Unbearable grief

Posted March 26th, 2012 in Blog, Featured 1 Comment »

Fostering Ecological Hope
Reflections on Culture and Meaning:

Read this before the next time you turn on your lights…

I’ve been quiet on this site for the past couple of weeks. I’m working on my new book, trying to get a couple of projects anchored here in Milwaukee, and dealing with some illnesses in my family. They are all reminders of how finite we are. I actually can’t do everything (neither can you), and lately even what I do has another requirement – that it serve to help me/us go deeper within, to silence the background noise of this entire culture so that I can hear what is churning, disturbing, trying to emerge.

And then there’s a kind of avoidance going on, I know. I feel so deeply wounded and grief-stricken by recent news about our nation’s corporate assault on nature that I had to put a couple stories aside because I could not bear to look at them.

And you know me by now – that is exactly what I want to share with you here. So this morning I looked at them.

The worst, the one that has become nearly unbearable, is this: a federal judge has ruled that the E.P.A. overstepped its authority in revoking a permit for the company Arch Coal to begin the largest mountaintop removal (MTR) coalmining project ever in the Appalachian Mountains.

The EPA, led by Obama appointee Lisa Jackson, had revoked the water pollution permit issued by the US Army Corps of Engineers, one of the most environmentally destructive agencies in the nation, for the proposed 2,300-acre Spruce No. 1 mine in Logan County. Read here for more info – please.

Spruce Valley, and Pigeon Roost Hollow in Logan County, slated for destruction by Arch Coal Spruce No. 1 mine. Photo: Vivian Stockman, OHVEC

You see, the laws of the nation favor the corporations’ rights to use and abuse the land, and this is especially true right now for the energy industry. As Pres. Obama keeps saying, we’re going to exploit all the sources, dirty and clean, to keep the economy churning along, to keep all those factories and computers and batteries for cell phones and iPads powered up. Heck, we are even moving to plug-in electric cars, so we will need even more coal to burn in our power plants.

This is what I invite you to do – show your friends, families, communities, work colleagues, churches and other faith communities what this is. Show them this. We need to know what is on the other end of our light switches and smart phone chargers and air conditioning systems. We need some deep, deep reflection on the extent to which we want to be implicated in these crimes against nature and against the actual living and breathing human beings, most of them on the bottom end of the economic ladder, whose lives are being upended by this practice of mountaintop removal.

There are other ways to create energy, but none as cheaply as this. This nation is addicted to cheap energy because it makes for cheaper consumer goods. We love this! We expect it at Christmas time at the shopping malls. We expect it when we go to Amazon to buy cheaper goods. My computer is being powered right now by majority coal-powered electricity, with a bit of wind thrown into the mix.

What these sites look like after coal companies take over. Hobet MTR site, Lincoln County WV. Photo: Vivian Stockman

Sadly, the country is also lacking any sense of solidarity with the Appalachian communities suffering this corporate violence.

Now listen to what West Virginia’s Guv had to say about the judge’s ruling:

“This is a huge victory for West Virginia and our coal miners,” said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin… “Issue our permits so that we can put our people back to work and provide the resources that will power America,” he said.

You see? It’s for the workers! And it’s for you and me, to keep us powered up.

Actually, MTR came along as a method to replace coal miners, who used to tunnel down into the mountains to get the coal, with machines that simply blast the mountains away, and bulldozers that push the toxic stuff into valleys and streams. The machines don’t need wages to feed a family, and they don’t require things like health insurance. Tomblin’s comments are cynical in the extreme. I imagine coal companies contributed generously to his campaign.

So you see, my silence these past days has been reflection of a deepening grief that often feels unbearable in light of the destruction of our sacred earth, our magnificent mountains and streams, and the mountain communities that go back many generations. This is not the only place in the world where human beings are creating industrial nightmares for the sake of the global economy. Nature is being permanently destroyed in many places and the wounds are multiplying.

When does it stop?


For more information, please visit these websites:

Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (ohvec)

Move Not These Bones: Coal Mining in Appalachia Destroys More Than Mountains

As the Mountaintops Fall, a Coal Town Vanishes

But the coal that helped to create Lindytown also destroyed it. Here was the church; here was its steeple; now it’s all gone, along with its people. Gone, too, are the surrounding mountaintops. To mine the soft rock that we burn to help power our light bulbs, our laptops, our way of life, heavy equipment has stripped away the trees, the soil, the rock — what coal companies call the “overburden.”

Now, the faint, mechanical beeps and grinds from above are all that disturb the Lindytown quiet, save for the occasional, seam-splintering blast.

Egregious sins against the earth. We should be in mourning. Help stop this killing. Educate, change consumer habits, live low on the energy scales, take action. Visit the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition for more info on what you can do.


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One Response

  1. Carol Overland

    Don’t forget that Obama also fast-tracked seven transmission projects, ones that facilitate coal transmission moving eastward into the newly marketized electrical system. If they can transmit it they can sell it, and Midwest utilities are drooling at the prospect of ratepayers footing the bill, landowners turning over the land, to build these billion dollar coal superhighways from the Dakotas headed east to Madison and beyond, where electric prices are higher (but have no doubt that the electric market is tanked, and there is such a glut of electricity that they “have” to build transmission or they will need to start shutting down some of the big coal plants). Yes, unbearable grief as they move towards permitting the latest round of CapX 2020 transmission, and as the National Park Service caves on transmission through the Delaware Water Gap. How dare they!