Front Porch Blog

Finding My Voice, Helping Others To Speak UN/MTR

…I rambled, oh yeah, then settled in the Appalachians, right on the edge of the Coal. The deep and the stripable both.

1973 or thereabouts. I hooked up with some of the early Appalshop folks. It was a wild and crazy time. One night, a bunch of us, and Mutsmag, took ourselves up on Pine Mountain, on the boarder of Virginia and Kentucky.

We ambled around the outcrops, in the partial moonlight night. We were Owls, and All That is Nocturnal, and it was Good. A couple of us might have been spoken to by God, but if we were, we didn’t talk much about it, we just incorporated it into our lives. What little lives some of us had left.

It got toward dawn, and Lice said “We’ve got to go!” I said, “Let’s wait. It’s almost time for it to get light, let’s wait.” I looked out into the darkness, where dawn would break over the incredible lands of Eastern Kentucky. There was silence. And then Lice said, with this strange choking sound in his voice, that I had never heard before…..” You don’t want to see it. Believe me. This is my home. I was raised out there. You don’t want to see it.”

Some years later, I saw my first strip mine. At that time, I was told that under 10 percent of the surface of Eastern Kentucky was gone. GONE.

At this point in time, in West Virginia, it is estimated that 15-25 percent of the mountains no longer exist. GONE, Not coming back. EVER.

First the trees
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Then the soil, the rocks, the rest of the life…then the explosions, the dust, rolling boulders, the roaring coal trucks. Poison water, and the death of Communities. I had no voice, and so was silent.

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Fast forward…

I learned from faithfull that there is a contingent of people who will be heard by the United Nations. These are my Brothers and Sisters, my friends…..forget that we’ve never met. These are the displaced, much like the Katrina folks….only it has happened to them for 50 years. Floods? Yeah Boy!.

Take a virtual flyover of MTR.

Toxic waves of the contents of holding ponds with old dams a breakin’,

Jack Spadaro is an expert on coal slurry impoundments, and was on the federal investigation team that examined the Martin County disaster. It was a 1972 slurry dam accident at Buffalo Creek in West Virginia that has defined Spadaro’s career in mine safety. One hundred and twenty-five people were killed and 4,000 left homeless in that accident.

…boulders rolling down what used to be the mountainside, and fear of being killed in your bed.

Chaining themselves to dozers, while the elderly do all they can, even if it’s only sitting on a lawn chair on a bridge. (A little cheat here, this is actually a pic from a timber protest in the west. I like to pretend that is me in that chair. It could be any little old Appalachian grannie!)

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Props to melvin over at The Daily Kos, who supplied this information in comments when this peice was posted there.

The woman in the chair was Joan Norman. Right after this photo was taken, she was in jail with a friend of mine and shared her story. This protest, near Selma OR was her last. One of her first was in Selma AL. She has since passed on, unfortunately. I am quite sure she is with you in spirit.

You can read a little about Joan Norman’s life here.

I believe that photo was from the “womens’ day of protest.” Everybody on the bridge, everyone lying across the road, all women. Supported very much by their men in the community of course.

So now we have a chance to speak to the world. Will you help?

I have 2 envelopes sitting on my desk. There’s five bucks, and a penny, goin’ in each one.

One is to the fund for Valle Vidal.

One is to President Fire Thunder.

I am writing a new one out as soon as I finish this little rant, and get it posted. To OVEC,
tagged “for UN trip”.

This May, the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development will meet in New York to discuss international energy strategy. Most government officials continue to ignore the atrocities of mountaintop removal, coal sludge impoundments, and underground injections of sludge, so it is up to the people to let the world know the harsh realities of an economy built on “cheap” electricity.

The United Nations needs to know that we cannot have sustainable communities without the mountains on which we rely for clean water, clean air, our health and our children’s futures. It is the people of Appalachian coal mining communities who are most immediately paying the true costs of coal, and so…

The first Coalfield Delegation to the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, a group of inspiring coalfield residents, is prepared to take the truth to the UN, but we need your support if we are going to make it. Please help us raise the $7,000 so we can get to New York this May and ensure that the international debate on sustainable energy development includes the voice of the people of southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky.
Send checks to OVEC, PO Box 6753, Huntington, WV 25773-675. Be sure to write “UN delegation” in the memo line of the check.

I can’t afford this, but I can’t not afford it either. I want my people to speak to the world. I want to help send them to do it. I hope you do too.

I am finding my voice. Practice makes perfect, they say. Sometimes, particularly on sunny Sunday mornings, I subscribe to the old saying from New England though. “There’s good, and there’s good enough. And that’s good enough.” So this will just have to do. For now.

Inspired by faithfulls excellent diary
of several weeks ago.






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