Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Mining Issues

I suspect you could call me a voracious internet reader, but I suspect that there are others who really spend more time than I do. I generally only read blogs from people that I have met or with whom I am friends. I met Julie Zickefoose at the Festival of the Cranes at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. I was fascinated with her stories of caring for hummingbird chicks and swift chicks. I have enjoyed the beautiful artwork and the stories in her book Letters from Eden. So I added her to my list of blogs that I regularly read. Her last two posts are important to share: Mountaintop Removal Mining and How it all works.

I've been a regular visitor to Colorado since I was a young girl. I have enjoyed the rustic old mining ghost towns with their dilapidated houses and sluices. It represents a time in history when we thought everything was unlimited. We were not as aware of what the process of digging out ore did to the streams. There are a number of streams that still run red and orange from mining in the past. To our credit, there are a few areas that have really been cleaned up and revegetated. There is even one stream that used to be red that is now clear. But the residue remains on the stream bed.

In my local area in Texas, Alcoa runs a big mining operation near Rockdale. I know that one of the leaders in Girl Scouts used to set up tours. Historically this area has produced lignite, oil, and aluminum. It claims: "Today not only does the mine produce more than six million tons of lignite annually, it manages an extensive, award-winning reclamation program in the effort to restore the land to a condition that is equal to or better than it was before mining."

Texas rolling blackland prairie is going to be much easier to reclaim and revegetate than West Virginia mountain tops.

I foolishly thought we had more protections in place to protect our environment. I don't see any of our presidential candidates taking stands and talking about what they would do to protect our environment.

I realize that this is still "heresy" but part of me wishes that we had done more with nuclear energy. There has only been one major accident (Chernobyl) and a minor incident at Three Mile Island. I know that we have not figured out what to do with the waste, but so much of the research ended as well. The other issue is certainly what developing countries would do with nuclear power plants and waste with their much more limited budgets. There is a part of me that wonders whether global warming would be as much of an issue if our power plants were nuclear rather than coal and if we had developed a way to run our cars with clean electrical batteries or hydrogen fuels.

There are so many jokes about technologies that "big business" has buried to protect their own interests. I so want to believe that we as humans are smarter than that.

Wind power is clean with at least 30 years of research. We still have to be careful to protect view corridors and migrating birds, but I am hearing good things about the possibilities ahead of us with wind energy. It seems to me to be a lot better than tearing down mountains and fouling streams.

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