“This needs to be stopped, it does not need to be regulated”

Posted February 14th, 2011 in Blog, Featured 4 Comments »

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

[Action ends: see below for update]

For four days, Wendell Berry and 13 others have been holed up in the Frankfort office of KY Gov. Steve Beshear demanding an end to mountaintop removal coal mining (MTR). They refuse to leave until he commits to ending the practice of blasting mountains away to get to the coal.  Arrest is likely at some point. [See this article by Chris Hedges]

Photo by Trevor Humphries, Sierra Club Scrapbook. Used with permission © 2011 Sierra Club. All Rights Reserved

Writers and other cultural workers, along with various environmental leaders, are rallying behind Berry and the others seeking to apply more pressure on the coal industry and on the politicians whose campaigns they lavishly support to end a practice that is one of the most destructive on the planet.

“I can think of no more appropriate action to be taking on Valentine’s Day than what Wendell Berry and his fellow Kentuckians are doing: taking a stand from one’s heart.  Mountaintop removal is an act of aggression. Civil disobedience is an act of love. We are right there with them in solidarity and support.” Terry Tempest Williams (The Open Space of Democracy).

Photo: Vivian Stockman

Some 500 mountaintops in the Appalachian Mountains have already been blown to bits and thousands of miles of streams, rivers, and valleys contaminated by the dumping of the toxic waste into them. Groundwater and local wells have also been contaminated and cancers and other diseases are on the rise in the communities, most of them poor, that rely on them for drinking and bathing. Surface mining for coal has become more prevalent in recent decades because it is cost effective for the coal companies, requiring  far fewer workers and quicker ways to get at the coal seams. Instead of digging tunnels and paying workers to go into them to remove the coal, they simply blast off the surface of the earth to expose the seams.

Readers of this blog know that MTR is an especially egregious offense to us, a perfect manifestation of all that is wrong with industrial society and the values that support it. It is violence against eco-communities on a grand scale, it is nothing less than murder and massacre of nature and it living systems. It is expression of the hubris and greed of human beings and often of a religiosity that believes that God has actually ordained this role for us – to tear apart, dominate, and subdue nature for our human benefit.

As if we are not part of nature and completely embedded within it. As if we can destroy nature without destroying ourselves.

The video embedded here accompanied the Chris Hedges TruthDig article at the link above. We place it here it here as a way of helping to share more widely Wendell Berry’s prophetic voice, to give reason for the action he took over this weekend, to light a fire under more people to wake them from their passivity or resignation or disbelief before this challenge regarding our energy sources, taking seriously what is implied here –

that it is better to have our lives disrupted by the impacts of stopping these practices (higher energy prices, lower standard of living for the affluent and middle class, simpler lives, the end of shopping malls) then to continue to destroy everything that makes this planet beautiful and a place of welcome, a home, for the human species and all those other species with whom we share it.

I watched it alone here at my computer and still had a hard time not standing up and cheering out loud. It is a voice we need to hear, an urgent voice.

That’s us, right? Voices becoming more and more urgent with every passing day because the destruction is becoming so vast, so irreversible, so dangerous that we are nearing multiple tipping points past which the unraveling begins to speed ahead all on its own, beyond our capacity to slow or halt it.

If you go to our ‘We Can Change the World‘ page, you will find links to some of our favorite organizations in the Appalachian region working to stop MTR coal mining. I can only urge once again that we all become more active in the effort to stop destroying the earth for the sake of our voracious, unsustainable, seemingly insatiable greed for fossil fueled energy.


LATEST NEWS FROM FRANKFORT: Berry and the others have ended their sit-in vowing to continue the pressure on the KY governor.  Said Berry:  “We came because the land, its forests, and its streams are being destroyed by the surface mining of coal, because the people are suffering intolerable harms to their homes, their health, and their communities.”

For updates on the I Love Mountains Day action, go here.


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4 Responses

  1. Steven Earl Salmony

    Perhaps what we need, maybe all we need, is an adequately functioning democracy, but first ordinary people will have to liberate ourselves from the pernicious, widely shared and consensually validated thinking of a tiny minority in the human community who extol the virtue of greedmongering as good, as an activity to be valued most highly.

    Even an enlightened dictator is not a person in whom I could place much faith. We need for duly elected, common people who are chosen by a society to accept the responsibilities and fulfill the duties of leadership by meaningfully embracing democratic principles and eschewing greed, by not “selling out” to greedmongers.

    It appears to me that the most arrogant, foolhardy and avaricious, self-proclaimed masters of the universe among us rule the world in our time, and rule it absolutely. This situation is bold evidence of a corruption of democracy, not an example of the reasonable exercise of democratic principles and practices. These circumstances are not only a colossal insult to human beings with feet of clay, but also are a clear and present danger to global biodiversity, Earth’s environs, its limited resources and to a good enough future for the children.

    Democracy requires representatives who reject the entreaties and bribes of greedmongers as well as embrace principles and practices that promote long-term well being of ordinary people and not only the short-term desires and fantasies of masters of the universe.

  2. Steven Earl Salmony

    And after fearlessly acknowledging many problems and courageously fighting on so many fronts, we find ourselves in the unexpected position of not yet having mustered the nerve to openly discuss either the necessity for finding balance in relationship between humankind and the natural world we inhabit, thanks be to God, or the bold fact that a good enough future for coming generations to Earth is being stolen from them now here, before our eyes, thanks to the relentless, soon to become patently unsustainable pursuits of self-proclaimed masters of the universe among us.

  3. Margaret

    Koch Industries is a great example, Steven, of masters of the universe trying to run the political sphere to the benefit of their profit-margins. They are involved in coal and timber industries, just a couple examples, here in my state and through their financial support of Gov. Walker are trying to rid our state laws of environmental regulations, to bust unions, and to lower corporate tax obligations to the state.

    Unfettered business is what these folks are about. They want to gut our university system, as well, separate the UW-Madison campus from the rest of the system and make it into an elite school for those who can afford it, with closer ties to the corporate sector upon which the school will become more dependent for its existence.

    Yes, you can see exactly what is going on in this country by more closely examining the dynamics of this popular showdown manifesting itself in Madison. I’m not sure we can win this round ultimately, but my people are waking up after a long slumber.

  4. Steven Earl Salmony

    Dear Margaret,

    Do you think extolling the ‘virtue’ of greed mongering leads inevitably to a consumptive state of being among the greedy? Or is there no such thing as “too much” for the self-proclaimed masters of the universe among us?