An unprecedented roster of acclaimed musicians came together Wednesday night (5/19) at the historic Ryman Auditorium to launch Music Saves Mountains, a campaign sponsored by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Gibson Foundation to end the destructive method of coal mining known as mountaintop removal. The campaign, which features Dave Matthews, Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Patty Griffin, Kathy Mattea, Patty Loveless, Big Kenny and Buddy Miller, kicked off with an educational night of song, revealing the peril and destruction wreaking havoc on communities throughout Appalachian communities.
“Protecting Appalachia’s natural heritage is critical in preserving both our musical legacy and the future of our craft,” said Harris. “The Appalachians have inspired countless country, folk, bluegrass, gospel and Americana songs. Now those sources of inspiration are being secretly destroyed. We’re standing together with one voice to send the message that we will not sit idly by while our mountains are being blown apart.”
Mountaintop removal is an extreme form of strip mining that extracts coal by using explosives to literally blow up ridgelines to provide easy access to thin coal seams below, with the leftover rock, rubble and mining waste dumped into valley streams below. To date some 500 Appalachian peaks have been flattened, leaving behind scarred moonscapes, polluted water and shell-shocked communities.
“For generations, countless legendary performers have shared with the world songs that celebrate Appalachia,” said Big Kenny of Big & Rich. “This campaign is no different. We’re celebrating these treasured mountains and want the whole world to know that they will be lost forever if we don’t all come together and help end mountaintop removal.”
On the campaign website, MusicSavesMountains.org, visitors can learn more about mountaintop removal, see what participating musicians are doing to protect the Appalachians and find out what concerned citizens can do to help end the devastating practice of high-elevation surface coal mining. So far more than a million acres of Appalachia have been flattened – from eastern Tennessee and eastern Kentucky to southern West Virginia and western Virginia — and over 2,000 miles of streams have been polluted or destroyed by mountaintop removal coal mining. Countless jobs have been lost and local Appalachian economies ravaged as a result of the practice. Explosives and heavy machinery used to extract coal in mountaintop removal have replaced the manpower used in traditional deep-shaft mining.
The Music Saves Mountains campaign is not an anti-coal industry movement. Rather, it seeks to raise awareness and put an end to just one destructive form of coal mining, mountaintop removal. Less than 7 percent of the coal mined in the U.S. comes from mountaintop removal, and yet its cost to local communities and the environment is irreparable and devastating.
“Nothing good comes from mountaintop removal,” said NRDC president Frances Beinecke. “It costs jobs, destroys forests and poisons drinking water. People become sick as a result of this form of mining, and communities are forever damaged. Mountaintop removal would never be allowed in America’s other treasured mountain ranges, such as the Rockies, the Sierra Nevada or the Adirondacks. It should not be allowed in the Appalachians, and it must stop.”