Age twelve, Jimmy can’t run with his classmates in pickup ball games after school. While his friends are in the sandlot, Jimmy is making another trip to the Children’s Hospital in Charleston, WV. His friends know the latest statistics of each player on the minor league team of West Virginia Power. Jimmy knows the gauge of each needle used to take blood for testing as well as inject cancer fighting chemicals into his frail – almost concentration camp like – body.
Mountaintop removal (MTR) is a disastrous form of coal mining that involves the rape and plunder of the summit of a mountain. Entire coal seams are removed along the ridge by blowing the rock and dirt which hide the seam below. This layer, referred to as “overburden” is then dumped into neighboring valleys in what are called “holler fills”.
Numerous studies show repeatedly that mountain mining has serious impact on the environement and horrendous health consequences for people living within the sphere of damage caused by MTR. The health affects result from contact with affected streams and exposure to airborne toxins and dust.
As documented by M.A. Palmer in the January 2010 issue of Science magazine (page 148), says, “Published articles show a high potential for human health impacts. These may result from contact with streams or exposure to airborne toxins and dust. Adult hospitalization for chronic pulmonary disorders and hypertension are elevated as a result of county-level coal production. Rates of mortality, lung cancer, as well as chronic heart, lung and kidney disease are also increased”.
A study in 2011 found that in counties located near mountain mining, the residents experienced higher rates of birth defects. The elevated number of birth defects included circulatory/respiratory, musculoskeletal, central nervous system, gastrointestinal and urogenital defects. On going studies indicate that defect rates are more pronounced in more recent studies, giving clear and convinving evidence that mountaintop mining-related air and water contamination are cumulative.
Sadly, Jimmy won’t leave long enough to see an end to mountaintop removal. His prognosis is not good. His doctor tells Jimmy’s parents that the end is close and he probably won’t last through the summer. Not even enough time left for one more baseball season to cheer on West Virginia Power.
Jerry Nelson is a nationally recognized photojournalist and adventure photographer. His work has appeared in many national, regional and local publications including CNN, USAToday, Upsurge, Earthwalkers and Associated Content and he is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and OpEdNews as well as a weekly guest on a national radio news show. Nelson travels the country seeking out the people, places and things that make America unique and great. Nelson’s book, OccupyDC: As I See It has been called, “The most thorough photographic documentation of the Occupy Movement in Washington DC”.
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