Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Destructive Process of Mountaintop Removal

Mountaintop removal mining in the Appalachian Mountains is among the most destructive actions that humanity has ever taken against the planet — and it is still happening today. The long process of removing a mountaintop to access the coal underneath puts local communities at risk of water and air pollution and turns entire ecosystems to rubble.
(image via Climate Ground Zero)

Coal mining companies in West Virginia and Kentucky have had free picking of mountain tops to mine, with one located just 400 yards away from an elementary school. While pending legislation could make the process much harder, current law is built in their favor.
(images via
Step One: Clearing the Forest

After determining a location, mining companies begin by clearing the top of the mountain of all trees and softer topsoil. Since the valleys bellow will later be filled with rubble, they will often also clear the trees below.
(images via Climate Ground Zero and It’s Getting Hot in Here)
Step Two: Blasting The Mountain

Using ammonium nitrate explosives, workers blast through up to 1,000 feet of the mountain in order to access coal seams. Dust, silica and chemicals rain on nearby communities during the blasting period, with residents often living within the “blasting zone.”
(image via the West Virginia Gazette)
Step Three: Digging Through Debris

Once the surface of the mountain is obliterated with explosives, a team uses an enormous machine called a dragline excavator to move the rubble. The machines, which run up to $100 million, can hold the equivalent of 24 cars in its bucket, making the digging process quick and easy.
(images via NRDC and
Step Four: Dumping Waste into Valley Fills

The waste is then dumped into neighboring valleys to create “valley fills.” The rubble, often laced with selenium, can still legally be dumped directly onto streams, thanks to a rule-change by the Bush administration. By 2001, 724 miles had been buried by valley fills.
(image via
Step Five: Removing & Washing the Coal

The coal acquired from mountaintop removal requires more extensive cleaning and processing than the coal from traditional bottom-up mines. The waste from the process — a thick black sludge — is then stored in makeshift reservoirs in nearby valleys which are known to leak into the water supply.

(images via West Virginia Gazette and Climate Ground Zero)
The Fight Against Mountaintop Removal

Organizations like Appalachian Voices, United Mountain Defense, and other local groups continue to fight for tougher regulations on mountaintop mining in Appalachia. Last month, a federal judge issued a promising ruling to require mountaintop mining permits to undergo a more stringent approval process.
Mountaintop Removal on Google Earth

Appalachian Voices has created multiple layers for Google Earth that explain and illustrate mountaintop mining in further detail. Using the tool, you can view videos on the process, tour “memorials” of fallen mountains, view the six steps in progress, and overlay mine sites on major cities to show their enormous size. For instructions on using the tool, visit

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Kashmir in Winter Pictures

Kashmir, also known as Cashmere, is the northerwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. Today Kashmir refers to a much larger area that includes the regions of Kashmir valley, Jammu and Ladakh. The main "Valley of Kashmir" is a low-lying fertile region surrounded by magnificent mountains and fed by many rivers. It is renowned for its natural beauty and quaint lifestyle.

Kashmir is derived from the Sanskrit "Kashyapa" + "Mira", which means the mountain range of sage Kashyapa. Srinagar, the ancient capital, lies alongside Dal Lake and is famous for its canals and houseboats. Srinagar (alt. 1,600 m. or 5,200 ft.) served as a favoured summer capital for many foreign conquerors who found the heat of the Northern Indian plains in the summer season to be oppressive. Just outside the city are the beautiful Shalimar, Nishat and Chashmashahi gardens created by Mughal emperors.

Kashmir was one of the most important centres of Buddhism in India. Kashmir retained a strong influence of Buddhism despite the influence of Kashmir Saivism and the various Sufi Orders of Islam. Following are some gorgeous pictures of Kashmir in Winter.

Friday, February 19, 2010

10 Awesome Caves Of the World

If we sit down to count the marvelous creations by God, humans would be the most prolific artifact originating from the supreme mind of the almighty. Why I say so is because designing every cell of our body to form a bigger organ and then coordination between each of them, the cycle of birth, growth and death, all come from the scientist sitting far away in the skies. And that’s not all, he is an architect of the most wonderful universe and the beauty that surrounds us in the form of sky,stars, the moon, high mountains, rivers, plants and so on. Amongst such amazing gifts of God are the deep dark and amazing caves, that have always fascinated the nature lovers with their unique splendor.

So let me take you to a virtual tour of the most beautiful and astounding caves of the world who have existed since the dawn of civilization.

Harrison’s Cave

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The Harrison’s cave are said to be one of the wonders of the world because of their magnificent beauty and amazingly formed unusual stalactites and stalagmites formations. Found in the Caribbean island Barbados, it’s the only cave in the world where running water is found along with color crystal-like formations. Formed by water erosion through the limestone rock, these caves are full of large chambers, lakes, streams and waterfalls. As you may see in the pictures, they are exquisite beyond imagination.

Phong Nha Cave

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Phong Nha Cave is the largest and most beautiful cave in Vietnam and is Unesco’s World Heritage site. The cave is 7729 m long, contains 14 grottos, with a 13,969 m-long Underground River filled with abundant stalactites and stalagmites. The river has widest and prettiest sand banks, containing many fascinating rock formations of the world.

Waitomo Glowworm Cave

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Located in North Island of New Zealand, the cave owes its name partially to the vast population of glowworms, botanically called the Arachnocampa luminosa that are exclusively found in New Zealand, so definitely worth a visit if you’re ever on holiday there. Around the size of an average mosquito, the hanging larvas of these glowworms emit the bright light to attract pray towards themselves. What is interesting is that the hungry larvas are said to glow brighter than the one with stomach filled. The thousand glowing larvas give a panorama of heavens at night. The blue light is actually a chemical reaction that takes place inside a special capsule in its tail.The limestone formations in the caves are said to be formed when the region was still under the ocean about 30 million years ago.

Cave of the Crystals

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This is the home of the world’s largest known crystals in Chihuahua, Mexico. It is a horseshoe-shaped cavity in limestone rock which is 10 meters wide and 30 meters long and contains giant selenite crystals even 36 ft long, 4 m in diameter and 55 tons in weight. The Naica mountain was filled with high temperature anhydrite gypsum during the volcanic activity that took place million of years ago. The magma heated the underground water dissolving all minerals and on cooling down formed huge selanite gypsum crystals over years.


Ali Sadr Cave, Hamadan Iran

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Ali Sadr Cave is located about 100 kilometers north of Hamadan, western Iran and is one of the most beautiful caves on the world. The 70 million years old cave contains several large, deep lakes and the stalactites formations hanging from the roof of the cave in different colors doubles its beauty. Taking the shape of cauliflowers, needles and umbrellas, in vibrant colors of red, purple, brown, green and blue, these formations on the cave floor give an exotic view. It is said that Ali-Sadr is the only yachting cave with so clear water that we can see to a depth of 5 meters even in a dim light.

Eisriesenwelt Cave

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Eisriesenwelt is a natural limestone ice cave located in Werfen, Austria. Located within the Tennengebirga Mountains near Salzburg, the cave stretches over to 42 kms and is the largest ice cave in the world.

Lechuguilla Cave

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The fifth longest cave in the world, Lechuguilla Cave is located in Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico. It is most famous for its unusual geology like the rare speleothems, rare formations with large amounts of gypsum and lemon-yellow sulfur deposits, and pristine condition. However access to the cave is limited only to the approved scientific researchers, survey and exploration teams rather than holiday makers!

Crystal Cave

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Sequoia National Park, in the U.S. state of California is home of 240 known caves. Crystal Cave is a marble cave which is park’s second-longest at over 3.4 miles. It is in the Giant Forest region, between the Ash Mountain entrance of the park and Giant Forest. The cave is a constant 9 °C (48 °F), and only accessible by guided tour.

Yellow Dragon Cave

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The Yellow Dragon Cave is situated on the rear hill of Xixialing in West Lake tourist zone in Hangzhou is actually a yard with half-artificial and half natural scenes. It is simple but very elegant with different kinds of bamboo like the white bamboo, purple bamboo, green bamboo with golden dots, square bamboo and so on.

Velebit caves of Croatia

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The Velebit Mountain is the home of a number of caves named Lukina jama, Slovacka jama, Velebita and Meduza. These caves have some of the world’s greatest subterranean spectacular vertical drops, sure to bring a shudder in the spine. At the foot of Lukina jama there are ponds and streams having the largest colonies of subterranean leeches.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Breathtaking Photographs of Nature

If you think that nature photography is borring then you haven’t seen this set of photos yet.Take a look. These pictures are breathtaking.