This a bit of a controversial topic, especially in the Appalachian area where so many jobs are at stake, but still worth mentioning. Mountain Justice Summer, a group I first heard of while climbing in Kentucky last year, advocates for the termination of mountaintop removal coal mining. Although the group tends to be a little fringe (engaging in some protest activities of questionable legality), the topic is still interesting. As the name implies, mountaintop removal mining involves literally chopping the top off of a mountain with explosives to get to the coal inside. In addition to the obvious damage to the environment and ecosystem, the mining process produces all sorts of waste products that are allowed to run off into neighboring areas (a recent example of how this can go wrong is located here).
The difficulty with issues like this is that we need electricity, and a large portion of America’s electricity comes from coal. Furthermore, for the poverty-stricken Appalachian region, mining jobs form the backbone of the economy. Locals in the area are often upset by what they see as a push to close down the mines that provide their income by wealthy environmentalists. Regardless, as you can see from the picture, it has to stop.