Saturday, December 31, 2005

Pikeville And The Vanishing Mountains

When a hurricane hits land, it suddenly starts to break down. A weak category two will almost immediately become a category one. It has something to do with the friction of the land, in combination with the sudden lack of warm Gulf water by way of which the storm is fueled. As even the most monstrous of storms makes their way up into the interior of such states as Alabama, or Mississippi, and on into the mountains of Tennessee, even the strongest, most monstrous of storms eventually become degraded to the point that for the most part they become at worse bad thunderstorms. Under the best of condtions, they can spawn off tornadoes, even when they reach into the state of Kentucky. But at least, by the time they make it up that far, their hurricane days are over, even if they originally made landfall as a category five or a strong category four.

That, however, is all about to change, thanks in part to a partnership between two men very few, even in Kentucky, have ever heard of.

Donovan Blackburn is the city manager of the Easter Kentucky town of Pikeville, and he has recently formulated a plan in conjunction with Jim Slater, the President of Central Appalachian Mining. The plan now all but in the process of implementation is one whereby the mining company would be contracted to mine all the coal out of at least two large mountains on the outskirts of the city. Once the coal is sufficiently removed, the land would then by flattenned, and then used for various development projects. Mainly for homes, but there is also an agreement in the process of being finalized involving a Mr. Mike de Bourbon, an attorney who represents local airports. There has also been discussion concerning the prospect of baseball and soccer fields.

As you might have surmised, we are talking about a whole lotta land here. Enough to change not only the landscape of Pikeville, and Pike County, but more to the point, completely change the environmental structure of potentially the entire state of Kentucky.Especially viewed n conjunction with other, similar projects that have been undertaken in recent years. A baseball field in nearby Prestonsburg, for example, necessitated the removal of a significant portion of mountain land, now flat land.

The reasoning in the current Pikeville project can be sumed up as the need for lieberstraum. The 6500 person population town of Pikeville needs room for expansion. One might hope for a different, more environmentally friendly solution. Ashland is not that far away, for example, and what the hell is in Pikeville anyway. Whatever is not there, it probably won't be there any time soon. Just more people, and increased social services to meet not the needs of the general population, but those of the newcomers. But of course, extra tax revenues in Ashland would not translate into higher salaries-and bonuses-for city officals of Pikeville.

The Pikeville development project, however, might well translate into a serious climactic change for the state of Kentucky, and in fact this has been ongoing for several years, in fact, for going on two decades now. Winter snow is pretty much a thing of the past, at least in comparison to years gone by. Rain in the winter was actually all but unheard of in Kenutcky.

Now, winter rain is a common Kentucky occurrence, and it is a nasty rain, an unhealthy rain, as there is a significant lessenning of natural flora to prevent flooding and erosion. Winters are not as cold, but they are sitll cold, and so on the worse of days, instead of snow, we are blessed with sleet and hail. There is significant snowfall once every few years, but it is rare. There is seldom any accumulation that amounts to anything, nor does it stick around when it comes.

As for the summer years, there is an increase of tornadoes to contend with, once a rarity, now practically a yearly, and frequent, occurrence. The reason for all this can be traced back directly to mining, development-and politics.

When the Democratic Party held the state of Kentucky in it's grasp, the party naturally became so corrupt, that it all but imploded from within, and the Bop Trop scandals, resulting from a federal investigation, spelled the end of Democratic Party domination of the state. But the Republicans achieving parity with the state Democratic Party only made things worse, in a lot of ways, and environmental issues are just one example of this.

Now to be clear, the Democratic Party in the earlier days were not exactly pro-environmental tree huggers. It took a significant amount of protest and threatened court lawsuits to prevent Red River Gorge from being turned into a giant dam project. And this was in the days of Democratic monopoly over the state.

Of course, in those days, environmental activism was in it's infancy. Yet, Red River Gorge ws one of the early successes of the modern environmental movement. Now it is almost forgotten, and there have been whispered rumors, once again, that the Gorge area as well may be slated for some future development.

Back in those early environmentally aware days, it became plain that the practice of strip mining, in which entire mountaintops were removed and levelled, would have a future negative impact on the surrounding area that would have far reaching consequences. And so, environmental laws were passed, on the federal level, that mandated the restoration of mountain lands, after strip mining, to as much of it's original contours as was possibile.

Unfortunately, Messrs. Slater and Blackburn have apparrently, suppossedly, found some kind of obscure exception written into this federal law that allows for development in the case of need for expansion. I don't expect the Interior Department or the Environmental Protection Agency under George W. Bush to be much help in rushing to prevent the development. It would probably take a court order to get it stopped, and another series of court battles to order the project permanently halted. As of now, I know of no one rushing to the courts. The only briefs being filed would appear to be the ones covering the pocket pool doubles currently being played by the mining and other development and business interests, and Frankfort politicians.

As such, I don't expect the project to be stopped, now do I expect it to be an unusual case. I expect more, in the years ahead. For all his faults, Governor Paul Patton managed to prevent mining on Black Mountain, which is the highest elevation in the state-for now. Along with the Red River Gorge, it too is probably once more in danger, as I'm sure there are greedy eyes yet turned toward it. Just waiting for the right opportunity, fo rthe right go ahead from the right person. Or for the right heads to be appropriately turned away.

But it looks like that's just the way it is for now, until the people stand up and shout, enough! Again, I don't expect this to happen either. There are too many wedge issues by which voters can be distracted, and who cares about a place like Pikeville anyway? Or any place else in the mountains of Eastern and Southeastern Kentucky, for that matter. Any change would be an improvement, right?

Fine. But think about this. In the event a strong category four or five hurricane batters into Florida, and makes it's way up to Kentucky by way of Georgia and/or Alabama, it might be more than a strong thunderstorm by the time it makes it here. It might in fact be a strong category one hurricane still, or even a weak category two.

Actions have consequences. Unfortunately, the people that are repsonsible, or will be in the event this shortsighted policy of greed isn't reined in, are not the ones who will suffer those consequences, as for the most part they probably won't be living in the affected areas. Or if they do, they can easily leave.

No, it's all the rest of us chumps who will be left to deal with the devastation. The average citizen of Kentucky, the descendant of that rapidly vanishing breed, the mountain people, who a century from now, at this rate, will be remembered, if at all, as a long extinct breed of person. Maybe even as a category of faerie folk who, for all their mystical powers, could not prevent the storms.


Wolfenstar said...

It is the sad state of the planet at this time, whereby the forces strive along the road to ownership/control of a living entity. It is fair to say that the lack of spiritual development in some allows for such blind acquisition. The mother earth will retaliate as she sees fit. The pagan way of nurturing that which sustains us has been forgotten by the masses. Yet there is always a thread of love, and while this still remains , the energy gathers, unseen yet felt.

The Pagan Temple said...

Very well put, Wolfenstar. Though ownership in and of itself isn't a bad thing, in my view, it depends on how responsible for his actions the owner is willing to be in regards the property.

Anonymous said...

Donovan Blackburn is a uneducated lap-dog to Frank Justice and Jimmy Carter who run the City Commission.

The Pagan Temple said...

That makes sense, most of the time so-called "city managers" are not elected by the people, but hired by other elected officials to put a face on projects they don't want to have to answer for themselves.

I think it's an unecessary expense myself, if someone runs for office they should know enough about what they are doing to not have to bring in an outsider, who is not accountable to the people, to do their work for them.

Of course, the reality is, they usually know exactly what they are doing.