by Randy Lawrence
And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land
Well they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken
Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man.
*And Daddy, won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I’m sorry my son but it’s too late you’re asking,
Mister. Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away. *
The cost of cheap coal was a region left to erode into spoil banks, despoiled farmland, streams choking in silt, communities like John Prine’s Paradise, Kentucky, abandoned over polluted water and acid mine drainage. It was only through the activism of the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, the Farm Bureau and Grange, as well as the community of Ohio universities and allies in the steelworker and mining unions that pressure on the strip mine industry midwifed the birth of the Environmental Protection Agency and the beginning of strip mine reclamation in parts of Appalachia.