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Jack Hitt’s essay on the deforested island of Nauru [“Island of the Damned,” July 2006] reminded me of the mining towns of Kentucky and West Virginia: the slag heaps and bare bones of mountains whose tops have been removed. Somehow the reforestation never arrives. Nauru may be scarier to look at, but not more sorrowful.
I was captivated by Jack Hitt’s essay until he chose the phrase “an Appalachian quality” to evoke Nauru’s desolation. Appalachia encompasses huge tracts of national forest, picturesque small towns, and thriving arts communities in addition to strip mines, stray dogs, and piles of trash. We who live here are weary of the stereotype perpetuated by writers too lazy to seek a more accurate, less harmful adjective.