Not long ago I took a trip across the High Plains, and in addition to seeing more pronghorn and prairie dogs than I’ve ever seen, I also witnessed the landscape of Wyoming’s Thunder Basin for the first time. While much of it is drop-dead beautiful, one gets the feeling that something ominous is brewing there – roads are being repaved, railroads are new or well-maintained, and, of course, trucks are many, big, and well-used.
One soon finds out why. Thunder Basin is where about 40% of America’s coal is mined, though a traveler gets only an occasional glimpse of the massive dark pits uprooting acre after acre of prairie. It’s kind of the opposite of the mountain top removal mining tearing down places like Kentucky.
Serendipitously, upon my return to Lawrence I discovered Kentucky author Erik Reece, who recently published a wonderful new book, Practice Resurrection. It turns out his previous work, entitled Lost Mountain, is what poet and fellow Kentuckian Wendell Berry calls “by far the best accounting of mountain top removal and its effects.” In it Reece describes a year on a particular promontory, “thinking like a mountain,” in ecologist Aldo Leopold’s words, before said mountain’s head is blown off for the coal beneath. Read More..