Mountaintop removal is probably the single biggest act of hubris committed by humanity against the earth that I can think of. They blow up mountains and dump everything but the scraps of goal they can find into nearby valleys, destroying everything. There’s a committed grassroots coalition fighting tooth and nail against this, and those who speak out against the coal companies in West Virginia routinely have their lives threatened, their dogs shot, etc. etc.
One group, Climate Ground Zero, uses non-violent direct action to confront the mining and the mining companies… things like treesits, blockades, mass trespassing, etc.
Yesterday, two civil disobedients blockaded the entrance to Massey Energy, one of those rare genuinely-evil corporations (for christ’s sake, just look at their logo). Massey is known for breaking the union in the 80s, for being a main proponent of MTR, for poisoning entire cities and wiping out entire towns. The CEO is this guy named Don Blankenship, the highest-paid person in the coal industry. He’s got a hitler mustache, lives above a city he poisoned on a mansion on a mountaintop, where he comes and goes by helicopter. I mean, you can’t make this stuff up: no one would believe a fictional villain this gross. He attacked an ABC reporter and told the journalist that he would be shot if he tried to film him. (I’ve seen the video of it, but can only find that article with stills online).
Right, anyhow, two people blockaded Massey’s office, and now bail is set at an incredible $100,000. West Virginia loves its coal companies, even as they destroy West Virginia physically, economically, and socially (whole towns wiped out regularly, everyone young just leaves the state, etc. etc.).
Madison Cook’s miniature hands were covered in the sooty remains of a lump of bituminous coal. She had been collecting treasures all down the road—a yellow spotted salamander, a turkey feather, a magenta leaf—and this was her latest find. But unlike the other members of her Sunday afternoon collection, the coal wasn’t found in the biodiverse Appalachian forest that blanketed part of Cook Mountain. Rather, chunks and pebbles of the infamous fuel littered the top of the high wall that marked the edge of an advancing mountaintop removal site.
Several hundred feet behind us sat the Cook family cemeteries, where 29 of Madison’s ancestors lay at rest. In late June, her uncle, Danny Cook, discovered the access roads—required to be maintained by West Virginia law—blocked by five steep, human-made berms of mud and tree trunks. On the dirt road directly alongside the cemeteries, Horizon Resources LLC, the company mining Cook Mountain, drilled holes to ascertain how deep down the coal seams lay. Should Horizon get its way, explosives will blast away the bones of the dead, exposing a thin strip of coal that will be mined and loaded onto a train, to be burned quickly and cheaply in a factory or plant. Because the Cooks do not own mineral rights to their ancestral mountain, and are unsure of their surface rights, Horizon Resources is free to decimate it.
This is really exciting to me. I left West Virginia a few months back, and have been continually amazed by the bravery and commitment of the campaign there. They are facing fairly ridiculous repression (including strange and sweeping restraining orders that, if I explained the details to you, would apply to you as well somehow) but they keep at it.
Now two folks are in the trees. There’s a neat little slideshow over on the site and a lot more background information on the mountain (and accompanying valley) that they’re protecting.
And note the photo and design of the website banner!
These are photos from the Kayford, Brushy Fork, and Pettus actions. More than half of our folks are still in jail, as we attempt to raise bail. Note that many of these people are facing a $100 fine as their maximum penalty, yet have $2000 bail. One West Virginia Resident, Sid, wasn’t allowed to post his own property as proof that he wasn’t a flight risk. It’s ridiculous.
Here’s a 10 minute video that covers the picket at Pettus, West Virginia yesterday. It also briefly goes over the actions that took place up on Kayford Mountain and the Brushy Fork impoundment. If you pay close attention, I give a speech at the end, cause I’m trying to raise funds to get my friends out of jail. Little did we know that the 7 line crossers from that day also got sent to jail for $2000 cash bail as well.
So this video, and this action, mention god quite a bit. In fact, it starts out with Sage, a Mennonite preacher, giving a prayer. And one of the most important speakers is Ken Hechler, a former senator. Even I’m talking about non-violence in it. But here’s the thing about environmentalism… it takes all kinds. It takes everyone. It takes every level of tactic. We need people to cross lines to draw media attention. We need people to lock themselves to things. We need people to sue, we need people to lobby (though I shudder at what a monstrous waste of resources that last bit can seem!). And we need people to directly confront the machinery of oppression. In some cases, we need sabotage. There are a lot of different types of folks working to stop people from destroying the earth. We need solidarity between these different groups. So yes, anarchists can listen to prayers and senators from time to time. And actually, both the prayers (“God will destroy those who destroy the earth”) and the senator (“What you are seeing, up on brushy fork, is the arrogance of power”), in this case, were pretty sweet.
And yes, my friends are still in jail. We’re still trying to get them bail money. If you donate money, and we get that money back (as is often the case with bail), it’ll probably get saved to get more of us out of jail in the future. Because a lot of people are going to go to jail over this. In case you missed it, motherfuckers are blowing up mountains.
Today, three different acts of civil disobedience confronted mountaintop removal mining in West Virginia, all under the banner of Mountain Justice. Six people locked themselves down to mining equipment on Kayford Mountain, bringing operations to a halt for hours. Two people kayaked out onto the Brushy Fork Coal Slurry Impoundment and proudly displayed a “No More Sludge” banner. (this is, by the way, the tallest dam in the western hemisphere, and it holds back 9 billion gallons of coal toxin concentrate. You see, to “clean” coal, they wash out the toxins and dump them in giant toxic lakes poised above towns, and then act surprised when they fail and destroy towns.)
Then, this afternoon, people went out to Pettus, West Virginia and engaged in a symbolic line crossing, marching boldly off to arrest for trespassing. When this dam bursts, the coal sludge will be almost 20 feet high as far away as 28 miles down the road. Conservative estimates from Massey Coal themselves say that 998 people at least will die if it the dam fails. Oh, did I mention they’re about to start blasting away Coal River Mountain as close as 100 feet away from the dam?
So these people were all arrested, and they’ve been treated unprecedentedly harshly. 9 of them (include the line-crossers) are being held on 2000 cash bail… what this means is that they will not accept bond, they will not accept checks. They will only accept cash, for all 9 of these folks.
So people are trying to raise bail. Please help. Jail sucks. Mountaintop removal sucks.
Pictured above is a small portion of the mountaintop removal coal mining happening on Kayford Mountain in West Virginia. The spot where we took this picture used to be the lowest part of the mountain, the part where the road comes up and over as the most accessible point. And it’s now the highest.
I shot some photos in Mingo County of the coal companies continuing their efforts to destroy everything. In this case, it’s the burning of all the timber on the areas that they are planning on “developing.” They don’t even bother to turn the stuff into lumber. This picture is along Matewan Road, just south of 52. Note that the coal companies are just keeping along like nothing is happening, nevermind how useful those machines could be in the relief efforts of flood-ravaged Mingo County.
Last weekend, Mingo County West Virginia flooded something terrible. You see, the entire county is filled with strip mines and mountaintop removal sites. With no vegetation to keep soil intact, it just pours down the mountain and destroys towns. There’s a lot of nasty stuff going on in the area… they’re building King Coal Highway, a highway that is being built so that coal companies can mine the shit out of everything. (You don’t need permits and the like to mine if you just happen to want to extract the coal, but you’re really there to help build a highway!) Never mind that they don’t even bother logging these sites… they just tear down the forests and burn them in big piles.
This is not a plateau. Well, it is now. It’s the remains of a mountain in southwest virginia, Wise County. They blew it up to get the coal out, and they dropped what was left into nearby valleys, destroying entire towns. The kind folks at Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards told us where to find the place, but it turns out these places are everywhere. Over 450 mountains have been completely destroyed since mountain top removal began. I’ll be blogging more about this (with more photos), in the coming weeks.