape is as beautiful as any I've seen in both B.C. and Appalachia.

  2. I'm sure it is. I was specifically thinking about mountains, but for stunning landscapes in general I'm partial to the view of the Niagara Escarpment out my back door.

    (Ok, not quite out my back door. I actually have to walk a few blocks to see it, but you get my drift.)

  3. Yes, I am fond of the Niagara Escarpment and in particular the Bruce Peninsula. I usually go up there about 10-20 times each year. I also like hiking Mount Nemo, Kelso, and Rockwood canyon. Niagara Falls also has little known hiking.