Beauty in the Midst of Hell

© Jim Korpi

What should the media document in America?
How many of us right now know that, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel, a coal-fired power plant in the hills of Tennessee had a serious miscalculation of how much coal ash they could store on a hillside and released “1.1 billion gallons spilling across the countryside.”
What’s coal ash? According to the Boston Globe, “Coal ash, a byproduct of burning coal, contains toxic heavy metals like arsenic, lead, and selenium that can cause cancer and neurological problems.”
That’s one POINT one BILLION gallons of toxic sludge spilled into a major waterway in Harriman, Tennessee.
Our bodies are made up of over 60% water (adult male). We drink it. We breathe it.
The New York Times has people traveling all over the world, but they relied on a photographer from Knoxville to cover one of the largest environmental disasters our country has faced in some time. Why?
We need to start telling the truth in this country even if it’s what we don’t want to hear.

Posted January 2nd, 2009 in Uncategorized.


  1. Tim Gruber:

    Crazy for this to happen. Hate to see how the clean coal pawns are going to spin this one.

    Noticed that same thing about the Times not sending anyone. Didn’t they send someone to China to cover coal this past year?

  2. Jim Korpi:

    They probably spent approximately $25,000 on the multimedia piece they did there. Don’t get me wrong, China is doing the coal thing to a degree this country has never seen, but they have a BILLION and a half people living there, and we can not just look over the ocean and say “Look how bad they are f%#$ing up the planet.” We’re doing the same damn thing.
    You should have seen the governor on the front pages of the newspapers in Tennessee. He was drinking from a blue plastic cup and saying, “This is from the tap at my house and it’s perfectly safe to drink.” Sure buddy.

  3. Anonymous:

    I am educated on the fact that turning on my lamp and computer and coffee pot is connected to the burning of coal. But I am not NOT going to turn on these things because I need light to see, a computer to work, and coffee to stay awake. As horrifying as your pictures are of the coal sludge (I am always privilaged with sneak previews!), I feel completely powerless to alter that situation or to prevent it from happening again. I think your pictures an important conduit to understanding, but what do I do with that now? What should all of us do? -Annah

  4. Jim Korpi:

    “Education can counteract the natural tendency to do the wrong thing, but the inexorable succession of generations requires that the basis for this knowledge be constantly refreshed.” The Tragedy of the Commons, Garrett Hardin
    My photographs, hopefully, act as a form education.

  5. Jim Korpi:

    Look at your comment and find the word “need.” You would be surprised to find out just what you need in life. You surely don’t need coffee to stay awake.
    You have more power than you think. Your actions affect all those around you. In the end, you are not just you. You are piece of a whole. You complete us as humanity. You at least complete me.

  6. Anonymous:


    That last one was deep…Jerry Maguire deep!

  7. Anonymous:

    All kidding aside…Education is our best solution. However, education can cut just as easily as it can heal…ying and yang.

    Our needs are really just shelter, clothing, food, and water…maybe love? Go to any third world nation and you will see many happy people living with just the necessities.

    Realistically once technology is released it is very difficult to contain it and recognize how it effects the future as most people are removed from how electricity arrives to their house, how a car engine works, why the economy is failing, etc…Unfortunately money is the driving interest and most of the times people don’t care as long is it is cheap and isn’t in their back yard. We are a get it now, pay for it later society, and when the payment isn’t due for several generations people look the other way. Sorry Jim but it will be a climb harder than Everest! Rage against the machine!

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