Eastern Kentucky is a long way from Britain. What do we care if another million acres of the Appalachian mountain range are lost to strip mining? If the habitat of the flying squirrel and the cerulean warbler is blown up and bulldozed? If one of the oldest temperate forests in the world with some 80 species of trees is destroyed by the greed of a few coal companies? Why should it matter to us?
I'll tell you why. First, because this story exposes the pathological destructiveness of the Republican political and religious elite. Not content with the ruin it has caused in Iraq, George W. Bush's administration lays waste the great American wilderness in a way that tests your faith in the reason of man.
Second, this campaign against nature is being plotted, sanctioned and carried out by men - it is exclusively men - who are on their knees in little, white churches every Sunday praying to a god whom they believe created this earth. The same people who reject Darwin and promote the idea that life on earth is too complex and varied to have been created by evolution, a theory known as intelligent design, are the ones who show such contempt for God's creation.
And let's not forget the last crucial point. With the United States accounting for 30 per cent of the world's CO2 emissions, much of it from heavily polluting, coal-burning power stations, we may all to some extent consider ourselves downwind of what's going on in the coal industry of Kentucky and parts of West Virginia.
In Britain, we are not exposed to the horrors of 'mountaintop removal', but owing to a new book by Erik Reece, Lost Mountain: A year in the Vanishing Wilderness, which I happened on in a New York bookshop, I learned that it has nothing to do with coal mining in the traditional sense. Mountaintop removal is just that. You blow up the top of the mountain with a mixture of ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel, the same combination used by Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombing, and bulldoze the millions of tons of debris into the valleys and streams below. A slender seam of coal is then exposed, at which point a fearsome machine called a dragline is deployed to strip out the coal.
The result is that local water supplies are polluted with mercury and the chemicals used in the mining process; the uninterrupted habitat of many rare creatures and plants is destroyed; and the landscape is ruined forever. The scars that you are now able to see on satellite pictures will be there until the end of time.
Porter then makes the point that the American media is virtually silent about this reality. I'll say. I had to read an article published in the UK to find out about it.
I also appreciate the point that destruction of the environment is not consistent with a belief in Intelligent Design. If God deliberately designed this wonderful creation, how dare we recklessly destroy it? Have the Republicans never thought of the blasphemy involved? But I don't think the big corporatists really believe in God. They just cynically use the votes of the religious right in order to get their puppets in power.