Nature

One of the few things more abundant in Appalachia than coal is its natural beauty. Whether it's in the New England range or Blue Ridge, the tree-covered mountains of Appalachia are treasured by its inhabitants. Beautiful forest trails are popular in the region as a means of enjoying all of the sights its nature has to offer. From rivers that cut through mountains at their base to lush forest clearings, the views Appalachia has to offer proves to be one of its most valuable resources.

The above nature scene overlooking the Appalachian Mountains highlights the beauty of the mountain range. The landscape is flushed with blue, only with green tree leaves poking into the frame to give contrast. These colors compliment each other in many loving depictions of the mountain range’s scenery. Being denser on the left side of the image, the low clouds shrouding the mountains accentuate their volume and create a sense of allure. The dark shades of the foregrounded mountains lighten as they go up the frame, working with the clouds and eventually the blue sky to create a gradient effect. As one looks on, the mountains keep rolling all the way to the horizon, only fading out due to the eye’s limitations. This perfectly captures the love and pride Appalachians, self-proclaimed “mountain people,” feel towards their region’s geographical features. 

In stark contrast to the above visual love letter to the Appalachian Mountains, this aerial photograph depicts the atrocious effects of mountaintop-removal mining. Shot from above, the contours of the mountain are still noticeable, but it is immediately clear they have been destroyed. Near the peaks, there are abrupt indents where the surface was removed to extract natural resources. Even as this method was conceptualized as a way to extract resources with minimal destruction and environmental impact, the destruction is considerable. This process leaves previously undisturbed soil exposed, giving this image the contrast of light brown surfaces to the darker browns and deep greens of the undisturbed land. With the figure of the mountains clear, this image also shows the problem of waste run-off. The process of carving out mountaintops requires the stripping of vegetation, the use of explosives that create much debris and residual chemicals, and the dumping of this waste in nearby areas. At the next rainfall, all of the excess waste and chemicals in the mountaintops and landfills can be carried off by the precipitation to nearby water sources and soil. While the coal industry is most commonly denounced for its contribution to air pollution, it is important to be aware of its disastrous effects in other parts of the industry’s process.