Appalachian Voices and receive top recognition

Article Published: Nov. 3, 2009 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Appalachian Voices and receive top recognition

Matt Wasson

According to Google Earth and Good Magazine, Appalachian Voices is both a resource and a hero when it comes to the fight to end mountaintop removal coal mining.

The environmental nonprofit organization based in Boone received a double honor this month when its work on the issue of mountaintop removal mining was featured as part of Google Earth's Heroes series and was also included in Good Magazine's Good 100 list., a Web site created by Appalachian Voices for the Alliance for Appalachia - an umbrella organization of 13 organizations working to end mountaintop removal coal mining in the central Appalachian region - was honored as a Google Earth Hero for its work using Google tools to help change the world. The organization created a number of Google Maps and Google Earth tools on, including the My Connection tool which allows visitors to determine if they are using mountaintop removal by typing in their zip code.

Appalachian Voices - along with other members of the Alliance for Appalachia - was highlighted in one of Google Earth's feature videos created to educate people about human and environmental rights issues and about Google Earth tools. The video is available online at

"Google Earth has allowed us to unveil the secrets that coal companies have depended on to continue this devastating practice without public outcry," said Matt Wasson, director of programs for Appalachian Voices. "Before Google Earth launched, you had to travel to the Appalachian coalfields to see mountaintop removal. Now anyone with a Web server can see the destruction caused by mountaintop removal, see their personal connection to it, and learn about the devastating consequences for nearby families and communities." was also featured in Good Magazine's first Good 100 list for its coverage of the mountaintop removal coal mining issue. Good created the Good 100 list to celebrate "the most important, exciting and innovative people, ideas and institutions making our world better."

Good, launched in September 2006, produces a Web site, videos, live events and a print magazine with a mission to "provide content, experiences, and utilities to serve [the people, businesses, and NGO's moving the world forward]" and has collected praise for its unique editorial perspective and fresh visual aesthetic.

While coal mining does not occur in North Carolina, the state is the top consumer of coal from the region where mountaintop removal occurs, said a spokesperson for Appalachian Voices.

Last year, Appalachian Voices worked with Pricey Harrison, a state representative from Greensboro, to introduce the Appalachian Mountains Preservation Act - legislation designed to ban the use of mountaintop removal mined coal in North Carolina power plants.

Although the bill did not pass committee, it prompted wide-spread discussion across the state about the issue and led to a letter-signed by 75 state legislators-which asked North Carolina's federal representatives to support congressional bills that would help end mountaintop removal mining at the national level, the spokesperson said. Six congressional members from North Carolina are currently signed on to the Clean Water Protection Act, the House version of the bill.

Mountaintop removal is a form of surface coal mining where explosives are used to blast away up to 600 feet of mountaintop in order to reach thin seams of coal. The waste, known as overburden, is dumped into adjacent valleys, burying headwater streams and often contaminating watersheds with heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury and selenium, the spokesperson said. More than 500 Appalachian mountains and more than 2,000 miles of streams-the origins of drinking water for millions of Americans-have been affected by mountaintop removal mining.

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