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Bringing Down the Mountains: The Impact of Mountaintop Removal on Southern West Virginia Communities [Paperback]

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Item description for Bringing Down the Mountains: The Impact of Mountaintop Removal on Southern West Virginia Communities by Shirley Stewart Burns...

Coal is West Virginia's bread and butter. For well over a century, West Virginia has answered the energy call of the nation-and the world-by mining and exporting its coal. In 2004, West Virginia's coal industry provided nearly forty thousand jobs directly related to coal, and it contributed $3.5 billion to the state's gross annual product. And in the same year, West Virginia led the nation in coal exports, shipping over 50 million tons of coal to twenty-three countries. Coal has made millionaires of some and paupers of many. For generations of honest, hard-working West Virginians, coal has put food on tables, built homes, and sent kids to college. But coal has also maimed, debilitated, and killed. For West Virginia's underground coal miners, every day can be a waltz with danger and a prayer that death doesn't cut in. As the United States' voracious appetite for an affordable, plentiful, domestic energy source accelerates on a daily basis, the pressure for the Mountain State to produce more and more coal likewise increases. The result has been the expansion of mountaintop removal (MTR) surface coal mining in the steep hills of southern West Virginia. An extreme version of strip mining, MTR blasts off the tops of mountains in order to reveal the coal seams near the surface. More productive than underground mining, MTR, nonetheless, is killing our mountains.Although mountaintop removal has been practiced for nearly forty years, it did not really take off until the 1990s when a federal Clean Air Act amendment mandated more stringent emissions standards, thus increasing the demand for southern West Virginia's low-sulfur, high-volatility coal. Throughout the 1980s, MTR permits were granted to cover 9,800 acres of West Virginia land. In 2002, permits covering 12,540 acres were granted in a nine-month period alone. What's been missing from this supply-and-demand equation behind West Virginia's coal production is the environmental effects of mountaintop removal and its impact on the Mountain State's people. MTR has ruined homes, increased the risk of flooding, endangered the lives of school children, forced friends and family members out of town, and turned hardwood forests into moonscapes. In some cases, entire neighborhoods have been obliterated. Likewise, MTR has caused a rift within the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). Traditionally the consensus builder, defender, and unifier of miners, the UMWA's allegiance is now torn between its union members working on MTR sites and the underground miners whose interests often conflict with those of surface workers. Politicians have vacillated between silence and protectionism. But the individuals whose lives have been ruined by MTR feel far less ambivalent about the matter: they want change. "Bringing Down the Mountains" provides insight into how mountaintop removal has affected the people and the land of southern West Virginia. It examines the mechanization of the mining industry and the power relationships between coal interests, politicians, and the average citizen. Bringing Down the Mountains reveals how a political system married to natural-resource extraction turns a blind eye to the irrevocable disfigurement of the earth while thousands of West Virginians suffer the consequences.

From The Book Jacket
"Everyone in America should read this important book. Shirley Stewart Burns understands this complex issue intimately and eloquently explains it from all the various angles, exposing the horrors of mountaintop removal and the way it is not only destroying the heart of a place and its people, but also affecting everyone. This is the perfect book for anyone who wants to educate themselves on this disturbing, irresponsible, and disrespectful form of Big Business gone awry." -Silas House, author of "Clay's Quilt" and The "Coal Tattoo" "Written with passion and a sense of urgency, Bringing Down the Mountains is one of the most important resources available on the causes and consequences of mountaintop removal. It is historically grounded and well-documented but also remarkably current and accessible. It is always informative and alternately infuriating and inspiring as the author recounts the incestuous power relationships between the coal industry and local and national politicians and the courage and determination of local people fighting to save their land and heritage. This should be required reading in every high school civics classroom in West Virginia and for all who care about the future of the Appalachian coalfields." -Stephen Fisher, editor, "Fighting Back in Appalachia: Traditions of Resistance and Change" "Bringing Down the Mountains" is one of the finest books yet regarding mountaintop removal mining and the destruction of the Appalachian culture and environment. Shirley Stewart Burns has written the most comprehensive account of the struggle that has been taking place in the coalfields of southern West Virginia and the long-term ecological and social consequences of mountaintop removal mining. It is a thoroughly researched and eloquent book that brings alive the true voices and great dignity of a courageous people." -Jack Spadaro, Former Superintendent of the National Mine Health and Safety Academy "Bringing Down the Mountains" is a clear and impassioned account of the devastation being visited upon the mountains of southern West Virginia by the coal industry. Read it and weep." -Denise Giardina

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Item Specifications...

Pages   214
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 6" Height: 8.75"
Weight:   0.9 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Sep 30, 2007
Publisher   West Virginia University Press
ISBN  1933202173  
ISBN13  9781933202174  

Availability  0 units.

More About Shirley Stewart Burns

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States > State & Local - By State > West Virginia
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction
3Books > Subjects > Outdoors & Nature > Conservation > General
4Books > Subjects > Outdoors & Nature > Environment > Conservation
5Books > Subjects > Outdoors & Nature > Reference
6Books > Subjects > Professional & Technical > Engineering > Civil > Mining
7Books > Subjects > Professional & Technical > Engineering > Environmental > Mining
8Books > Subjects > Science > Earth Sciences > Prospecting & Mining
9Books > Subjects > Science > Nature & Ecology > Mountains

Reviews - What do customers think about Bringing Down the Mountains: The Impact of Mountaintop Removal on Southern West Virginia Communities?

A must read for 2008 and beyond  Dec 31, 2007
I personally know the author, Shirley Stewart Burns, and knew that the caliber of this story would be of the highest order. I was not surprised when I read it, and her emotional connection to the story and in particular the small mining communities of West Virginia shines through from start to finish. This is a story that should be read by all, as it highlights the power of the people and the ever increasing need for communities to rally behind a cause.
I congratulate Dr Burns on a wonderful, thought provoking and personally touching account. Even from the southern hemisphere where I am living, stories like this are relevant, and a number of my environmental friends have shown an interest in reading it.
Intellectual Watershed: Socially and Politically Important Book  Nov 14, 2007
One of the most important books WVU Press has published to date is Bringing Down the Mountains, by Shirley Stewart Burns. This book documents the effects of mountaintop removal on human communities and is the best study to date. The author focuses in detail--with rigor of mind and fidelity of heart--on the human impact of moutaintop removal. MTR may as well be called "extractive desertification," both in ecological and sociological terms.

This book is already having an impact and is serving to link more and more voices around the most compelling criticisms of MTR. The author is the daughter of a coal miner and knows first hand what devastation this practice wreaks: like me, her hometown is being encroached upon by one of these sites.

Mountaintop removal is not coal mining and it does not participate in that cultural legacy. Those who work these sites are excavators, and their employment is short.

If you care about Appalachia, the most diverse temperate forests in the world, a major source of water, or the impact of globalism, read this book.
The truth they never wanted you to know about!  Nov 3, 2007
I bought this book the day it hit the market and have read it twice. Dr. Burns lays out the case against mountaintop removal as only a native of southern West Virginia could. If everyone read this book the nation would finally understand the horror that is mountaintop removal, and take action to halt the practice. This is without doubt the authoratative academic work on this subject!

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