I stand in the valley, the sun on my skin, a restless almost artificial breeze blowing warm summer air. I am thinking back to when I was 14 years old and it was the first time I was on a reclaimed strip mine. I look around and realize I’m standing on ground that was moved and replaced, that all of the mountains around me are artificial. The boulders in the valley I’m standing on are not where they’re supposed to be. They were here long before my birth, but this is unnatural.
I had been hiking in the mountains of Logan County many times before with my grandfather, but I had never seen anything like this. I was completely alone on what felt like another planet. I was saddened and angered by what I saw. My great grandparents and grandparents had told me about the very place I was, that there used to be homes here; apple orchards, gardens, and beautiful mountains.
I kept asking myself how this could be acceptable. How could a community be completely gone without a trace? And how could anyone say that this place had been fixed back to even close to what it was before?
It has been seven years since my first time on a strip mine. I’ve been to many others since then and they all overwhelm me with sadness and anger. Sadness for the people who have been harmed or killed. Sadness that the beauty of my state has been taken away. Anger because the coal companies come in and take away everything people have, all for greed and not caring who they hurt in the process.
So I stand in this enormous artificial valley on the first strip mine I’d ever been on, laid bare and knowing that my state deserves much better than coal.