When Our Desire for Energy Leads to Genocide

April 30, 2011

A friend turned me on to Bill Leonard’s, Opinion: Vanishing mountains.  The article speaks about mountaintop removal in the Appalachia’s and if or how the destroying of mountainous landscape might be destroying the spirituality of the landscape.

In reading the article, many thoughts came up.  I wonder if the owners of strip mines lived adjacent to the mountains being leveled; would they level the mountains?  I’d also bet mine owners and most of the workers who do the mining, call themselves Christian.  I wonder if Mt. Horeb were full of coal and they had access and they could make a profit and a living wage, would they level it as well?  I wonder how many workers whose job is to mine, who love to mine, and who live next to a mountain being leveled, would participate in the removal if they could make a living mining in a manner that does not flatten the landscape?  I wonder if it were economically profitable for everyone, would folk in my community endorse the removal of Mt. Pahto from the Yakama valley skyline?

The loss of ancient landscape to profit has been going on for quite a while now.  Extraction of ore, minerals, and petroleum has been going on long enough that most of us believe it to be normal.  Then, it isn’t just about ore, minerals, and petroleum, is it?  The changing of ancient landscapes, above and below ground, to meet our insatiable demand for energy seems to matter little as long as we get to keep living as we want.  Mountaintops are hacked off and valleys are filled so we can have clean coal.  Rivers are dammed and streams diverted so we might have hydroelectric power.  Miles upon square miles of open land are filled with solar panels to give us photoelectric energy.  Wind machines, spinning, rotating, and blinking their nightly red lights so we are provided with clean wind energy, transform ridge after western ridge.  Every day ancient landscapes across American are changed in the name of profit and energy.

There is a need for Christians to talk about the eradication of America’s ancient, indigenous, landscapes.  The need arises because the elimination of the Creators artful landscapes is the genocide of creation.  As this same friend said, “[Mountain Top Removal] certainly destroys the soul of the land—if that ain’t genocide, it’s not far from it.”  For those of us who identify as Christian, certainly for us who identify as Disciple of Christ Christians, the conversation of landscape annihilation is critical because when we (through our foreparents) participated in the genocide of ancient, indigenous, American Tribal people we did not question the how and why of our actions.  With our knowledge of past carnage, not only would we be thoughtless in not questioning the genocidal changing of ancient landscapes on our behalf, but also our children’s children would be correct in wondering, “What in the world were they thinking?” when observing a landscape unrecognizable to their forbearers.

© David B. Bell 2011

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