Michael Pollan, author of books such as In Defense of Food, and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, has written a piece for the New York Times that references mountaintop removal and the problems cheap energy poses for society. He’s a great writer and this piece is no exception- he mainly writes about the origins of food, so it’s impressive that he’s educated on the dangers of mountaintop removal. Check it out.
Archive for April, 2008
Al Gore addresses Ed Wiley, Ed’s granddaughter Kayla, and the audience at the 2008 Nashville film festival, and presents Director Michael O’ Connell the 2008 “Reel Current Award” for his most recent piece “Mountain Top Removal.”
Gore on MTR:
[MTR] just kills the landscape, and it kills the prospect for Kayla and her generation to have the same kind of beautiful place to live and the same healthy place to live. And all for what?
Kayla’s grandfather Ed Wiley took it upon himself to say “I’m gonna take this message to where somebody can hear it who can do something about it. And he walked 450 miles with a flag and a homemade flagstaff over his shoulder to Washington DC. And I admire that a lot Ed. But they didn’t respond, not really. Then he went to the Governor’s office, and then the courts got a hold of it. And of course the way our democracy is operating these days with the influence of big money being way out of bounds to what it should be – that produces way more of a response than a family, a grandfather thinking about his grand-daughter and her generation which should be right up there in first place when these decisions are made. But instead all these high priced lawyers and lobbyists and all the money thats thrown at this, it just twists the outcome of the legal proceedings, of the legislative proceedings, of the Congressional proceedings. And this is going on in Appalachia and similar activities are going on all over the world.
We’ve got to change this pattern of cutting off the tops of these mountains and just condemning future generations in Appalachia to a diminished future, and there are many of them, starting with this family that are standing up clearly and forcefully and saying “Its not right.”
And the proposals to stop this mountaintop mining have also gone nowhere. Now why is that? The influence of the groups that are making so much money on this and caring so little about the consequences has just overwhelmed what families are going through and are overwhelming what a grandfather thinks about when he thinks of how his granddaughter is going to grow up in the community where he grew up. So I hope that this film will help others to connect the dots the way it helped Tipper and me to connect the dots on the relationship between mountaintop removal – which is a crime and ought to be treated as a crime – and the results of burning it without regard to the future, which also ought to be treated as just an unacceptable practice. So, you can tell I feel strongly about this and have for a long time but the feelings I’m expressing here were really evoked in a significant way by this movie. So I want to formally congratulate and thank Michael O Connell and present him with the Reel Current Award.
Also, please watch Ed speak in the last 2 minutes. He is a brilliant man.
Appalachian State University has joined more than 500 universities, colleges and community colleges in pledging to implement a comprehensive plan to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by the year 2050. Chancellor Kenneth E. Peacock formalized the goal by signing the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment on Earth Day April 22.
Led by the efforts of ASU’s Sustainability Council, the university has already implemented 3 of 7 benchmarks outlined in the commitment that are designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“I can’t think of a more appropriate day to sign this agreement than on Earth Day,” Chancellor Kenneth E. Peacock said. “It took a while to get to this point, but Appalachian has been very careful to make sure that we can fulfill the requirements that are in the document.”
For the full article see here.
Wow! Last week was exciting.
The Washington Post wrote an extensive article on the issue featuring the direct connection between Washington DC power companies and MTR companies. “God gave us coal to mine, then, didn’t He?”
Please visit iLoveMountains.org at http://www.ilovemountains.org/news/389 to view this blog post.
The Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy is once again hosting attorney Stephen Small, the nation’s leading expert on the tax and financial benefits of conservation easements, for a continuing education workshop on May 13th. Please see details below and feel free to forward to all who may have an interest.
* Tax Planning and Conservation Easements
* Estate Planning and Post-Mortem Conservation Easements
* Tax and Legal Issues for Corporations and Other Entities
* NC Conservation Tax Credit Program
For more information CLICK HERE
The myth of clean coal should be filed somewhere between stories of the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the magical pot of gold at the end of rainbow. It’s like a fairy tale you believe in as a child, something to ease your fears of the dark and the boogieman. You grow out of some fears like the boogieman, while others you learn how to face. Unfortunately, we are not going to grow out of our energy dependence, and we won’t wake up one day to find it gone forever. But turning to a fantasy like “clean coal” as a solution is like depending on the pot of gold to pay off your credit card bills.
Last week I spent time with over a hundred individuals from across the country lobbying Congress to stop mountaintop removal coal mining. Mountaintop removal is just that: The coal industry is blowing up mountains all over Appalachia in order to get to the coal underneath. The top of the mountain is removed and then dumped in the neighboring valley. Cleaning the coal results in a sludge that is full of toxic chemicals, which is then dumped into our rivers, exposing thousands to a public health epidemic we can scarcely begin to comprehend. Appalachian families are bathing their children in water laced with arsenic, lead, and other hazardous chemicals. In the mean time, one by one, the mountains in their community are being destroyed.
The bottom line is that coal is dirty from the moment of extraction to the moment it is burned in any of the thousands of coal-fired power plants across the country. It’s easy to overlook when we are constantly reminded of our dependence on oil, that its actually coal running through the veins of this country. At the current rate Appalachian coal will be depleted in a couple of decades; Appalachian communities may not have that long. That’s why I spent my mornings last week on Capital Hill, lobbying Congress and meeting with delegates from my home state of New York. The ask was simple: co-sponsor the Clean Water Protection Act, a piece of legislation (currently in the House) that would make it illegal to blow up our mountains and pollute our water. Fairytales make great bedtime stories but they are nothing to build an energy policy upon. It’s time to grow up and take that first step towards a clean energy future.
NPR’s nationally syndicated program “All Things Considered” just aired a piece on The Alliance for Appalachia’s “Week in Washington”.
You can listen to Debbie Elliot’s “New Breed of Lobbyists Hail from Appalachia” here.
All Things Considered, April 21, 2008 · Lobbyists are everywhere on Capitol Hill. But it’s not always high-priced professionals that get lawmakers’ attention. A cadre of Appalachian residents has come to lobby for environmental protections from coal-mining waste. For many, it was their first trip to Washington, D.C.
It really is a brilliant piece. We are seeing the emerging narrative from the national media be “the Appalachian people are organizing and leading the charge against mountaintop removal mining in their communities,” which is what the narrative should be.
Speaking on a personal note, this year’s lobby week was a very special and inspiring event for me. It was well planned and well organized, and was attended by some of the most wonderful American citizens I’ve had the privledge of working with and celebrating with. It gave me hope that citizens can lead Congress to action, and that we can pass the Clean Water Protection Act (HR 2169) and end mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia.
A few years ago I invited a local beekeeper to place a hive on my farm. I naively assumed a honey bee colony would increase pollination and thus help maximize crop production. On a preliminary visit he stopped near a mist of insects hovering around a patch of blooming blackberry briars. “You’re getting plenty of pollination,” he said, amazed, “Look at all these wild bees,” pointing to the tiny black insects that, at first glance, appeared to be small flies or large gnats. This was my introduction to the subtle but vital work of native wild bees.
The familiar honey bee is an imported European insect brought by colonists. All bees, broadly defined, are wild; i.e. the honey bee is not “tame,” only managed. But the term “wild” is so frequently applied exclusively to native North American bees that the terms are interchangeable. Honey bees (non-natives) that swarm and build independent, unmanaged colonies in hollow trees are sometimes referred to as wild bees, but more properly should be known as feral bees. Bumblebees are natives, but differ in many ways from most indigenous species.
Ignored no more
Because most native bees produce an insignificant amount of honey, early settlers had no incentive to propagate and manage these species. Imported bees, on the other hand, offered both honey and pollination. This double benefit, coupled with the fact that most native bees are much less visible and less likely to inflict painful stings, meant that wild bees quite literally dropped out of sight, though they have never disappeared entirely. But as agriculture became mechanized and supersized, and wilderness became urbanized, native bees declined because they lost habitat to monocultures and pavement. When crop production suffered, farmers turned to honey bees. Portable honey bees do their work while crops bloom, and then they are moved out of danger before pesticides are applied. Unfortunately, lingering wild bee populations have been decimated by large-scale pesticide applications. Honey bees have been having their own problems in recent years, with mite infestations and disease reducing their numbers to the point that crop production could be seriously reduced as a result. Consequently, farmers are looking for help from what has been here all along- native bees.
Close to 4,000 species of native bees live in North America, and many have never been studied comprehensively, so any description of their habits must be general and qualified. Nevertheless, they share many traits. The orchard mason bee, Osmia lignaria, (aka blue orchard bee) is a native species widespread in the east; and it exemplifies many characteristics of wild bees. The mason and other wild bees produce no excess honey or beeswax, and most do not live in colonies; though individuals do nest very close to one another, as people in an apartment building. Their life cycle is short and simple. After mating in the spring, a female builds nests in almost any protected nook, such as hollow weed stems, snail shells, and human-constructed nest boxes. She shapes a cell using mud and other materials; collects nectar, and after mixing her honey with pollen, deposits the “bee bread” in the cell. She lays an egg near this food supply, and seals the cell shut. Each female constructs a series of these cells and dies shortly thereafter. After hatching within the cell, the larvae feeds on the bee bread, spins a cocoon, and matures into an adult; but remains in the cell over the winter.
The short lifespan of wild bees would seem to be impractical to farmers, but the timing of certain species is perfect for various crops, and their lengthy maturation period inside the self-contained cells makes them easy to manage. The blue mason bee, for example, is managed commercially for orchard pollination, and probably is the most well-known wild bee. Native bees match or exceed honey bees in their ability to pollinate crops. Natives forage shorter distances and thus remain near the targeted crop. Wild bees go to work early in the spring before honey bee numbers increase, and they are active at lower temperatures. The fact that many wild bees are inefficient at gathering pollen counter-intuitively makes them more efficient crop pollinators because they must visit flowers more frequently. They gather both pollen and nectar in a single flower visit (honey bees don’t always do both), and the natives’ vigorous motions, as well as distinctive anatomical features, help spread pollen where it is needed.
No one suggests that native bees will or should displace honey bees. After all, who wants to give up that delicious honey? The two bee types can easily coexist, and one study even shows that the presence of wild bees stokes honey bees into being more active and thus more efficient pollinators themselves. In short, we can literally reap the benefits of both bee types with just a little more recognition and care for the ones that pollinated the first crops at Jamestown and Plymouth Rock.
Lockjaw by Holly Farris
Gival Press, Arlington, VA
The language is fresh, the stories stimulating. Holly Farris’s first short story collection, Lockjaw, offers poignant glimpses into the interior lives of an array of diverse characters that linger in the reader’s mind. Her Appalachian narrators, though deeply rooted in Southwest Virginia, exhibit characteristics universally human. As they grapple with life’s challenges in ways not always successful, they struggle to understand their place in this world, whether on their own or in relation to others. Farris deftly displays the angst bubbling just below the surface of her characters, an act that leaves the reader often times uncomfortable and confronting his or her own insecurities or metaphysical challenges. In fact, the characters invite the reader to embark on a probing journey in fiction that mirrors the fullness of life.
Farris divides the stories into three sections: Youth, Maturity, Old Age. In each section readers encounter a different narrator of varying sex, sexual orientation, race, education level, socio-economic status, and age. The opening story, “Bloom”, however, is written by an omniscient narrator who employs flower metaphors to illustrate the colorful characters to follow in the subsequent chapters. From the start Farris demonstrates her creative word play as the speaker asserts, “When you awaken in early spring, watch for wayward flowers. Around ruined country chimneys, clay stripes like new cuts. Soil stigmata weep. Daffodil heads ruffle and nod; purple iris leapfrog across pocked fields. Tulips riot, calico, in midday sun. Flowers either mutiny or they march fencerows. Words typically used as nouns rouse the reader’s attention as verbs. Common verbs paired with uncommon nouns provide new ways of seeing and understanding the seemingly mundane. Readers grow alert to expect the unexpected.
While most of the stories stretch several pages, some punctuate the collection with a single page, a brevity that belies their impact. “Trace Erase” is one such story composed of two short paragraphs and two cryptic, albeit poignant, concluding lines. Without any idea of whether the speaker is male or female, readers only know that the “I” of the paragraphs is employed to “scrub the stain of dying at home out of houses.” As the narrator finishes the day’s work, “a suicide, not murder,” a group of porcelain dogs perched atop a dust-laden shelf interrupts. The inanimate come to life in this house where life was lost, taken. As the Trace Erase employee struggles to comprehend his or her own role in the morbidity of such sanitation work, he/she imagines a confused query from the dogs and registers their “disappointment at what they saw …” The employee’s response is brief. “It’s simple for you I say when I stand up to leave. People don’t always stay in sets.” Though the setting is different and the circumstances quite distinct, readers are reminded of Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” where the lovers are locked in eternity, on the verge of an intimate kiss that will never be consummated. Yet, the lovers remain beautiful and young, full of anticipation, forever defying the ravages of time. So, too, the dogs, “puppies leashed with fine gold chains” remain together throughout eternity, in a set, impervious to death.
The title story of the collection, which falls in the “Maturity” section, is indeed about a character, Brenda, who miraculously recovers from lockjaw, another name for tetanus. But the narrator, Janelle, is a young high school dropout who’s pregnant from a one-day fling with a tenth-grade boy trying to dodge boredom. As the two girls work Shuff’s roadside store during the stifling heat of a 1960’s summer, Janelle envies Brenda’s luck and resents her own state of affairs, noting, “Options. It’s what Brenda had and I didn’t.” As Brenda recounts her tale of stepping on a nail and acquiring the dreaded lockjaw disease, Janelle follows along but inserts her own unspoken but predictable story in Brenda’s pauses. “‘I had it all,’ [Brenda] said and somehow I counted the chances we’d both inherited but I had given away. I thought of her at Fort Bragg and me tending the counter to buy diapers.” Janelle laments her past and begrudges the baby growing inside her while Brenda readies herself for Army basic training and the opportunities to follow.
As Brenda concludes her story, however, she confesses, “‘Never since could I stand anyone near me…” At this revelation Janelle begins to feel sorry for Brenda and realizes, “I felt she needed me, needed someone, so she could spit out how it was to be so alone and then feel her way back.” Pulling herself out of her own self-pity, Janelle reaches out to Brenda—with an orange Popsicle, the kind that splits down the middle and can be shared. Yet Brenda conjures up the waning memories of her lockjaw when looking at the Popsicle stick. She instructs Janelle, “‘Eat it down to the stick, the part that’d be mine, and my teeth touch that mealy frozen wood. That’s lockjaw, teeth points clamping, on edge, wanting to bite in, nibble something good, but me not knowing how to stop if I did’.” Unexpectedly, and for the first and only time, Brenda acknowledges the baby growing inside Janelle, the baby that Janelle slowly comes to accept during this strange exchange. Janelle notes, “At least, it struck me that I had someone from then and always, this baby.”
Yearning for a human connection, lonely in her aloneness, Brenda takes the Popsicle leg and traces the outline of Janelle’s neck, back, shoulders, and belly with the frozen tip, offering her a small, cool respite from the oppressive heat. Thus, a temporary bond is formed, the healing continued, for Janelle reveals, “Circles and circles she drew, the paper envelope catching what sweet melted until its little leg twisted, leaving me sure there’s no feeling better than returning from alone.” The girls connect in a most intimate way as each continues to heal from both old and new wounds. Both girls survive and undergo miraculous recoveries—together.
In the concluding “Old Age” section, readers encounter characters aging, dying, or already dead. They also meet characters left to sort through the emotions of dealing with such end-of-life matters. Farris comes full circle in her writing. The life cycle is complete. In “Bringing up the Dead,” readers are transported to an earlier time in Appalachia’s labor history, the time when mules were replaced with motors in the coalmines. From the opening line the narrator, Anthony, explains his appreciation for the mules, animals his Boss calls “beasts of burden.” “Mules are more honest than any man. I’ve treated them accordingly, all the years I’ve managed a string in this underground mine.” Not only have the mules faithfully hauled coal from the mountain’s belly, Anthony recalls their role in bringing out “recent mashed boys to a car waiting at the switch on the tracks.” Hence, Farris’s title, at face value, reports the mules’ “bringing up the dead” from roof falls and explosions. And Anthony cannot see it any other way as he comments, “For me, blood’s always worthy of blood. Forget the motors. The mule pulls the sled, the mashed boy’s blood pumps out.”
Yet, the title reflects another type of surfacing of the dead. Anthony tragically demonstrates the truth of his opening line when he lies to a young jack mule, attempting to calm the animal as he leads him out of the mine. “Job for you, I whisper into the jack’s velvet ear.” Because the mules are bred and born in the mines, they never see the light of day, and consequently, grow blind with age. Covering the young mule’s eyes with his own bandanna to shield the beast from the sun’s painful rays, Anthony hands him off to two men he’s never seen before. Turning away from his companion, Anthony notes, “He walks flat-footed between them to the gate, to his first springtime smells and fresh grass.” The jack does not even have an opportunity to nibble at this new discovery, however. While Anthony struggles to lead another mule from the bowels of the earth, this one a jenny, he hears the gun shot. With heavy heart he laments, “Even this far below ground, I swear I feel his great weight fall.” Thus, Anthony is bringing up the soon dead, the honest mules that no longer serve a purpose and are therefore easily exterminated. And as a result, Anthony carries a great guilt for his role in the senseless destruction of a life that only served him and always did his bidding.
As with this final story, Farris’s entire collection contains difficult themes that resonate with readers as challenges of day-to-day life. The Appalachian setting unites the characters and influences many of their actions, but the diverse cast provides readers of all persuasions an opportunity to learn and investigate their own emotional reactions to similar scenarios.