Posted by: Kenn Hermann | February 28, 2006

Isaiah’s Vision and Mountaintop Mining

mining
“Every Mountain Shall Be Brought Low and Every Valley Shall Be Filled” (Isa. 40:4-5)

It is so comforting to know that the good Christian owners, operators, and stockholders of Hobet 21, the 12k sq. mile strip mine in West Virginia owned by Arch Coal Company, take their Bibles so seriously. How could I have missed the meaning and scope of Isaiah’s prophecy? All of this time the Church has taken his prophecy as a metaphorical description of how all creation will prepare to welcome the Lord’s triumphal coming to His people for their salvation. Now we know that Isaiah was foretelling the coming of the newest advances in mountaintop mining to feed our insatiable need for coal.

If you have not yet read the March issue of National Geographic (March 2006) on “The Paradox of Coal” and “The High Cost of Cheap Coal,” you must at least visit their website, view the stunning and gut-wrenching pictures of this horrific practice, — and reflect deeply on how your way of life is deeply implicated in this destruction.

I plan to read more about this practice in Erik Reece, Lost Mountain, and Kristen Johannsen, ed., Missing Mountains. My students will also get a good dose of this issue in their “Cultural Dynamics of Technology” class.

Sinclair Lewis’s vivid imagery of practices in the early 20th-century meatpacking plants in Chicago (The Jungle) led to the FDA; Rachel Carson’s painstaking research on the devastating effect of DDT led to its banning (Silent Spring); and Michael Pollan’s trek along the unnatural journey of cattle from calf to steak has made beef taste less savory to many of us. My hope is that these pictures will make us all think more deeply about our intensive energy consumptive lives–and lead state and federal authorities to halt this environmentally and socially destructive practice. Will President Bush’s efforts to ‘free’ us from dependence on Middle Eastern oil ‘chain’ us more heavily to coal?

And, yes, it is difficult to avoid the irony: here I am sitting in the comfort of my home and writing this post, all the while depending on the coal-fired plants to provide essential energy. Lord, deliver us . . . .

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