published Monday, March 19th, 2012

Cook: A slap in the face of the creator

Mountaintop removal is a sin, like slapping the face of God.

If we believe -- as so many Tennesseans do -- that the natural world around us was wonderfully and fearfully made by the hands of a creator, then mountaintop removal may be the most insulting, disrespectful, turn-your-back-on-the-Divine act we could imagine.

Mountaintop removal is the practice of dynamite-scalping tops of Appalachian mountains and ridges and cracking open the land like a ribcage in order to extract coal from inside.

More than 1.5 million acres of Appalachia have been destroyed in the process, and 13 ridges in Tennessee are affected by current mining.

Mountains are like miniworlds, green mysteries, home to more diverse life and species than there are hairs on our head. Mountains are ever present in literature, religion and poetry as the places where this life and the next seem to dance together.

Had Moses sojourned through Appalachia, he would have received his 10 Commandments vision atop a mountain. Had Jesus lived in Tennessee, his 40 days in the wilderness would have been spent on a mountain.

Where else would he go? Hamilton Place mall?

Mountaintop removal is massively destructive: Anything below the ridgeline is buried in sediment, waters are polluted and communities poisoned. A 2011 study found that it's safer -- by a lot -- for pregnant mothers to smoke than live near mountaintop mining.

"For babies born specifically with defects of the circulatory or respiratory system, smoking increased risk by 17 percent," said West Virginia University's Dr. Michael Hendryx, "and living in a mountaintop mining area increased risk by 181 percent."

Mountains are more than just mountains. How many tourism dollars do we receive in Chattanooga simply because of the mountains and ridges that surround our city like a green bowl? The three counties -- Anderson, Campbell, Claiborne -- where nearly all mountaintop mining takes place receive $165 million each year in tourist dollars.

The Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act originally was designed to stop all surface coal mining on any land above 2,000 feet. Plus, it exempts all current mines, so that no jobs will be lost.

That bill was polluted by Sen. Mike Bell, who wrote an amendment that pleased the coal industry. And last week, like a political hot potato, the Senate -- including Sen. Bo Watson -- tabled the third version of the Act -- which reads like the original -- until April 2.

They could have voted for Creation, for common sense, and for the thousands of constituents that have reportedly contacted their politicians about this issue.

Tennessee could have been the first state in America to ban mountaintop removal.

Imagine how proud we would have felt. Imagine the press, the tourism, the peace that passes understanding. It could have been like 1920, when the Tennessee legislature bravely cast the deciding vote, allowing American women the right of suffrage in the 19th amendment.

But money -- the villain in so many stories -- got in the way. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, for example, received nearly $195,000 in 2009 from the coal industry, according to Nashville's News Channel 5 investigation.

There's still a chance.

The House version of the bill sits in the Conservation and Environment Subcommittee and is expected to be voted on this Tuesday or the following. Our own Rep. Richard Floyd is a leader in the subcommittee. A good, reasonable and honest man, Floyd has been known to listen -- and respond -- to constituent requests.

His number: 615-741-2746.

His email: rep.richard.floyd@capitol.tn.gov.

"I've had lots of [elected officials'] offices tell me that they have gotten more contacts by far on this issue than any other," said Dawn Coppock, legislative director for Lindquist Appalachian Environmental Fellowship.

LEAF bases its work on the religious belief and Scriptural call that Christians are called to be its stewards of Creation.

"This has become a religious issue for thousands of Tennesseans," Coppock said.

"This is our best shot. This is the closest we've been. We could be the first state in the nation."

God will be so proud.

David Cook can be reached at davidcook@hushmail.com.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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Gloats said...

Call or email your TN Lawmakers and then sign & share this petition: http://signon.org/sign/protection-of-tennessee.fb1?source=s.fb&r_by=2119027

March 19, 2012 at 3:14 p.m.
Rtazmann said...

THIS IS ONE STUPID IDEA,,,AND WE PAY OUR GOVERNMENT TO MAKE THESE KIND OF DECISIONS???? WHO IS ON DRUGS???

March 19, 2012 at 4:47 p.m.
AlmostAmanda said...

JonRoss, I'm not sure why you can't figure out how to stay on topic or why so many conservative posters lately seem to need to drag Obama into everything, but let me clue you into a few differences: Obamacare can be repealed. When a mountaintop is removed, it's gone forever. And the process of removing the mountaintop will cost us dearly in terms of our environment, health, and natural beauty. If you want to support something as detrimental to our state as mountaintop removal for coal extraction just to enjoy a little anti-Obama/Obamacare tantrum, then quite honestly, you deserve to feel the effects of both. Grow up.

March 20, 2012 at 9:18 p.m.
Exusiai said...

David,

I'm sorry... are you mental? I mean I'm sure that the forest/woods that existed where your home now stands didn't just get up and walk away themselves. I'm almost certain that the natural woodlands that used to make up most of this valley just side stepped so you could have a paved road to your house.

Show me where in the Bible it says "Thou shalt not destroy nature". To make such a statement as "Mountaintop removal is a sin, like slapping the face of God." is not only ignorant, it's just plain misguided.

Do I agree with the mountain top removal? No. Is it a "Sin"? No.

Mental. I tell you.

March 21, 2012 at 2:25 p.m.

God ordered the destruction of a ton of trees when he had the ark built and then wiped out all the life on earth not in the ark. Killed it all. Dead. Seems the plants are designed for this type of occurence as they grew back and the earth grew all those trees again too. Someone doesn't know the bible.

March 22, 2012 at 11:18 a.m.
EaTn said...

Mountain top removal may not be a sin but I consider burning the coal removed in an unhealthy manner to slowly kill people with choking polluted air they breathe is. Also, I doubt the author of this article is receiving tens of thousands of dollars contribution from the business.

March 23, 2012 at 6:19 a.m.
eeeeeek said...

lol... in almost all "holy" texts creator and destroyer are equal descriptions

March 23, 2012 at 11:30 a.m.
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November 25, 2013 at 2:31 a.m.
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