By Chloe Crabtree
Grassroots Organizing Assistant — Summer 2014
This summer marks the 10th anniversary of Mountain Justice Summer Camp, an event that brings together those fueled by the mutual desire to see an end to mountaintop removal coal mining and all of the environmental and social injustices embedded in its practice. The annual summer camp, this year held at Wiley’s Last Resort on Pine Mountain, is a week-long event dedicated to mountaintop removal education, workshops and trainings. The intention is to organize and act, strengthening solidarity amongst the Appalachian community and to helping to put an end to coal companies’ exploitation and influence.
I am fortunate enough to intern with Appalachian Voices this summer and fall and attending camp has really afforded me the perspective and skills necessary for our work to protect Appalachia. Camp was located on part of the beautiful forested summit of Pine Mountain in Kentucky. The mountain was a constant reminder of the importance and purpose of Mountain Justice. Black Mountain was across the valley from us, defaced, barren, and exposed after years of being stripped for coal — the community below still feels the effects of its destruction.
In between the delicious meals prepared by the kitchen crew, the days at camp feature workshops, trainings, and panel discussions that illustrate the Appalachian Mountains’ history and culture, and threats posed by the coal industry.
The mountain mornings started by bringing the entire camp together to go over group norms, volunteer sign-ups, updates from the medic team, kitchen crew, and security, and a quick overview of the day’s schedule. It’s difficult to decide which workshops and trainings to attend between Appalachian culture and history, community organizing, building alternative economies, peacekeeping & de-escalation, 20 hour street medic training, climbing training, water testing, leadership development and team building, plus many more. Workshops and trainings are led by knowledgeable, experienced, and enthusiastic people and the participants seem to always leave with the excitement of having cultivated or enriched their abilities. It’s common to see faces elated in this newfound perspective or enraged at the injustices discussed.
In the afternoon there is free time to decompress, go swimming or paddling in the pond, visit a nearby waterfall, hike, throw a Frisbee, climb a tree, check out some good books and pamphlets, or talk with new friends. There were also volunteer opportunities to help local residents with projects – some of us got to help Shayne Fields who has been working on a network of mountain biking trails in Flag Rock State Recreational Area for the past few years to help attract tourism and improve the local economy.
After dinner every evening panel discussions were led by impacted citizens, experts, and enthusiasts to address topics such as Appalachian Women, Impacted Citizens, Youth in Appalachia, Disaster Relief, and Mountain Justice History. It is particularly moving to hear of fears, threats, and triumphs from those who have experienced the trials and tribulations brought about by the coal industry that has tried to silence them and their families for generations. The Mullins family, which is traveling this summer on the Breaking Clean Tour, were part of the Impacted Citizens panel and spoke passionately about their family’s experiences as former coal miners, affected locals, and as parents of the next generation.
While spending five amazing days surrounded by passionate people and beautiful mountains, I reflected on what it means to act. Most of us have the privilege to act; we have the agency to choose how to make a difference and the means and resources to do so. We forget that we have power and that we can use our agency to organize and act. Some must act because it is a battle forced upon their lives and there is no other option, some act out of empathy, sympathy ethics or morals, and some act because they can, because they have the privilege to while others do not.
Whether you join a picket line, write a representative, volunteer or plant a tree, we have the power to create change. All we need is to believe we can do so.
Save Furnace Mountain
To whom it may concern:
I am writing to humbly ask for your help. My husband and I have a small homestead on Furnace Mountain in Stanton, Ky. Both sides of my husband’s family have been on the mountain for over 200 years. The mountain is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Many families live on Furnace Mountain. Some have been there many years and some have been drawn to the serenity of this place. The mountain also has an abundant plant and wildlife. Recently we were informed that a few persons are trying to obtain a permit to build a 44 acre rock quarry on top the mountain. We were all devastated to learn this. A public announcement was made in our local newspaper, The Clay City Times. The announcement was buried on the 9th page (our paper is very small.) The ad was less than 1 inch by 1 inch. It stated there would be a public forum to discuss and answer any questions. Even though the ad was obviously meant to go unnoticed, over one hundred came out to show opposition. That is huge for our small town. The meeting was so unorganized that no questions were really answered. You could tell these people did not expect anyone to come and were very unprepared. You can listen to the meeting here: https://www.wskvfm.com (scroll toward the bottom of the page.) The people on Furnace Mountain, areas close by, and many others from across the country that love our mountain object to the quarry for many reasons. Here are some of the objections:
1. The permit stated they would be using 40 ton tri axle rock trucks for transportation. The road on the mountain is very steep and very curvy. It is only safe up to 20 tons. As you head up the mountain, it is a very sharp incline. It is mountain on one side and is a drop off on the other. There are no guard rails and the road is constantly trying to crumble off of the side. It is currently being held up in places by metal bars. Also school buses travel the road carrying our precious children. The width of a tri axle truck and a school bus combined is actually wider than the road.
2. The mountain is what is called Karst Topography. This means that there are extensive waterways and caves underground. Karst Topography is known for sinkholes. There are many small sinkholes on the mountain already. Blasting could jeopardize the stability of the mountain. We could have large sinkholes like what happened to the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green. Except this time it would be people’s homes and churches.
3. The many natural water springs on the mountain are used to feed families and livestock. This quarry could pollute or dry them up all together.
4. There are many pockets of natural gas on the mountain. Blasting around or on these could bring horrific results.
5. There is a church within 50 yards of the quarry site.
6. Damage to people’s homes could be devastating. Imagine cracked foundations etc. These are not wealthy people who live on Furnace Mountain. To many, this land is all they have. Others have spent their whole retirement, for example, to move here and live in peace. When someone asked at the original meeting if the quarry company had a multi-million dollar insurance policy in case damage was done to homes etc., the replied that yes they did indeed have a policy. They said it would cover up to $500 per acre! Let me say that again…five hundred dollars is all they would have to insure that people’s homes would be safe and unharmed!!!
7. We do not want the beauty of our mountain destroyed! Plain and simple. This quarry is not welcome. Not only do we not want the eyesore, but there are two world renowned retreats there that depend on the quiet peace that only Furnace Mountain can offer. One is an alternative medicine retreat and the other is Zen Center. People from all over the world come here to meditate and heal their bodies.
8. There are endangered species of plant and animal life.
9. There is a cemetery at the quarry site with many old graves including a civil war veteran.
10. The air quality on the mountain would be in danger. Not only would the sound of blasting be horrible, but the amount of dust produced would be detrimental to health of everyone on the mountain.
11. Property values would plummet. To many this is not a hit they cannot afford.
I could go on and on, because these are just a few reasons. We need help stopping this. We are working so hard and have come together in a way I have not seen a community unite in a very long time. After hearing of this I started a Facebook page and in 24 hrs we had nearly 300 members and are at almost 400 now. People from all over have joined us in our fight. This is the link to the group- https://www.facebook.com/groups/258237054366375/. We had another meeting with our supporters at Knowlton Church on the mountain and over 100 people showed up. At the meeting we formed a not for profit group to help aid in our fight. I was appointed to the board of this group. We call ourselves the Mountain Preservation Coalition. We have also started a petition. We have around 600 online signatures and about the same on paper. We are begging for help from anyone who can provide it. Whether it is getting the word out about what is happening or otherwise, we would greatly appreciate any and all help that could be offered. The mountains of our great state have been used for mining for so many years and few are untouched the way our beloved home is. Our hearts are broken and we scared for our future. We have tried to contact our state rep. Richard Henderson with no response from his side. If you are willing to help please contact me at email@example.com or 606-909-2280.
Thank you for your time, Koula Carloftis Knox
P.S. This is the link to our online petition: https://www.change.org/petitions/governor-beshear-and-lt-governor-jerry-abramson-and-dr-leonard-peters-cabinet-secretary-energy-and-environment-cabinet-and-tom-fitzgerald-director-kentucky-resources-council-and-mr-mark-tartar-ee-do-not-grant-red-river-materials-llc-permit-099-9402-t?recruiter=49138061&utm_campaign=mailto_link&utm_medium=email&utm_source=share_petition
I would start by contacting Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition, and Kentucky Mountain Justice to see what resources they have avaialble to help your cause.
Or the Kentucky Chapter of the Sierra Club.
I hope you can find the help you need!
Charles from TN