An image from Earthjustice"s Mountain Heroes campaign.© Earthjustice
Earthjustice, a public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the environment, has launched an innovative way to expose the devastation wrought by mountaintop removal mining (MTR). MTR is a particularly destructive form of coal mining that involves blasting the tops off mountains to reach the coal seams underneath, and the practice has turned the once-green Appalachian mountains into a barren, scarred wasteland. Anything that’s not coal is dumped into streams; over 2,000 miles of streams that would otherwise produce drinking water have been buried or destroyed as a result.
In a campaign called Mountain Heroes, Earthjustice hopes to connect the world at large with stories of those most impacted by mountaintop removal, people like 63-year-old grandmother Karen Woodrum, a former underground coal miner living in Boone County, West Virginia, who supports mining—just not the wholesale destruction of MTR.
Karen says on the site: "The first time I heard mountaintop removal, I was lying in my bed, and I heard a big blast, like a bomb going off, at 4 p.m. I used to write down every time they’d shake me out of my bed; it happened every day for a year. The pictures literally shook off my walls. They were mining all around me, taking the mountains in front of me, behind me…It’s like you’re in a war zone when you live close to mountaintop removal mining sites."
In addition to detailed stories—including streaming audio—from those experiencing MTR firsthand, the campaign invites anyone concerned with the impacts of MTR to post their own pictures and sentence-long explanations for why they stand against MTR. More than 130 people have sent in submissions so far—quite a few of them pictured skiing, hiking or overlooking the mountains they love.