Topless Isn’t So Bad Sometimes

In Opinion/Personal on September 14, 2012 at 6:53 pm

Before I actually get into the meat of this post, I first want to remind anyone reading this that you are on my blog, which I use to discuss things I believe or am interested in.  I am fully expecting most people to disagree with me, and I am fully anticipating negativity from this.  But I also feel a great importance in giving my stance on this matter and standing by it.  I’ll also start by giving a quick run-down of why this seems important to me right now.  It’s an issue that has been debated for a pretty long time, at this point, and I’ve never had an interest in voicing my opinion on it before.  That was my own stupidity, my own self-centeredness.  Before, I couldn’t really see how I was directly effected by this, so I brushed it off.  Not much has changed – I am still not directly effected by this, but it is affecting plenty others right in front of me.  A recent experience I just so happened to walk upon allowed me to see this controversy in an all new form of clarity.

I’m in the line of social work, employed by one of the largest community mental health organizations in the nation.  When the capital had a rally for equality for the mental health population, not only was I invited, but I was expected to attend.  Some of my team members were going, some of my clients were going, lunch was provided, it was my first trip to the capital in my whole life, and I was getting paid to attend.  Nothing about any of that gave me any inclination that this day would not be so pleasant.  My supervisor, a coworker, and myself make the hour drive to get there.  We get lost immediately upon arrival.  (You would think a government building would have better sign placement skills to direct people to the tunnel that led from the massive parking garage directly into the main building.)  We finally get it figured out, but it takes us nearly 30 minutes to get to the correct floor anyways.

On the correct floor, we are greeted by smiling people working the food tables.  Chips, cookies, sandwiches with a choice between three meats, and a bottle of water.  The three of us are each focused on getting our food, so our chatter subsides while at the tables.  Besides, it’s so loud with all the other attendees of the rally that I could barely hear my own thoughts in my head.  It’s so loud and so busy and I’m starting to feel overwhelmed in this little hallway, so I decide to go on into the cafeteria and wait just inside the doors until the rest of my party had received their box of food.  That’s when I see him.

There’s an older gentleman standing right outside the cafeteria doors, strategically placing himself so that no one can enter or exit those doors without seeing him.  He’s looking ever the environmentalist: corduroys and all shades of brown, slightly unkempt hair, and thick rimmed grandfather glasses.  Hearing only half a sentence out of his mouth, I know without a doubt that this man is not from anywhere southern.  By this, I don’t mean that I knew he wasn’t from KY at all, I just know he wasn’t from the area that he was his purpose for being here on this day.  You see, in his hand he’s holding a home-made sign.  On the left half of this frighteningly white, flimsy poster board is a beautiful picture of a serene mountain landscape.  Sunlight, slopes, peaks, valleys, and solid green pines.  Breath-taking.  He’s also glued a little white dove in the top corner over part of the picture, and he’s scrawled some words at the bottom: “God made this…”  On the right hand side is the complete opposite.  The lighting in this picture appears significantly more somber, making the image even more dramatic.  It’s part of a mountain, but the valleys are running together, the peak is gone.  The trees are all gone and the earth has been turned over, creating unnatural looking mounds and holes.  Under this picture, the man has scrawled the words “who made this?”  And there it is.  I’ve walked right up on a protester of mountain top removal.

I hold my tongue and dart passed him, feeling uptight about the indication that this major financial asset of my hometown, along with so many other towns in eastern KY, is comparable to defying God.  I sit with my supervisor and coworker, we make small talk while we eat, but I find myself having difficulty enjoying my free food (which is very concerning for anyone who knows me well).  I’m still distracting and reeling from the sign.  I excuse myself from the table, partially because I need to use the restroom and partially because I need to see if he is still here, and I again almost run into the man and his sign.

Now, though, he has accumulated an audience of 3 women who are clueless to mining whatsoever, as evident by the inane questions they are asking and the way they are all hanging on to every word he is saying.  And every word he is saying, by the way, is getting under my skin.  I will admit, I was not paying extremely close attention to what he was saying – just enough to get the point of his story.  Essentially, this protestor is telling these women about the bad men coming from the cities to these small, less fortunate towns in eastern KY, promising great things only to force them into coal mining and horribly destroying their own town’s nature.  He notices me, standing off to the side watching him, and starts directing part of his statements toward me.  It’s obvious that he’s doing his best to draw me in.  Little did he know, I am already aware of the mining in eastern KY, and evidently I know more than he does.  Because I have been actively trying to not be abrasive towards people, and because I was technically working and representing my organization, I reigned in my fury.  I very precisely narrowed my eyes at him and ever so slightly gave a slow shake of my head.  It may just have been my boldness making me feel powerful, but I could swear that his posture shrunk a little and he quickly returned his attention to the three women still buying into what he was saying.

I had read the comments online about mountain top removal and mining and how frowned upon it has become.  I had heard of celebrities protesting – Ashley Judd comes to mind.  She has made it known that she is against it with statements and all that.  But miners have also made known how they feel about her by counter-protesting with signs about the double standard of her getting paid to take her top off.  (I have nothing against her, everyone has their own opinion.  Her movies aren’t the worst, I’m not even sure if she’s done topless scenes, and I’m really not interested in that enough to Google it.  It just assists in explaining part of the reason I chose the title I did for this post – a bit of humor to lighten such a heavy topic, maybe.)  Anyways, back on track: yes, Ashley Judd lived in KY.  No, not in eastern KY where mining is prevalent.  Therefore I feel the same about her opinion of this matter as I do about the protestor at the capital building.  It is very easy to have an opinion on something that you are not directly related to or affected by.

It is also very easy to not have an opinion at all for these same reasons, which I have already admitted to.  However, when I saw this protestor at the capital building, it sparked something in me.  Please, allow me to impart on all you readers the information I gave to my coworkers that day at the capitol.  I was taken aback by the fact that neither of my coworkers knew the things I discussed, ut then I realized that people outside the mining belt have no reason to know the things I do about it.  Then I realized that this meant there were so many more people who weren’t getting an inside view.  In addition, not long after my capitol experience, my hometown started to really feel the wrath of opposition.  My Facebook feed was filled with old high school classmates posting about their husbands or fathers being laid off and out of work because the mines were decreasing their work force, cutting out complete shifts, or closing altogether.  This made me nail-biting anxious.  I don’t think I could name one family from back home that was somehow dependent on the coal industry.  Most of the generation before me supported themselves and their families by working for a mining company.  What will happen to these families, to the entire community, if it just continues in this way?

First of all, this is a big money-maker.  It supports the families.  Some of the coal is exported to other countries.  I’m no economic whiz, but that should count for something, right?  I am aware that there are alternatives to coal.  I am also aware that, seeing the technology used to discover, cultivate, and perfect these alternatives, it shouldn’t be difficult to find ways to make the coal safer for the environment, as well.  But that’s not even the part that gets me.  I present to you all, my own take on the aforementioned protest sign in the form of a short test:

Here is a lovely photo, taken by yours truly, of a mountain only 5 minutes from my mother’s home in eastern KY.  It’s beautiful and green.  The photo really doesn’t do it justice.

Here is a not so lovely photo of a mountain in the process of being torn down and ripped apart.  Cut trees and rocks and dirt.

Now, here’s the test:  Which photo depicts the terrible mess of mining and mountain top removal?  I’ll give you a hint – if you said it was the second picture, you would be incorrect. Another hint?  Neither.  Neither of these pictures shows mining.   And this is what really bothers me.  Forget the double standard of making money by removing different tops, let’s talk about this double standard.  This mountain destruction is due to “expansion.”  A bigger road being put in to get to a location that already has a fully accessible road, but this road will shave off about half an hour.  If that’s nto bad enough, they put it going right through this mountain when, had the time and effort been made to alter the plan ever so slightly, either side of this mountain was completely open for this bridge to run right through.  Still not enough?  The first picture of the beautiful scenery actually is the result of mountain top removal.  This coal company did it the way it should always be done.  They mined out the coal to make their profit, then reclaimed the land.  Many years ago, when I was still quite young, this mountain had no top, was frequented by large dirty trucks, and the nice pretty grass was dirt and rocks used for mine run-off.  But when the mine was done, they relaid the grass.  They replanted trees.  The wildlife came back, and now you would never know by driving by.  This man at the capital had chosen the worst picture of the most intense time of mountain top removal and used this to wholly represent the entire process, and this type of game is why neither of my coworkers had ever heard of the coal company reclaiming the land.

So why is it not okay to temporarily remove a mountain top to enrich the community and families, but it’s okay to permanently destroy the entire mountain just for convenience?  I know this has been an extremely long post, but I felt it important to tell my own personal journey on this subject.  I want anyone who reads this to understand where I am coming from to be able to better understand why I have the opinion that I do.  My suggestion… granted I’m not fully educated on coal companies and mining methods and all that, but my suggestion is to find methods to make coal use safer and hold the mines to very high standards of how they need to recover the areas they mine when they are done with them.  If all mines were held to the standard as the mine that reclaimed the land in the picture above, then the habitat would only be temporarily altered and the community would still be able to prosper.  I understand if people still don’t see my point of view, everyone is entitled to that.  I would just appreciate it if people expanded their viewpoint a little to include the other ways the mountains are being destroyed instead of ignoring them and forcing hard-working eastern KY-ians into unemployment.

Thank you, and I now step down from my cyber soap box.

And if you are still interested, here are a couple more picture of each:

MTR Site – In Progress

Reclaimed MTR Site. There is bare rock at the top, but this still beats no mountain at all, IMO.

Mountain destruction for Bridge

Even this little nub will soon be gone


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