Front Porch Blog

Appalachian Treasures: Heartland America Tour

On the surface, the American Heartland does not have many similarities with Central Appalachia. Thousands of acres of flat agricultural fields do not necessarily bring to mind the rolling forested hills of Appalachia.

But there are more similarities than meet the eye between these two seemingly unrelated regions of our country. These similarities became clear on our most recent Appalachian Treasures Tour of Illinois and Indiana. Appalachian Treasures is our compelling multimedia tour that brings citizens impacted by mountaintop removal to churches, rotary clubs, and community centers across the country, building the movement to end mountaintop removal neighborhood by neighborhood.

Our first stops on the tour were in the Southern Illinois towns of Carbondale and Harrisburg. Harrisburg Illinois lies deep within the coal-producing region of the state. Illinois, like Appalachia, has a long history of coal industry abuses (many of the same companies operating in Appalachia operate in the Illinois basin). These abuses include large strip mines that impact local watersheds, destroy communities and ravage some of the most productive farmland in the United States. Attending our presentation in Harrisburg were community members seeking organizing insight, underground coal miners, Shawnee Indians, and local impassioned resident activists. Ironically, the presentation venue was directly adjacent to the Peabody Energy Wildcat Hills Strip mine. The message of out of control coal companies was made poignant over the rumbling of strip mine machinery. The presentations in these towns were powerful, and evolved into cross coal basin collaborations. A sharing of tactics and strategies needed to make sure human and environmental health are protected before coal company profits. All attendees penned letters to Senator Mark Kirk urging him to co-sponsor the Appalachia Restoration Act.

We traveled to well-known town of Lafayette Indiana, Home of Purdue University where the local Sierra Club and Audubon Chapters hosted a great and well attended presentation. The Rennselear Rotary Club hosted us in their small town Indiana agricultural community. At these great presentations we encountered concerned citizens eager to join the movement to end mountaintop removal.

Grassroots organization, Prairie Rivers Network hosted a presentation on the campus of Illinois University. This great organization fights for clean water in Illinois and strives to address coalmine pollution. They were excellent hosts – and helped to further connect the dots to energy usage and it’s implications in Appalachia and the heartland.

Citizens fighting toxic coal ash impoundments hosted the tour in Joilet Illinois, in fact the coal-fired power plants which house these leaking coal ash ponds receive coal from companies engaged in mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia. Across the Heartland citizens listened intently to our presentation and then eloquently described their struggles to protect environmental and human health in their own communities.

Another interesting connection to Appalachia and the Heartland was the possibility to shift from destructive energy sources to sustainable and renewable energy resources. Illinois and Indiana have invested heavily in Wind Power. Generating thousands of megawatts of clean electricity. It was inspiring to see two coal mining states diversify their energy portfolios and create high paying green jobs in the process. We will continue to work towards this goal in the coal producing regions of Appalachia.

Agricultural community or Appalachian Holler the coal industries complete disregard for public and environmental health knows no boundaries. Clean water, economic well-being and public health will be sacrificed to protect the company’s bottom line.

We sincerely thank all of our presentation hosts for their diligent work in organizing our presentations. These tours enable spread our message across the country, as well as bolster our support for the Clean Water Protection in the US Congress.





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