"Lost Mountain" by Erik Reece is the story of, well, a mountain in Kentucky that has been lost. It would be one thing if the mountain went hiking one day and didn’t return when predicted, but no, Humpty Dumpty was pushed.
Seriously, "Lost Mountain" is the story of how Appalachian mountains are being summarily removed by blasting and bulldozer in the name of cheap coal. Author Erik Reece spent a year watching one mountain disappear. Each month he went back, chronicled the newest developments and photographed them. In between visits, he went out into the countryside and learned the stories of people who live there and the devastating effects that "mountaintop removal" has had on their lives and their communities. In short, the coal companies come to town, remove the mountain to extract the coal, fill the nearest valley and stream with toxic remains, and then leave town. Rules are ignored, regulations aren’t enforced, there’s bullying worthy of the mob and if someone actually tries to make the company pay, they just declare bankruptcy and move on to another mountain under another name. It’s corporate greed at its ugliest, and it’s tragic. The worst part is that it’s not even necessary to remove the mountains to get to the coal – it’s just cheaper.
I thought Reece did an incredible job as an investigative reporter and the book is well written and easy to read. The weakest part is the conclusion where he tries to end the book with hope. It’s going to take a lot more than pretty poetry to solve this problem. I think that as oil becomes more expensive, national attention is going to turn towards coal. I hear politicians talk about "clean coal technology," but it’s an illusion at the power plant because it doesn’t take into consideration the means of extraction. Coal may even be seen as a way to make more oil (did you know you can make oil from coal??) and we need to know the real cost. In the meantime, isn’t there somebody on Capitol Hill who can force the coal companies to obey the rules??!
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Readers: Light green to medium dark green.