Mountaintop Removal

The mechanization of coal mining led to more efficient ways of extracting coal, ultimately resulting in the practice of mountaintop removal.  This entails removing the “overburden” (the layer of rock and soil above the coal seams) with heavy machinery and powerful explosives in order to mine several coal seams at once.  The process contaminated waterways (if they hadn’t dried up already), polluted the air, and resulted in the loss of wildlife. Out-migration was also a repercussion of MTR - those local residents who could afford to leave, did leave; those who could not, suffered from illness and sometimes even death from exposure to harsh chemical byproducts from the coal extraction.   

Artists such as Si Kahn, Ola Belle Reed, Hazel Dickens and Jean Ritchie used their music to speak out against the destruction of the mountains. 

Jean Ritchie’s song “Now Is the Cool of the Day” was written as an anti-MTR song in the style of an old time hymn.  This recording comes from her album None But One, recorded on the Sire label in 1977.

"Now is the cool of the day
Now is the cool of the day
Oh this earth it is a garden, the garden of my Lord
And he walks in his garden
In the cool of the day
And my Lord, He said unto me
Do you like my pastures so green
You may live in this garden if you will feed my lambs
And I'll return in the cool of the day"
Mountaintop Removal