Writer Profile

Books & Essays

  • Book Cover
  • Book Cover

    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. In this powerful call to arms, Erik Reece chronicles the year he spent witnessing the systematic decimation of a single mountain and offers a landmark defense of a national treasure threatened with extinction.

    Book Review #1:

    From Publishers Weekly

    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. The first-time author chronicles how, in one year, from October 2003 to September 2004, strip miners sheared away the top of Kentucky's aptly named Lost Mountain. This process of "mountaintop removal" left a barren wasteland that, months earlier, had supported songbirds, fox, deer and other wildlife, and a rich cover of trees. Reece's elegiac book—much more than just an eyewitness report on ecological decimation—also offers a concise history of how the coal industry long exploited workers; hints at harrowing tales of industry intimidation of antimining activists; details 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. The Kentucky-born author, who canoed clean Appalachian rivers as a youth, has written an impassioned account of a business rife with industrial greed, devious corporate ownership and unenforced environmental laws. It's also a heartrending account of the rural residents whose lives are being ruined by strip-mining's relentless, almost unfettered, encroachment.

    Book Review #2:

    From Booklist

    *Starred Review* Criminal. That's the word that comes to mind upon reading Reece's excoriating expose of the coal industry's pernicious rape of the mountains of eastern Kentucky. Once the site of the oldest and most ecologically diverse forest in the country, now this stretch of Appalachian wilderness has gone from being a verdant North American rain forest to a bleak and dismal lunar landscape, thanks to the severely destructive strip-mining process known as "mountaintop removal." Under this radical form of coal retrieval, ore is mined by literally blasting away tops of mountains, dumping waste into the valleys below, burying streams, polluting wells, undermining buildings, and altering fragile ecologies. Reece spent a year intimately observing and chronicling the demolition of the ironically named Lost Mountain, hiking to its summit, fording its streams' headwaters, interviewing its residents, and visiting cemeteries to pay respect to those who ultimately succumbed to the pollution and violence perpetrated in the name of energy efficiency and economic viability. The tale of Kentucky's mutilated environment is one that, like the mountain, has been lost. Resounding kudos to Reece for vividly bringing this critical story to light. Carol Haggas