Varying Capacities of strategic actors evaluation

Lost Mountain’ and look at what the writer say about coal mining and its overall effects to the overall environment and the entire human race. It will first analyze the problem at hand both from the political side and other actors involved in the coal mining on mountain tops. In addition to that the study will go ahead to see the varying criticism and proponents views on the issue and particularly on what the author of the book takes on the issue. According to Reece, the author of the book, the problem of coal miming on mountaintops has a political twist which makes it difficult to solve or work on its solution.

Lost mountain is a book by Reece Erik that has been eloquently been written and quite moving with the main agenda concentrating on the issue of cold mining at the mountain tops. Reece is mainly against the practice in his book and compares the now landscape to the earlier paradise that he knew earlier. This is no a tale of environmental degradation, it is shows how the blasting, coal washing and valley filling create deep human suffering, raising issue of decency, fairness and justice.

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1. Varying Capacities of strategic actors to maneuver

This form of mining has thus gained so much controversy due to the profound changes it brings to the topography not forgetting the disturbances of ore-existing eco-systems as a result of the mountain mining. Of course there are those who are for the practice but a majority of people are against the practice especially to the harm it causes to the environment, wildlife and the health concerns it poses to the human race.

The proponents of the practice say that traditional methods of mining that are less harmful and where coal is provides half of the countries electricity production. They say hat mountain top removal provides jobs for some of the poorest individuals and that the hills are always rebuild or create areas where new highways, shopping centers, goal grounds, or airports etc. can always be rebuilt.

The proponents of the practice advocates for mountain removal pointing out that once the areas are reclaimed as mandated by law; the technique provides premium flat land suitable for many uses in a region where flat land is at a premium. They also maintain that the new growth on reclaimed mountaintop mined areas is better able to support populations of game animals.

Critics on the other hand come sharply against the practice and contend that mountaintop removal is such a disastrous practice with a small section especially corporations benefiting at the expense of the local communities and the environment. AU.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) environmental impact statement finds that streams near valley fills sometimes may contain higher levels of minerals in the water and decreased aquatic biodiversity.

The effects of the mountain coal mining are disastrous with the blasting at a mountaintop removal mine expelling dust and fly-rock into the air; this causes harm when it settles onto private property nearby. This dust may contain sulphur compounds, which some claim corrodes structures and tombstones and is a health hazards.

Although the MTR surfaces are required to be reclaimed after mining is complete, reclamation has traditionally focused on stabilizing rock ad controlling erosion, but not always on reforesting the area. Growing of vegetation and grasses, planted to quickly provide vegetation on a site, complete with tree seedlings, and trees have difficulty stabling root systems in compared backfill.

As a matter of fact, the issue has been taken by The United Mine Workers of America which has spoken against the use of human sewage sludge to reclaim surface mining sites in Appalachia. The UMWA launched its campaign against the use of sludge on mine sites in 1999 after eight UMWA workers became ill from exposure to Class B sludge spread near their work place. There is also the likelihood of the boulders pushing off to the nearby homes and causing accidents.

The other are health concerns posed by the author of ‘Lost Mountain’ and according to a 2010 report in the journal Science, mountaintop has caused many environmental and ecological problems which have not been addressed successfully. For instance, valleys fill frequently bury headwater streams causing permanent loss of ecosystems. As a result this has resulted into the destruction of rivers in the process which supports numerous wildlife and animals.

In addition, the destruction of large tracts of deciduous forests has threatened several endangered species and led to a loss of a biodiversity. Aside from that the health of the human beings living especially in the vicinity of the mining are facing health alarms with some suffering from various diseases such as cancer.

The political class has been accused for breaking the labor laws, healthy and safety laws and by their own records they have had some 67,000 violations of just of the environmental statues. It seems that the coal industry has an overwhelming political influence at the state and federal level. ‘It is not just about environmental destruction; it’s also about subverting democracy.’

2. Problem definition/Framing and political decision making

Reece the author of the book points out that the introduction of the this coal mining known as – ‘radical strip mining’ aka ‘mountaintop removal’ involves a team in which they employ no more than ten men and some heavy machinery literally blast off the top of a mountain, dump it in the valley below, and scoop out the coal. It is the resultant effects that arise from doing this that Reece in the book ‘The Lost Mountain’ is heavily critical about. In this compelling book, he mainly criticizes the political class who over look the disastrous effects of coal mining at the expense of what the state expects to get from the mining.

Reece’s melancholic book- is much more than just an eyewitness report on ecological decimation- but it goes further to offer a concise history of the long history of workers exploitation. According to Reese there have been hints of harrowing tales of industry intimidation of ant mining activists; they have also been details of how toxic mining runoff has poisoned well water and how landslides have washed away homes and entire hamlets; and in a cautiously optimistic coda, reports how activists have reclaimed a few thousand acres of stripped land with reforestation projects. Despite this little has been done to arrest the situation and bring an end to the effects because players in the industry are concentrating on the benefits of coal.

The book shows the existence of an industrial greed, devious corporate ownership and unenforced environmental laws. The book also gives an account of how rural residents and how their lives are being ruined by strip-mining relentless, almost unfettered, encroachment.

Reece dissects unholy alliances between politicians and the coal industry. He considers the effects of voracious globalism and suggests alternatives to coal-based Kentucky economy. He advocates that other kinds of Kentucky-based industry (like furniture making) be encouraged.

He underscores the urgency of sustainable forest management. And he suggests that taxes reflect the true social and environmental costs of coal. Why? Because, as a woman who grew up in Harlan County puts it: ‘We live downstream.’

3. Lasswell Definition of Politics

Lasswell defined politics is who gets what, when and how. Lasswell (2007) views the elite as the holders of power and thus there are the people who get the best in the society, at a particular time in a certain place. Given this definition, this basically means that the elites have been in position to manipulate things to be done for their own advantage and this is what is explained in the book’ Lost Mountain’. Reese is seemingly confrontational to the political class who encourages the mining at their own advantage. They are the people who solely benefit from the practice while the poor locals suffer at the consequence of the mining, besides that they have managed to manipulate the state or the federal government for their own gain. They will do anything to achieve their ends. This is seen when some ant mining activists are killed for coming up against the practice.

4. Describe how this seemingly rational logical and intentional process is altered in Reece into a confrontational, non-rational, non-logical intentional process

Looking at the ‘The Lost Mountain we see a story that is given a compelling, but non-rational and non-logical intentional of the political class concerning the issue of mountain mining. Reece points out categorically blaming the government in a confrontational, non-rational and non-logical manner for the effects that are being expressed in the mountain removal.

Reece sees the issue as being mired in corruption and class warfare with the elite benefiting from the coal mining at the expense of those rural folks living in the area. He talks about the political class with in a compelling prose peppered with hard facts. Various actors have differing views on the issue depending on what they stand to gain. The political class may support it because of the value of the coal, while the locals are against it due to the effects of the mining to them, plants and wildlife.

The book is a groundbreaking work of literally nonfiction that expresses how drastic stripping is destroying one of the America’s most precious natural resources and causing a lot of harm to the communities that depend on it. The mountains of Appalachia are home to one of the great forest of the world-they predate the Ice Age and Scientists refer to them as the ‘rainforests of North America for their remarkable density and species diversity. These mountains also hold the mother layer of American coal, and the coal mining industry has long been the economic backbone for families in a region hard-pressed for other job opportunities.

Reece makes it clear that strip mining is neither a local concern nor a radical contention, but a mainstream crisis that encompasses every hot-button issue- from corporate hubris and government neglect, to class conflict and poisoned groundwater, to irrevocable species extinction and landscape destruction. Lost mountain excerpts are already driving headlines and legislative action in Kentucky.

Reece’s up-close assessment of a rapacious coal industry is a searing indictment of how a country’s energy lust is ravaging the hills and hollows of Appalachia. This process of ‘mountaintop removal’ left a barren wasteland that, months earlier, had supported songbirds, fox, deer and other wildlife, and other rich cover of trees.

Many feel that the book is like a journalistic work. This is a terrible and wonderful book, simultaneously fascinating and horribly guilty inducing, one of the depressing books. A local activist takes him on a disturbing tour of her town, pointing out home after home, where everyone in the house died of cancer.

He also speaks with state regulators and representatives from coal the coal industry, and sheds some lights on the politics of coal. It is a dirty, bloody business. Corruption and cronyism seem to rule Kentucky. There might be environmental protection laws on the book, but there no enforcement.

5. How did we get to a policy resolution that favors mountain-top removal?

Let’s look at how we got the policy resolution that allowed or that favored mountain-removal? Coal mining popularity rose in the 20th century. It has now become very predominant in places such as in Appalachia and America’s Midwest. Mining coal in mountain tops requires heavy equipments to remove the over burden and other huge machines such as dragline excavators or bucket wheel excavators, extract the minerals.

Mountaintop Removal Mining (MTR) is a type of coal mining where explosives are used to blast ‘overburden’ off the top of some Appalachian mountains. MTR involves the mass restructuring of earth in order to reach coal seam as deep as 400 feet (120m) below the surface. As a matter of fact, Mountaintop removal works to replace previously steep forested topography and flattens them to reach the coal with government approved post mining reclamation land uses. Instead of using the traditional and less harmful methods, coal miners have taken to using sophisticated methods that can make the process faster and in the process causing a lot of harm.

6. Within the political process examine the politics of problem definition and the methods used by different political actors

By providing to the public a certain service at the expense of their health cannot be termed as a good idea. In the ‘Lost Mountain,’ the author critically offers a compelling account of the mining at Appalachia and how this affect the ecosystem and ecological system and the health issues posed to humans living in the areas and even far wide.

As a result the political problem is pointed out in this case, whereby it goes ahead to assume the effects of the coal mining at the expense of what the mined resources will do to the country. Money cannot just be spent on delivering services and in the end affecting the locals; this means that the political class is creating more problems in the process. Those that try to come against the practice are meant with hard measures intended to paralyze them.

There have been actors who have tried to see the problem that is solved or it is curbed. However, they have been met with a lot of resistance from various spheres. As a matter of fact there have been regulators who have tried to do their jobs but they have been forced out of office or worse, some have beaten and tormented and left for death if they try to resist the coal mining.

Reese’s up-close assessment of a rapacious coal industry is a searing indictment of how a country’s energy lust is ravaging the hills and hollows of Appalachia. This process of ‘Mountaintop removal’ left a barren wastelands that, months earlier, had supported songbirds, fox, deer and other wildlife, and a rich cover of trees.

Lost Mountain argues that the working conditions have gotten worse. The workers are operating at poor conditions that are likely to affect their health. Beyond the catastrophic underground accidents still take lives and the mountain top mining still inflict much more onerous long-term damage. (Reese, 2006) argues that it doesn’t take a whole lot of faith to move mountains; it takes about 10 men and a company called caterpillar’

The book keeps repeating itself but it sure does deliver a clear message that needs to be looked into. The anger of ‘Lost Mountain’ is clear and it is clear Reece anger is on what that has not been done to salvage the problem due to some few individuals who are greedy. The question is not about mining at mountain tops but there are ways that the effects of this practice can be minimized. Not only is mountain topping less labor intensive than underground mining, it is also more efficient and profitable than the older or traditional form of surface mining and that is why it is gaining momentum despite its also effects on the environment and others.

‘A new form of strip mining has caused a state of emergency for the Appalachian wilderness and the communities that depend on it- a crisis compounded by issues of government neglect, corporate hubris, and class conflict.’ (Reese, 2006) Reese talks about the years he spent witnessing the systematic decimation of a single mountain and offers a land mark defense of a national treasure threatened with extinction. It is not economically useful. It temporary benefits the state economy. It does not contribute to the long-term economic health. It does nothing for the economy as a whole. If this were not true, the counties would not be the poorest in a poor state.

7. How differing political actors use the political process for their own end?

The definition of the problem requires a solution from the political class and various methods can be applied to have the problem solved. There are various policies that can be used to solve the problem. However in most cases these policies have been dealt with a big blow. For instance, a panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has the authority to issue Clean Water Act permits for mountain coal mines without more extensive reviews. The court also overturned a related ruling that pointed out that creating ponds in streams to control sediment violated the clean water act.

Theses ruling are a setback to environmentalists and locals who are affected by coal mining on mountain tops that exposes thin, shallow coal seam. Rocks, dirt and other debris are deposited into the river bed which is how clean water rules become involved. The mine operators have been known to always receiving favors. The coal industry claims that most of the nearly 130 millions tons of coal produced at mountain mines in Appalachia goes to generate electricity for 24.7 million U.S. customers and this is why many policies hindering mountain removal have fallen flat without much success even though they cause a lot of harm.

Besides that, the fact that 14,000 people across West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee have been position to get jobs many have been opposed to any policies that would prohibit mountain mining even if they are also affected in the process. However, there have been minimal successes though as seen below.

There have been a slow down of issuing mountain permits since March 2007, with the Corps being ordered by U.S. District Judge Chuck Chambers to rescind several permits. Dozens of environmentalist were unhappy with the ruling though and as expected, saying it will allow up to 90 more mountain mines to devastate the region. Already the group says that more than 1,200 miles of streams have been buried.

As a result of this policy, Massey, the nation’s fourth-largest coal produces based on revenue and mine operators have not been in position to mine for the last two years for potential production cuts stemming from an inability to get permits. Those that are happy with the decision and include West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney and Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Caylor who see the decision as an aid to help the industry at a time when it faces sluggish demand due to the weak economy.

The two were also happy that the appeal court recognizes the professionalism of the Corps of the Engineers while protecting the jobs of the miners. National Mining Association Spokesman Luke Ppopovich sees this as a very significant move intended to protect the economy and it is god news for the region.

The whole issue of cal mining at mountain tops is one which has differing political actors depending on how one stands to gain or loose. Those who gains when the practice is allowed to operate are mainly the coal miners, the industry itself and the employees, while those who loose in the process are manly; the environmentalist who advocates for good environmental practices for the sake for the environment, the vegetation and humans etc. This explains why there has been a protracted war between the two divisions.

Differing political actors have been using the political process for their own end. Those that are in places of political influence drive for coal mining on mountain tops with little or no regard of the effects that this is likely to have. In fact there they have come up with policies encouraging the practice and showing how it is not harmful it is despite having some harm. The reason behind this being that they benefit from the mountain removal at the expense of others suffering, these groups mainly include the coal miners.

Different groups have come up determined to oppose surface mining abuses with the recent year’s coal companies becoming even more aggressive in mining in this process known as mountaintop removal. For a long time, what the mining companies did and its effects was kept or long time as a dirty little secret but which is slowly coming out and more and more people are decrying the environmental and social fall out of what some refer to as strip mining steroids.

Since the high tech technology that has provided earth moving machinery, mountain topping has become increasingly attractive to the energy industry with a total lack of concern of its resulting effects. As a result people and the environment have been paying a hurtful price for this state good fortune with little or no regard from those that should affect the measures to curb the devastation.

Neighboring environment are the ones who worry most at the situation and find that there is little they can do because they is nobody who takes they plight into considerations. Thus the issue here is the gains vs. The effects of the whole process with the West Virginia coal miners saying that mountain top removal projects provide much needed jobs and so they would anything to preserve it, while those opposing saying the cost of those jobs to the environment, the people and the future is just too high.


The book is an educative piece that shows where our energy comes from and the effects that arises in the process. From the study, clean coal is not the answer. It is not that coal mining can’t be done in a more responsible, more ethical way, it can, and the author documents that as well, describing the methods and practices that don’t poison the water, where native plants will grow again. It can be done but it is not being done and this is what the author is critical about.

In my views the cause of this is not science as Reece puts it, it is greed for money, for a larger market, and pure ignorance of the effects of the mountain removal. Something must be done to salvage the problem and this does not mean that we stop cal mining, what is needed is better ways of doing this and better ways of solving the effects thereafter after mining has been done.

Works Cited

Reece E. (2006) Lost Mountain: A year in the Vanishing Wilderness: Radical Strip Mining and the Devastation of Appalachia, Riverhead Books Publishers

Lasswell H. (2007) American Political Scientist

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