The mountaintops around Kayford Mountain are long gone because of the coal extraction.

Once You Know

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The interesting thing about problems is, that as long as you are not aware of them, they don’t bother you. And there is an endless number of clever quotes about knowledge, even from centuries ago. The Greek philosopher Socrates has supposedly said: “I know that I know nothing.”

So simple, but yet so meaningful and also frustrating at times. Because it means, that by gaining knowledge you constantly know less in a way. At the same time, this knowledge might also become a burden, once it catches your interest. You cannot ignore knowledge. Once you know, you know.

Lauren Ramoser

When I first moved to the USA, I had heard a lot of stories, I have seen a lot of pictures and I have also been here for vacation before. But I hadn’t experienced every day life here before. So, when I finally lived in Athens, it didn’t take long, before I found out about some problems, people here have to face.

And while there are many that threaten society and their life standard, there are some that do so, just because people make them.

Two of those problems are hydraulic fracturing and mountaintop removal mining. Once I learned about these practices, I was out of my mind.

Why would people destroy their habitat like that? The answer is simple: For money.

But the story doesn’t end here. Hydraulic fracturing, short fracking, is a good example to explain my point of view. I have visited the injection well in Torch, where they don’t actually extract oil and gas, but they inject so-called “brine-water”, which comes from elsewhere.

And again, this is about knowledge, as no one knows for sure, where the water, which is laced with a lot of chemicals and radioactive materials, actually goes to.

Regulations surrounding injection wells are loose compared to other states and so companies from neighboring states bring in their fracking wastewater to Ohio, which makes the Buckeye State a sewer pipe for the northern Midwest. It’s cheaper to dump wastewater in Ohio and it is easier to get a permission for a well, as the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is responsible instead of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

I don’t live close to an injection well, so why do I care? Because I know about the consequences for the environment. And even if I go back to Europe, there is no second planet I could go to, if this one is destroyed for profit.

Another problem that I hadn’t even heard of before is mountaintop removal mining. I went to West Virginia to visit the hilly area around Kayford Mountain. At least, this is what I expected to see. But just like every other visitor by now, I didn’t get to see mountains anymore.

As mining for coal isn’t effective enough anymore, companies found a way to blow up the whole mountaintop and wash the coal out of the stone blocks. By taking off the ridges, water won’t get filtered anymore and rushes down into the valleys, where residents can’t use it anymore, because it isn’t clean enough to drink.

You could say, that it’s none of my business. But you would be wrong, because now that I know about these practices going on, I can’t ignore them. It is a burden to know, but it also holds a possibility to change something. Because once you know, you know.

Background story

Learn more about mountaintop removal mining from an activist’s perspective:

Elise Keaton fights for the mountains in West Virginia.