Author Tricia Shapiro has closely followed the grassroots movements to stop mountaintop removal. At an event organized by the Dream City Collective, Shapiro discussed her just released book, "Mountain Justice: Homegrown Resistance to Mountaintop Removal, For the Future of Us All."
Shapiro said, "Mountaintop removal is a really large-scale form of strip mining for coal in central Appalachia. Large amounts of explosives... are inserted into the top of a mountain. It's blown to bits. They clear the rubble off, scrape off a seam of coal, then blow up another layer of mountain, push it off to the side, and so on until they've got down to all the seams that they want. The seams are relatively thin. They're blowing up a lot more mountain than they're getting coal. And the damage that is done is on a much larger scale."
"Strip mining has been done in Appalachia for well over half a century. But half a century ago, it was relatively small in scale. So when you come across an old mine from the 1950s or 1960s, what you typically see is that the forest is closed in around it. When you've got mountaintop removal sites that run for thousands of acres and they end up taking up most of the landscape in their area... there is not enough forest left to ultimately recover that... It's a permanent alteration of what has previously been a really resilient, really biologically rich landscape and it won't come back in that form again. And that is why people who live there need to see it end."
Shapiro continued, "They have been going the conventional route of lobbying and filing lawsuits and trying to persuade government to enforce the laws so that mining companies can't poison their waterways and so on, and they've been getting nowhere. A decision was made among a number of those local folks who were trying to stop mountaintop removal - oh, six [or] eight years ago - that they needed to ratchet it up to include civil disobedience and direct action in their tactic kit so that they could just get enough attention and begin developing a little momentum to actually end this."