Letter: Stripping Away Preconceptions

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602 S. Gay Street
2nd Floor
Knoxville, TN 37902

Enjoyed the article, “Stripped,” by Cari Wade Gervin [cover story, Oct. 3, 2013].

I used to think strip mining was no big deal. I grew up in West Virginia, the coal mining state, so I am used to seeing coal trucks on the road and seeing strip mines off in the distance. I am also not anti-coal at all. I am glad we have relatively cheap electricity, and much of that is due to the coal-mining industry. But when you think about the damage that has been done to the mountains of West Virginia, and Tennessee, it raises the question, is the damage worth it? As mentioned in the article, looking at an overhead Google picture of some areas of West Virginia is a real eye-opener.

And oftentimes, what it comes down to is property rights. Many think, I can do what I want with my property and if I want to strip mine it, or lease it to be strip mined, I will. If I want to trash it, I will. If I want to leave a moonscape that is only fit only for “snakes and briers,” I will.

Property rights, though, do not give us the freedom to do whatever we want with the land, especially in populated areas. The reason is clear. It affects the people and land around us. It affects the water, the air, and, in this case, alters the look of the land. A person may have the right to change a ridgetop (or a bottom for that matter) but should they? And mining, unfortunately, is rife with people who don’t care. And for some, it is get in and get out. Who cares what I do. I don’t live there ... I don’t have to look at it.

Come to think about it, I have the same issues in my neighborhood. There are people who think it is okay to trash their property, or not take care of their home. For example, there is a home in my neighborhood that has become an eyesore. It is a solid brick home but the trim needs painting, and the weeds and grass are rarely cut. The owner doesn’t care. I suspect they are thinking, what I do on my property is my business! But, it affects our neighborhood, it affects our property values, and it affects our quality of life.

For those who love the land and love the mountains, strip mining has come to be seen as less than fitting. And not because people want to block jobs or because they are the treehuggers mentioned in the article. In my mind, it goes against our responsibility to our neighbors and to our fellow man. We should probably begin to phase out strip mining, not to honor the land, but to honor the people who live near that land, both in the present and for future generations.

Tim Totten


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