Earlier this week I traveled to Whitesburg in eastern Kentucky to learn more about mountaintop removal with the National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Working Group. Having just been to West Virginia to learn more about the issue, I was interested to see the contrasts in the two states. What I found in eastern Kentucky was very similar to West Virginia. There is a pervasive sense of fear among the communities – fear that the mountains will disappear, fear that if folks speak out their family members will lose their jobs, fear that the water will be poisoned. All these fears are being realized.
In the face of such fear and injustice, the resilience and courage of those who are speaking out against mountaintop removal is inspiring. A resident said that others think of Appalachians as “throw-away people.” Indeed, the coal companies treat the local population this way. We need to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Appalachia and fight this idea that the people and the mountains can be thrown away. This is not only a matter of environmental concern, it is also a justice issue. Folks we visited with in Whitesburg went so far as to say that “democracy is under siege in eastern Kentucky.”
What can we do? Visit the area: go on an Appalachian Environmental Learning Tour through the Mennonite Central Committee (email email@example.com for more information) or a Mountain Witness Tour with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. Learn about the culture and the issues: visit the Kentuckians for the Commonwealth website to learn more about mountaintop removal. Go to the Appalshop website to learn about the media collective designed to empower local residents to solve their own problems in a just way. Learn what your connection to mountaintop removalis through iLoveMountains.org. Read Ann Pancake’s incredible novel about a community affected by mountaintop removal: Strange as this Weather Has Been. Advocate for an end to mountaintop removal. Share what you learn with your community.
We are here to look out for the most vulnerable and to tend the garden. We are here to stand up to the Goliaths and lend solidarity to the Davids. When we fight mountaintop removal, we can accomplish all of this.