The Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia by Kat Wallace (ToplessAmerica.org)
By Kevin Gosztola | Cross-posted at OpEdNews.com
What organizers are calling “an unprecedented gathering of Appalachian people and their allies in the movement to abolish all forms of surface mining” for coal, particularly mountaintop removal mining, will take place over the weekend. The organizers hope this weekend will be an opportunity to “build solidarity not only between Appalachians and their allies, but also between communities impacted by similar issues all over the nation.”
Saturday and Sunday will be about hearing from “Voices of the Mountains,” people who have felt the impact of surface mining in their communities and people who have engaged in activism to bring surface mining to a halt.
Attendees will hear stories from individuals like Matthew Sherman, a Blackfoot Indian of the Kanawha Valley of West Virginia and someone who has served as a Federal Native Americans Spiritual Advisor for the Federal Bureau of Prisons and an opponent of mountaintop removal mining. They will hear stories from leaders like Mickey McCoy, who will talk about experiencing a toxic coal sludge breach that occurred in Massey Energy’s Martin County sludge dam. And, they will hear stories from people like Vickie Terry, who lives in the Clearfork Valley in Tennessee and can look out from where she lives and see mountains being blasted in a ridge nearby.
Sessions will be dedicated to education on the issues and tactics that this growing movement to end surface mining employs and will employ in the future. Coal combustion waste (or coal ash), coal-fired power plants, natural gas hydrofracking, climate change, resource extraction, monoeconomies, slurry and sludge, post-mining land use, and, of course, surface mining will be discussed. Participants will also be introduced to the tactics of nonviolent direct action like civil disobedience, permitting/regulation, economic diversification, field work, lobbying, corporate campaigns, land reform, community organizing, telling the movement’s story through media, and using art to tell the story of Appalachia’s coalfields.
A “Day of Action” will take place on Monday, September 27th. It will involve a rally at Freedom Plaza, a march to the White House, and then a protest to demand the Obama Administration make the abolition of mountaintop removal mining a national environmental policy. These are the events on the agenda, but there may be some nonviolent direct action as well.
Resident of Boone County, WV, Maria Gunnoe, who lives in a house that now sits below a mountaintop removal site and will be sharing her story with attendees, wrote an editorial that was published on Common Dreams.
“Coal speaks its truths in what it leaves behind for the people that sacrifice so much for the coal companies’ bottom line. The people get nothing in return but destroyed ancestral, historic lands and communities such as Blair, the battleground for today’s United Mine Workers Association. “We the people” get the poisoned water, the polluted land, the silica-laden air, the bad health, and the diminished hope of ever having a future. This is what we have to show for 200 years of mining coal. Where is the preached prosperity? We have no desire to bash coal. Coal speaks for itself.”
On the movement to end mountaintop removal, she declares:
“There are nearly 3.5 million pounds of explosives used EACH DAY in West Virginia alone. People throughout Appalachia couldn’t find the political support to stop the attack on our homeland and we began to organize. While our county, state and federal leaders turned a blind eye and deaf ear to us”We formed a movement. Appalachians have depended on our democracy (the American people) to help defend us as our politicians and regulatory agencies have not.”
Kari Fulton, a young D.C. resident who organizes around environmental justice issues, says of this event, “I’m really excited to see Appalachia Rising come,” to D.C. “Before it even started, we saw the street art they have posted everywhere.”
“A lot of people don’t know about mountaintop removal, and it would be good to see this end,” Fulton says. “This is one of those issues that we could see come to an end soon. Hope we continue to build solidarity.” She works for PowerVote.org, the latest campaign of the Energy Action Coalition, and hopes to hold leaders accountable by getting them to support a nationwide transition from coal and oil to clean and renewable energy like wind and solar.
I will be posting on this great event all weekend and on Monday before and after the “Day of Action” takes place. Stay tuned.