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  • When I think about mountains, I think of stability, strength, fortitude. Permanence, in that mountains are one aspect of nature indomitable by humans. Sure, we can bulldoze ancient rainforests and dump toxics into the oceans just as easily as we can turn on our TVs, but bulldoze a mountain? No way. And that’s one reason why I have always loved mountains—they’re strong, testaments to the absolute power and beauty of nature, monuments that we can’t trample on so easily. But I have since learned otherwise. Coal companies, reaching entirely new levels of greed and disregard for both the environment and the welfare of American citizens, have realized the way to destroy those pesky, tough mountains: simply blow them up first, then bulldoze all you like! So simple, it’s a wonder nobody thought of it before the 1970’s.

    Mountaintop removal coal mining is nothing short of despicable. It takes a certain kind of person, I think, to be able to walk on top of a mountain that has existed infinitely longer than you have, supports an entire ecosystem of life, and is so beautiful, and then decimate it in the most unrefined way possible: loading it with dynamite, blasting it to pieces, and shoving it into a neighboring valley, crushing anything in the way. And honestly, it alarms me that so many people exist who can do such a thing, who have no qualms about it. It makes life impossible. When you blow up a mountain, leaving behind nothing but gray, dusty rock, an ecosystem can’t just bounce back. It’s done for. And mountains don’t grow back, either. In an ironic twist on my perceived permanence of mountains, mountaintop removal is, in a very absolute and final way, a permanent end to that mountain forever.

    It was eerie on top of the mountaintop removal site, unsettlingly quiet. And it wasn’t quiet the way that I normally love about nature—the bird-chirpy, wind-rustling kind. Rather, it was a dead, and truthfully very ominous, quiet. To our right we could see lush, green mountains stretching what looked like forever. But to the left was a rocky, dusty, gray wasteland. We were standing on a recently plateau-d piece of land—what had previously been a thriving mountain. The ground we walked on was torn up, riddled with tracks—not deer or raccoon or bear tracks but the industrial, cold, mechanical tracks of bulldozers. We saw an empty box of dynamite kicked aside after serving its purpose, abandoned bulldozers leaking oil into the ground and rusting forlornly, houses not even a mile from the blast sites, streams the color and consistency of ketchup. Each sight reinforced the absolute feeling of wrongness that pervaded the place. It was, without a doubt, one of the most affecting things I have ever seen.

    I left that site changed. I have always loved nature and felt passionate about environmental issues, tending to side with the plants and animals over corporate greed. But walking this former mountain intensified every environmentalist sentiment I have ever felt. I was so angry and so sad at the same time. Everything, right then, felt insurmountable. They can blow up mountains. What can we do? But even though it showed me some scary things, it also stiffened my resolve, lit my fire. Never again will I falter, give in to apathy, indifference, or fatigue. This is important, and there’s not much time. It’s time to go, go, go. For that mountain, for those people, for everything already gone, for everything we can still preserve.
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