Tabula Rasa

Jeremy Sloan

I grew up in southwestern Pennsylvania. If you know the area, you might recall that strip mining was a big industry several decades back. At first, it was a largely unregulated industry -- at least from an environmental standpoint. The ground was dozed haphazardly into huge mounds to expose veins of coal and pushed back afterward just as randomly.

As a result, there are extensive patches where the topsoil and underlying clay have been basically inverted, creating brown and gray fields of shale and clay where the soil is so poor that nothing but a few scraggly grasses and greenbriar will grow.

It's not as bad as it used to be, but I remember as a kid feeling like the only time most of the world around me didn't feel filthy and hopeless and worn out was when there was a fresh covering of snow on the ground.

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