Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Charleston, WV Will Bowl for the Mountain Keepers & Youth Leaders


Post written by Morgantown, WV resident & Build It Up! WV leader Joe Gorman

This is an opportunity to bowl with Build-It-Up! West Virginia leaders and participants and representatives from other proactive youth summer programs around the East Coast and Midwest. Larry Gibson, from Keeper of the Mountains Foundation, will be the night's guest speaker.

Proceeds benefit the Build-It-Up! West Virginia, support a week-long training we're hosting in South Charleston, and benefit the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation's work to build a healthy, local economy and stop mountaintop removal.

RSVP & invite your friends to the event on Facebook!

$20 gets you a pair of bowling shoes and three games of bowling. Additional donations welcome - bring your checkbook!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Artwork Connects Us to History

Post written by WVU Student Kofi Opoku

Kofi's piece with Marin Luther King Jr's historic words

After visiting the "Keeper of the Mountains" and listening to Larry Gibson’s story, I was amazed at his unrelenting fight against Mountaintop Removal mining. I was intrigued by how one man could speak up against an empire of coal companies and expect his voice to be heard. After Larry had finished showing us the devastated mountains, I dared to ask, “Do you ever feel like giving up?” He paused and answered me with his own question, “Do you know why Martin Luther King said he had been to the mountaintop?” It was then that it dawned on me; the reason why his passion seemed so familiar. Larry had the same fight in him as the activists and leaders who were willing to give up their lives for this country. Although MTR mining is seen as an environmental issue, there is undoubtedly a political underlining. It is this correlation between politics and the environment that I sought to emphasize in this poster series.


Kofi's piece with John Muir's historic words
 
 

Kofi's piece with Franklin Delano Roosevelt's historic words



Saturday, October 1, 2011

Volunteering to Reclaim His Economy

Written by Keeper of the Mountains Foundation Volunteer "Community Owned Energy Researcher" Tyler Cannon

Tyler Cannon voicing demands to Arch Coal in St. Louis

My name is Tyler Cannon, and I am a new volunteer for Keeper of the Mountains. My role includes research on various types of locally owned renewable energy sources. I have recently moved from Logan, WV, to Morgantown, WV, to attend West Virginia University, and when I saw this position open, I saw an opportunity to serve my home from a distance. Also, an opportunity to be a part of the solution; this solution being a West Virginia with a local economy that allows the people and the environment to not just exist, but to thrive. This research will provide understanding to those who wish to work towards this goal. Once we have understanding, we can put this vision into action.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Mountain Keepers Stir Detroit

Written by Event Planner Tom Costello


Amber & Larry Speaking Out in Detroit
When I began to publicize Larry Gibson’s speaking in Detroit, many people asked me why he would come here and what does Detroit have to do with mountaintop removal.  My response was that every time you turn that light switch on or plug your laptop to charge it, you run a direct line from that socket to that coal-burning power plant to a coal mine in Appalachia.  Specifically, that coal comes from a mountaintop removal mine. 

If one types in a Detroit area zip code on the Appalachia Watch website, you will trace that coal burned in Detroit to a mountaintop removal mine.  In the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.   So we in Detroit or wherever we live need to educate ourselves on this every important issue and support Larry’s and others’ efforts to end it. 

Larry Gibson and Amber Whittington not only discussed “what” mountaintop removal mining is in Appalachia, but they made an impassioned statement that these acts of destruction impact human lives, a culture and the land itself.   If you have the opportunity to bring Larry and his colleagues to your hometown or school, I encourage you to do so.  Others need to know what is being done to the mountains and people of Appalachia.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

*Job Posting* Year End Fundraising Drive Coordinator


Keeper of the Mountains Foundation
Year End Fundraising Drive Coordinator
Job Description


Position Dates: October 24th, 2011 - January 31st, 2012. Potential for expansion to full time employment.

Application Due Date: Applications must be received by 5:00 PM EST on Tuesday, October 4th, 2011.  Please send applications as early as possible.

Compensation: Commensurate with Experience

Hours / Week: 20-30 hours/week – 5-7 days/week, Many Evenings and Weekends Required

Reporting Relationship: Reports to the Operations Director 

Mission of & Introduction to the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation: The Keeper of the Mountains Foundation (KotM) aims to educate and inspire people to work for healthier, more sustainable mountain communities and an end to mountaintop removal. We believe a better future in the coalfields requires everyday people to come together and recognize their power to make long-term, lasting change. We envision an organization, led by West Virginians, with real power in West Virginia. We support communities that want to move beyond a coal-based economy and put in its place an economy that values people, land, and mountain heritage.

Current Situation and Objectives: The Keeper of the Mountains Foundation is experiencing strong growth. KotM is scheduling more speaking events, working with more Southern WV residents, and successfully fundraising. KotM is committed to grassroots fundraising from individual donations and scheduling fundraising events. KotM is planning to implement a well-organized, year-end fundraising drive through phone banks to outreach to our supporters and raise grassroots money to continue putting our vision into action. The Year End Fundraising Drive Coordinator is responsible for working with the KotM Year End Fundraising Drive Consultant and Operations Director to implement the Year End Fundraising Drive Plan.

Specific Responsibilities:

    • Attend a "Training for Trainers" on Organizing a Phone Banking Events

    • Organize & Oversee Regular Volunteer Phone Banking Events in November and December

    • Ensure all Phone Numbers In KotM Database Are Called in Phone Banking Events

    • Ensure Effective Online Donation Appeals are Sent Using Email, Facebook Causes, and Other Online Tools

    • Ensure Major Donor Meetings are Set Up and Asks are Made of all Potential Major Donors

    • Ensure Our Phone Bank Outreach Builds Long Term Organizational Activity & Base of KotM

    • Track All Donation Asks

    • Organize & Oversee All Data Entry to Maximize the Number of Donors w/ Phone Numbers for Phone Bank

    • Research Major Donors and Foundations

    • Recruit, Coordinate and Remind Volunteers and Board Members to Work the Phone Bank

    • Maintain, Update Database and Schedules

    • Follow-up with Low-dollar, High-Dollar and Sustaining Donors and House Party Hosts

    • Prepare Grants / Project Proposals and Progress Reports as Required by Operations Director.

    • Other Duties as Assigned



Preferred Qualifications:

    • Background Knowledge of Appalachia, Coal, Mountaintop Removal, and West Virginia

    • Experience in Grassroots Organizing and Fundraising

    • Experience in Direct Donation Asks

    • Experience in Excel, Word, Email, Facebook, Twitter and Google Documents

Skills:

    • Sales ability

    • Excellent Verbal Communication and Written Communication

    • Attention to Detail

    • Ability to Work Independently and as Part of a Team

    • Excellent Time-management Skills with the Ability to Simultaneously Manage Multiple Projects and Meet Deadlines

    • Able to Work Flexible Hours, Including Many Evenings and Weekends

    • Dedication, Motivation, Drive, Ambition, and Commitment to the Job

Location:
This position will be based out of the KotM Office in Charleston, West Virginia

To Apply:
Please send a Letter of Interest, Resume, and Three References to the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation at Apply@MountainKeeper.org.

For Questions:
Daniel Chiotos, Operations Director, at 304-205-0920 and/or Danny@MountainKeeper.org to ask questions about this position.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Father Dan's Labor Day Festival Statement on Mountaintop Removal

Post Written By On The Road Again Program Speaker & Labor Day Gospel Weekend Volunteer Debbie Graff

Photo by Wendy Johnston of Sunday's Music

From a newspaper article in the Charleston Daily Mail, I read of Father Dan Pisano, a former traveling chaplain with the WVU football team, who not only spoke of his objection with the game being played on a Sunday, but that it is sponsered by the Friends of Coal.  The article mentioned that the mountains where Fr. Dan grew up are gone.  I called Fr. Dan that day to ask about his destroyed hometown.  He had planned to come to Kayford to speak, but due to an illnes could not come.  He sent me this statememt to read in his place and gave me permission to post this statement online.  I have not had a chance to speak to Fr. Dan since it was announced that the team and coaches would be rubbing a piece of coal from the UBB mine before the game for luck.  Perhaps he can help me make sense of that, because I have not been able to do so. 

 The following is Fr. Dan's statement, read by me at the Gospel Music Labor Day Festival at Stanley Heirs' Park, Kayford Mountain, WV.




Photo Credit: Kelli-Jo Devereux

To The People Of The Mountain

 First of all, I want to apologize to my friends and fellow-companions on the journey to end the stripping away of God’s creation, his mountains, for not being in attendance today!  Secondly, I want you to know that I represent myself, not the Bishop of the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese, nor the Roman Catholic Church, although both the Bishop and the Church promote social justice throughout the world.  In this regard, I personally believe that the raping of our West Virginia mountains is unjust, immoral, a health hazard to the people who inhabit the valleys of West Virginia where the rape of our mountains is taking place and, most of all, a sin against the God of all creation.

I grew up in McDowell County, Filbert #9, to be exact. As a young boy I recall the many summers I spent in the mountains, sometimes pretending to be Indians or Cowboys with my friends or just walking alone to be with nature. 
Above an area where the Methodist Church sat, the mountains were deliciously thick in the summer with the scent of West Virginia wild flowers, tall trees and rich soil and so many memories.  There was a large rock near the top of that mountain and it was covered with moss.  The moss was as soft and rich as if it were made just for me.  So I would lie on that rock on my back and look up at the sky through the tallest trees I had ever seen.

I don’t know why the lizards that ran around me didn’t scare me, or the sounds I heard that could have been animals or snakes.  When looking back, I know that I felt that rock protecting me.  I didn’t know it then, but being in that unforgettable place was the beginning of my journey into the priesthood.   At a young age, that’s where I found God.  In that forest, I experienced God.  I don’t know why I recall that as the beginning of my religious journey, but I do.  It was as irresistible as God is to me still.  I became contemplative at an early age and that has sustained me throughout my religious life.  Those mountains and that rock, I know, became part of my journey.  I could never talk about myself in seminary in Boston without also talking about my beloved mountains of West Virginia.  It’s part of my soul!

That rock is now gone.  When last I visited Filbert #9, I could see stripping going on in the distance when I visited what is now called “Miracle Mountain” – a place where we would gather as a community for picnics, weddings, Church-related functions, and now reunions.  I looked over into the distance from the cabin and could only see trucks and other vehicles stripping away the mountains where once we could look into the hills of Virginia.  I fantasized as a child that I could see as far as North Carolina.  It just seemed to be a place where I could stare into my own future because I could also see distant places, places I had never visited except in my imagination.

My younger sister and her friends would venture into those same mountains when she was young, and they called that space “Fairy Forest.”  I never asked why but I imagine she and her friends found a place where they could pretend that there were little gnomes and fairies that protected them from dangerous snakes and other animals.

When my younger sister was born, my paternal grandfather walked me through the mountains and pointed out two wild turkeys.  I had never seen such beauty nor experienced such companionship.  It was a place where we discovered our relationship and it felt as ‘though I were in another world.  This was before I could venture into the mountains further and discover that rock covered with moss, which became my summer daytime bed, which brought me to this way of life.

My father was an underground miner.  I lost an uncle in a “mine blast” and his death left behind his wife and two children.  I think the children were one and 2 years old.  But a lot of other men lost their lives also as I grew up in that wonderful place.  And so it seemed “usual” even then to feel part of a community of similarities.  The Union assured everyone that they would inspect the mines for safety and we believed and trusted in that. 

What I wasn’t aware of was that the people who owned those coal mines were all from out of state – Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburg and other larger cities.  I only learned this as I got older and realized how paternalistic life was.  My father, in particular, was someone who fell into the hands of those he knew “owned” him.  He became dependent on them in a way I don’t think he ever realized.  It was unhealthy and even sometimes ventured into knowing my father as someone who could not survive on his own.  As I grew older I wondered about how his life and dependency would influence my own life.  I know it has.

According to the “The Friends of Coal” report dated 2009, there are 305 underground mines in West Virginia and 232 surface mines.  Throughout the US, however, there are 583 underground mines and 852 surface mines.  When I read that I grieved for all those mountains that were being stripped away from the people.  Interestingly, surface mines and underground mines that are not scrutinized for inspections as they should be seem to exist in those places where people have no voice.  They are told to lie to the inspectors in order to protect themselves and their jobs.

In my own county, which now ranks as the poorest county in the country, surface mining has caused flooding in the past 15-20 years, so much so that people who gave their lives to mining have moved away.  Displaced older people, I know, grieve leaving a place that was once filled with laughter and the joy of neighbors.  I drive through Keystone and pass by netting that is as tall as a three-story building to protect the people from the dust and dirt that drifts
from the stripping away of the mountains. In my own little town of Filbert, which now has about 20 or so families
[I am making an educated guess], I have heard that bears and other animals now venture into the back yards and street because they, too, are being displaced. 

I know that the two largest mine-owning operations are CONSOL Energy out of Pittsburg, and Massey Coal Co., Inc., which was recently bought by Alpha Natural Resources, with headquarters in Virginia.  Those who live in Pittsburg and Abingdon, VA cannot appreciate the devastation that those of us who watch our mountains – No, God’s mountains – be destroyed.  They live in relative comfort and cannot see God’s creation fall into the hands of greedy and irresponsible owners.  I envy them their joy, for we who long to walk once again through our mountains, will never have that again.

I am a supporter of underground mining.  I am a supporter as long as the owners maintain proper and critical inspection and safety measures.  I am not, and will never be, however, a supporter of strip/surface mining.  Stop the rape.  Stop the sin.  Stop playing with God’s creation as ‘though you own it.  You don’t own it, nor do we who stand against you today.  But let us, we ardently pray, have what is left of our mountains. 

The “Friends of Coal Bowl” is now playing out in Morgantown.  Do the students know that the friends are really not our friends, but merely frauds?  Do the students know that there is even a “Friends of Coal Women’s Auxiliary” who are responsible for education?  Do they ever show the films that inform about the destructiveness of strip mining?  Let us pray that they be fair and show both sides of the story.  It is our right to demand and expect that of them. 

I pray that one day the mountains will once again sing. I don’t care how surface mined mountains are “reclaimed.”  Nothing that is gone can ever be reclaimed.  Only God can do that.  And so I pray for you who stand here today and practice your right and responsibility to protest.  May someone out there in the West Virginia or Federal Government hear your voices and my prayer that one day, one day…………God’s creation will not be taken from us!  God bless all of West Virginia.  God bless you.

Be at Peace
with Your Consciences!

Fr. Dan Pisano

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Schedule Announced for Labor Day Gospel Festival



Photo Credit: Kelli-Jo Devereux
 "I personally believe that the raping of our West Virginia mountains is unjust, immoral, a health hazard to the people who inhabit the valleys of West Virginia where the rape of our mountains is taking place and, most of all, a sin against the God of all creation. "   - Father Dan Pisano
On Labor Day Weekend, Come Celebrate God's Mountains at the Gospel Music Weekend with Larry Gibson and his family at their Stanley Heirs Park on Kayford Mountain.

Father Dan Pisano , former WVU football team's traveling chaplain will not be there himself, but his statement will be read during our main service on Sunday at 3:30pm! Music, speakers, food, children's games and fun Saturday, September 3rd from 1-6 PM and Sunday, September 4th 12-4

Saturday Schedule:

1:00 - 3:00 Jean Davis and Stanbumgarner playing bluegrass / old time music with a Gospel theme

3:00 - 4:00 Sun Darling playing indie folk music with a Gospel theme

4:00 - 6:00 Geoge Daugherty is trying to come to play the saw and other music with a Gospel theme

Sunday Schedule

12:00 to 12:30 Matt Parsons' Music


12:30 to 12:45 Robin Blakeman discussing recent health studies of Southern WV Counties

12:45 to 1:00 Allen Johnson of Christians for the Mountains

1:00 to 1:30 Music

1:30 to 1:45 Laura Dagley of Christians for the Mountains

1:45 to 2:00 Local Preachers / Singers (Open)

2:00 to 2:30 Megan Gregory' Music

2:30 to 3:00 Local Preachers / Singers (Open)

3:00 to 3:30 Matt Parsons & Megan Gregory' Music

3:30 to 4:00 Primary Service (Robin Blakeman leading) & Father Dan Pisano's Statement Read (Debbie Graff) & Gospel Sing (Matt Parsons)
 
Please bring a dish for the potluck, and a tent if you plan to stay Saturday night. If your church is interested in having a table or promotional materials there or having time on stage for your band and/or preacher/speaker - please contact us ASAP.

This is a FREE Festival & we hope everyone can come. We do have costs though, so if you can make a suggested $10 - $50 donation to help us, we'll put your generosity to good use: http://bit.ly/kotmdonate
Contact Us at Charlene.KotM@Gmail.com and/or (304)205-0920

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Community Energy + Land Protection Volunteer Researchers Needed

Keeper of the Mountains Foundation (K.o.t.M.)
Community Owned Renewable Energy Research Volunteer
Position Description

Term: September, 2011 to December, 2011
Compensation: Volunteer, Direct Program Expenses will be Reimbursed
Estimated Weekly Time Commitment: 5 - 10 hours
Person: ?

Keeper of the Mountains Foundation Mission Statement:

The Keeper of the Mountains Foundation aims to educate and inspire people to work for healthier, more sustainable mountain communities and an end to mountaintop removal. We believe a better future in the coalfields requires everyday people to come together and recognize their power to make long-term, lasting change. We envision an organization, led by West Virginians, with real power in West Virginia. We support communities that want to move beyond a coal-based economy and put in its place an economy that values people, land, and mountain heritage.


Importance of This Position

The Keeper of the Mountains Foundation is actively working to protect the health of our mountains and people so that we can develop a just and local economy. We envision an economy that actively improves the health of Southern West Virginians and want that economy to benefit Southern West Virginians as much as possible. We want to see community owned renewable energy operate as a major driver for this developing economy and we want to organize people together to put this vision into action. This research is the important first step so that all in our organization can understand what different ownership options there are for community owned renewable energy before we start to actually work to put it into place.


Goal of this Volunteer Position:

The central goal of this position is for all people actively engaged in developing and eventually implementing the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation's vision of a healthy Southern West Virginia economy with community owned renewable energy as a driving force to understand the different ownership options for community ownership. This volunteer will produce the written material necessary for Keepers' staff and volunteers to understand our options so that we can discuss and choose which is the primary model we want to implement.


Responsibilities:

- Produce an Overview of Different Models of Community Owned Renewable Energy Document for KOTM use that explains how each model works as well as the potential for implementation in the current policy & regulatory structures of West Virginia. This document may also explain difficulties in implementing community owned renewables as well as the needed policy changes.

- Produce a 1 page (front & back) overview of what different relevant options there are for community owned energy and a definition + brief description of each

- Produce a written overview of existing community level renewable energy leaders' experiences who KOTM already has contact with.  There may be other experts that are identified to talk with to learn from their experience with community level renewable energy, but these are the people with the necessary experience to start with.

- Research and Summarize existing models of community renewable energy ownership that are being used in different areas of West Virginia and the United States. Examples will be provided.

- Communicate at least Weekly with the Operations Director of the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation.

- Write at least one blog post for the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation's website at the beginning of the position to outline your goals and why you're doing the work and one blog post at the end of your position to outline what progress was made, the importance of your work, and why you are doing it

- October 15th Report with a Progress Evaluation & Update to Keeper of the Mountains Foundation


To Apply:

Contact Danny Chiotos at Danny@MountainKeeper.org

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Keeper of the Mountains Foundation (K.o.t.M.)
Land Protection Research Volunteer
Position Description

Term: September, 2011 to December, 2011
Compensation: Volunteer, Direct Program Expenses will be Reimbursed
Estimated Weekly Time Commitment: 5 - 10 hours
Person: ?


Keeper of the Mountains Foundation Mission Statement:

The Keeper of the Mountains Foundation aims to educate and inspire people to work for healthier, more sustainable mountain communities and an end to mountaintop removal. We believe a better future in the coalfields requires everyday people to come together and recognize their power to make long-term, lasting change. We envision an organization, led by West Virginians, with real power in West Virginia. We support communities that want to move beyond a coal-based economy and put in its place an economy that values people, land, and mountain heritage.



Importance of This Position

The Keeper of the Mountains Foundation is actively working to protect the health of our mountains and people so that we can develop a just and local economy. We envision an economy that actively improves the health of Southern West Virginians and want that economy to benefit Southern West Virginians as much as possible. We want to see community owned renewable energy develop on protected locally owned land we want to organize people together to put this vision into action. This research is the important first step so that all in our organization can understand what different protection options there are for legal land protection before we start to actually work to put it into place.


Goal of this Volunteer Position:

The central goal of this position is for all people actively engaged in developing and eventually implementing the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation's vision of a healthy Southern West Virginia economy with community owned economic activity on protected lands as a driving force to understand the different options of land protection. This volunteer will produce the written material necessary for Keepers' staff and volunteers to understand our options so that we can discuss and choose which is the primary model we want to implement.


Responsibilities:
- Produce an Overview of Different Models of Land Preservation Document for KOTM use that explains how each model works as well as the potential for implementation in the current setting of West Virginia's legal system. This document may also explain difficulties in implementing different models of land protection, as well as any needed policy changes.

- Produce a 1 page (front & back) overview of what different relevant options there are for legal land protection and a definition + brief description of each option

- Produce a written overview of existing land protection leaders' tips through conversations with known experts. There may be other experts that are identified to talk with to learn from their experience with legally protecting land, but these are the people with the necessary experience to start with.

- Research and Summarize existing models of land preservation that are being used in different areas of West Virginia and the United States. Examples will be provided.

- This Researcher may also, if there is the capacity and time, research the out of state land ownership patterns in the areas where we are likely to engage in land protection activity.

- Communicate at least Weekly with the Operations Director of the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation.

- Write at least one blog post for the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation's website at the beginning of the position to outline your goals and why you're doing the work and one blog post at the end of your position to outline what progress was made, the importance of your work, and why you are doing it

- October 15th Report with a Progress Evaluation & Update to Keeper of the Mountains Foundation


To Apply:

Contact Danny Chiotos at Danny@MountainKeeper.org



Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mingo County Resident Enforcing the Law

Post Written by KOTM On The Road Again Speaker and Mingo County Resident Donna Branham


Lenore, WV Resident Donna Branham
The widespread destruction of land and water resources caused by strip mining and the failure of the states to effectively regulate the industry themselves resulted in the passage of Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA).  I recently had the opportunity to attend a training in Pittsburgh on how to use SMCRA to protect my home from the threats of coal mining activity.

The purpose of SMCRA was to make mine operators conduct their operations in a way that would avoid environmental and public health injury, and to restore the land after mining to its pre-mining condition.  SMCRA gives citizens extensive rights to participate in the process of controlling strip mining abuse. Congress believed that citizen involvement would be crucial to SMCRA's success. All mining operations have a disruptive effect on the environment, but the sheer volume of material involved in strip mining makes the impact on the environment extremely serious. Private citizens are most likely the first to recognize that their property or community is threatened by a mining operation: Congress intended that you should be able to stop any damage before it starts. Strip Mining, including Mountaintop Removal, can severely erode the soil or reduce its fertility; pollute waters and/or drain underground water reserves, scar or altar the landscape, damage roads, homes and other structures, and destroy wildlife. The dust and particles from mining roads, stockpiles, and lands disturbed by mining are a significant source of air pollution. Citizens whom are involved with a surface mining problem or coal mining related problem should obtain the most recent copy of the federal and state laws and rules to take action to protect their homes. 

The federal rules can be browsed online at the Government Printing Office website: ecfr.gpoacess.gov. The federal rules can also be purchased from the Government Printing Office. The West Virginia Surface mining Reclamation Rules may be purchased fom the Department of Environmental Protection or may be viewed on line at www.dep.wv.gov

As I study and collaborate with others that attended the Workshop, we will post some step by step instruction and explanation of how citizens can take action at three crucial stages of mining operation:

1. Reviewing the operator's application for a permit to begin their mining activities

2. Monitoring an ongoing mine operation

3. Participating in the proceedings after mining which releases an operator from the bond posted at the beginning of the mining operation.

Citizens' Coal Council SMCRA Training Slideshow:

Monday, August 1, 2011

Unveiling Appalachia's Dirty Little Secret

Written by Trip Organizer and Charleston, WV native Nicole Holstein.

Mountaintop removal mining is Appalachia’s dirty secret. Despite increasing news and government attention, I meet peers constantly that have no idea what MTR even is, much less the extent to which it affects communities and economies in this region.

My environmental student group, Students for Environmental Awareness (or SEA for short), from Marietta College were lucky enough to be able to visit one of the most contentious MTR sites in West Virginia, Kayford Mountain.







Driving up the bumpy mountain road in our van, we at once appreciated the beauty and feared what we would see around the next turn. We pulled up to Larry’s property where he told us briefly about his family’s struggle with the effects of mining and the abuse they have suffered at the hands of coal supporters. Standing in his driveway, we could not yet see the MTR site over the ridge, and there no mining activities that day to hear.

He asked us to stop and listen as he asked,‘What don’t you hear?"

“Birds,” I said. The entire mountain valley was silent as a grave.

He walked us to the edge of his property, passed coal-dust covered vehicles and houses, passed trees covered in sickly lichen, and we stepped over the ridge; you could sense the feeling of pain we all shared at that moment. Before us was a moonscape. Juxtaposed against the surrounding mountains which were still green and beautiful, where life-giving rivers still meandered between, was this abomination. And looking around, you knew the same fate threatens all that you could see.


One question people always ask when I tell them about Mountaintop Removal, or when they first see what a Mountaintop Removal site looks like is “Why?” We know the answers-money, greed. But it still doesn’t make sense to us. To the majority of people, the raping of the mountains and the abandonment of communities like the dumping of overburden into a valley is incomprehensible. And that is why Mountaintop Removal is Appalachia’s dirty secret.

If people knew, if people saw, they would stop it. That’s why trips like these are so important, and why groups like SEA are so important, and why work like what the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation does is so important. I made a short video from the footage I had on my cell phone and put it on YouTube, one of the most powerful tools of communication we have today. It was simple and small, but the impacts could be far larger than the effort I put into it. I hope people see. I hope people visit. I hope people act.

Nicole Holstein
President
Students for Environmental Awareness
Marietta College
Marietta, OH

P.S. To schedule a tour of Kayford Mountain and see Mountaintop Removal first-hand, call Larry Gibson at 304-542-1134 or Danny at 304-205-0920 or email us at Danny@MountainKeeper.org at least a week in advance and we'll schedule a tour for you.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Why I Do What I Do

Written by On The Road Again Program Speaker Wendy Johnston's 13 Year Old Niece and Mercer County, WV Resident Hannah Howard.  This statement will be delivered tonight at a WV Department of Environmental Protection Public Hearing of a Proposed 35-acre Strip Mine Expansion.

Hannah Howard
My name is Hannah Howard, I am a thirteen year old girl from Mercer County, West Virginia. I've lived in Mercer County all of my life, and I refuse to live anywhere else. I love West Virginia, and all of it's scenery. The luscious rhododendrons, the luminous greenery, and most importantly the mountains.

When I go to my grandparents farm, I usually go and help my grandfather with the gardens, which happens to be on the top of a mountain. Everytime I'm up there I stop what I am doing, and look at the view. There, on the top of that mountain, are two trees, kind of close together, yet far enough apart, in order to see the beautiful mountains in between them. It has been the most beautiful sight I have seen in my thirteen years, and if you don't mind, i'd like to keep that.

Honestly, I think what the miners of the strip mining groups are doing is just horrible things to do to the Wild, and Wonderful West Virginia.

Two of the most importnant resources in life, is water, and air, and all that strip mining industries are doing is taking that away. Without fresh water, and air, how will the people survive? All of the toxic chemicals are going into the water, and air. One example of where this is taking place is on Browning Lambert Mountain. There are families up there. They need fresh water, and air. There are families of young, and old. Why would you want to cut anyone's life short, without fresh water to drink, and fresh air to breathe.

Existing Strip Mine on Browning-Lambert Mountain, WV
When I heard about strip mining, I was disgusted with what West Virginia had come to. I come from a family who fights for what we believe in. We aspire to end strip mining once, and for all. No matter what how long it takes, or how severe the consequences are. We will fight for what we belive in!
In conclusion, we will accomplish our goals. We will do whats right, and make West Virginia a better place. All the D.E.P needs is a little help, and together, we will end mountaintop removal. Thank you.

Sincerely, Hannah Howard

P.S. I oppose the granting of Amendment No. 1, permit No. S401808.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mountain Keepers Music Festival

Written by Huntington, WV Event Planner Natalie Vanderpool

ANNUAL MOUNTAIN KEEPERS MUSIC FESTIVAL CELEBRATES WEST VIRGINA’S FREEDOM


On Saturday, July 2nd and Sunday, July 3rd, the annual Mountain Keepers Music Festival will be held at Kayford Mountain's Stanley Heirs Park. The two day event will feature then local and regional musicians playing a variety of bluegrass, gospel, country and old time music, as well as poetry, and pot-luck meals. This is a free concert that will celebrate Appalachian life and attendees are encouraged to bring a covered dish.



The purpose of the concert, according to local citizen activist Larry Gibson, is to “bring family and friends together for a weekend of celebrating West Virginia’s heritage and freedom." July 2 and 3 will see people from all walks of life, bound by their common love of our mountains and people. This will be a safe festival as festival organizers will have trained security present and all are invited to peacefully enjoy this Festival.






The festival will feature many emerging artists who celebrate their homes and heritage. Legendary and Award Winning West Virginia musicians Michael & Carrie Kline will be singing old time West Virginia folk songs and ballads. Crystal Good, 2004 Winner of the Governor’s Innovative Artist Award, of the Affrilachian Poets will also perform her unique poetry. Kate Long, winner of the International Bluegrass Music Association Song of the Year award, will be singing her Appalachian Styled music.  Ben Sollee, a renowned celloist who defies convention by mixing in a soulful voice which earned him a place in National Public Radio’s list of Top Ten Unknown Artists in 2007, will be performing on Saturday evening. Following Ben Sollee will be the popular Charleston Rock n' Roll band Almost Adam as well as "Old Style Rhythm & Blues, Gospel Soul & Country Funk" band The Carpenter Ants.

Attendees are encouraged to camp out on Saturday night as more musicians will be performing casually around the campfire. Sunday afternoon will kick off with a gospel service and followed by the musical acts of Jane Branham singing Virginia Mountain Music and Country Roots Musician John Lilly. The annual pot-luck meal will also be held on Sunday.

 
 
Please Invite Friends to our Facebook Event

While this is a free festival, we are asking you to chip in with a donation to help us cover the cost of maintaining Stanley Heirs Park on Kayford Mountain and put on this Festival.
 
Saturday's Schedule: 
 
1:00 PM = Festival Welcome

1:15 – 2:15 = Michael Carrie Kline

2:15 – 2:30 = Crystal Good

2:30 – 3:30 = Kate Long

3:30 – 3:45 = Crystal Good and/or Another Affrilachian Poet

3:45 – 4:15 = Carpenter Ants

4:15 – 4:30 = Speaker

4:30 – 5:30 = Ben Sollee

5:30 – 7:00 = Almost Adam

7:00 – Dark = Carpenter Ants



Sunday's Schedule:

11 AM = Preacher

11:30 – 12:30 = Jane Branham

12:30 - Close = John Lilly

Friday, May 27, 2011

GIVE NO CONCESSIONS: Organizing for Freedom

Written by Event Organizer and Middle Tennessee State University student Charles White


            


           Our role as the Students for Environmental Action (SEA) on our campus empowered us to look into hosting a leading figure of the climate justice movement on campus. Larry Gibson seemed to be the perfect choice. We initially made contact with his organization in October of last year. We set up a date and a location, committed to funding, and started spreading the word.  The Keeper of the Mountains' Operations Director, Daniel Chiotos, was very helpful throughout the entire process. We shared friendly phone calls every few weeks updating the process. He was more than helpful, sending us a packet of information about Larry and the Foundation as well as suggestions for media outreach. We got the Ideas & Issues section of our Student Programming to set aside funds for the event. We also asked for funding from the school as SEA and were able to fundraise more by hosting a benefit concert. We created a Facebook event very early in the process (which I ‘shared’ rather frequently). We made posters and handouts. We contacted local media and received coverage in the school newspaper. We setup a table with food and information for the event. It was simple, awesome, and rewarding!

On April 19, 2011, Middle Tennessee State University was graced by the presence of climate justice HERO Larry Gibson. It was Larry’s first official speaking engagement after he regretfully had to miss Power Shift 2011 (which a group of MTSU students had attended the previous weekend in Washington D.C.) due to personal health concerns. We are thankful he was well enough to speak here in Murfreesboro. Larry was joined by Amber Whittington of Ameagle, WV.  Amber is one of fifteen youths from the coal-mining region of Appalachia who Larry is personally training to become leading organizers.  Larry hopes that through sharing his experiences with this group of promising protégés he will be able to help empower this new generation to carry on his outstanding work of educating and motivating people of action to resist corporate greed- especially in regard to environmentally and socially destructive coal extraction. Amber spoke to us of the poisonous drinking water in affected communities, of grandmothers who have to fight for their safety when they should be comfortably retiring, and of the extremely high rates of cancer, liver and kidney diseases which are the results of current coal-mining practices in her home state. She did an outstanding job for her first time in front of a crowd- keep up the good work, Amber! She also inspired our own budding students-activists.

Here at MTSU have been working to spread the word about the atrocity of Mountaintop Removal since a number of us attended Mountain Justice Training Camp during May of last year. We realized the magnitude of this issue and its direct connections to Murfreesboro, Tennessee. According to ilovemountains.org, Murfreesboro receives energy from Widows Creek- a TVA operated coal-fired power plant on the Tennessee River in northern Alabama- that receives a portion of its coal from mountaintop removal at the Spruce No. 1 mine in West Virginia. As many of you know, this is the surface mine that is encroaching on the historic site of Blair Mountain. It disturbs me that even as I type this I am inadvertently supporting destruction of this extraordinarily important place in our nation’s history. I will get back to that part in a moment.

Larry was completely on point for the entire hour and a half presentation. He began by telling the audience a story about his recent visit to the Ecuadorian Amazon; of the acrid smell of burning oil that is now present in the rainforest because of Chevron’s oil-extraction practices, and crude oil seeping from the ground and polluting the Ecuadorian’s sacred waterways. His experience reminded him of what is happening to his own people back in the mountains of Appalachia. Peoples’ well-being is being compromised for profit by corporations such as Massey Energy- now owned by Alpha Natural Resources, the 2nd largest coal company in the country. Larry told us about how he has always had a connection with the land and all the plants and critters that inhabit it. By not standing up and fighting for the healthy world which we believe to be the right of all Earthling life-forms we are allowing our mother’s blood- the precious water- to be infused with toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, lead, etc. This devastates the lives of all her children who drink thereof.

Water is what unites all planetary citizens. We need it for survival. Take away our clean water and you are destroying our livelihoods. From the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, to the BP Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico; from chronic oil spills in Nigeria and Ecuador (that dwarf the tragedy in the Gulf) to the Tar Sands of Utah and Alberta; from unregulated Hydraulic Fracturing all over the world to giant fields of  Monsanto’s genetically modified crops sprayed with fossil carbon-fuel derived compounds; from Mountaintop Removal in Appalachia to every other extractive atrocity destroying global citizens’ lives worldwide, people are beginning to make connections. We are living in a world that is ensnared in a global system of greed that cares nothing about our future- only about short-sighted initiatives benefitting  a small global elite. This system is poisoning our water, polluting our air, and obliterating our right to have healthy and sustainable realities.  At the same time, this system of greed justifies the dirty industries that are responsible for these atrocities. But no longer will we allow them to play these dangerous games and gamble with our lives. It is time to grow up as a species, my fellow Homo sapiens sapiens!

I join Larry Gibson in calling for a revolution in this country and the world! We shall give no concessions, nor shall we accept them. We are the freedom fighters, and we will organize to create a better world! The board is set. The pieces are moving. We are building a broad social movement the likes of which has not been seen for some time. Please join Larry, myself, and many others as we walk for freedom from corporate oppression at the March on Blair Mountain, from June 4-11, 2011, to kick off a summer of escalated direct action campaigns worldwide.

The website created for the march says, “The March on Blair Mountain is a unifying rally involving labor unions, environmental organizations, scholars, artists, and other citizens and groups. The march commemorates the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921, when 10,000 coal miners rose against the rule of the coal operators and fought for their basic right to live and work in decent conditions. Currently, Blair Mountain is threatened with obliteration by mountaintop removal (MTR) coal-mining, and it is here that a new generation of Appalachians {and all Planetary Citizens} takes a stand” (for more information and to register, please visit marchonblairmountain.org).

Thank you, Larry, for sharing your inspiration with our community of Murfreesboro, TN. We face the evil of a giant, unlined, toxic landfill that is a mere hundred yards from our primary community water source- Stones River. We have one of the leading music-recording degree programs in the nation; we have and a town full of radical musicians, artists, and activists who are learning to find their voices and shout them loud and clear for the entire world to hear. We are with you all the way, Larry. We see the future. It’s beautiful and full of small egalitarian communities which have formed a special relationship with the earth- which no longer need to extract death to fuel their lives. I promise, we are going to create it. Thank you for electrifying a new generation of leaders to take on the epic task at hand. Courage, camaraderie, endurance, and ingenuity will help us lead the way to a healthier, happier planet. May we all be well and stay true to our purpose.

Remember: GIVE NO CONCESSIONS!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Will Alpha Listen to Coalfield Residents?

Written by On The Road Again Program Speaker and Glen White, WV Resident Paula Swearengin



Yesterday as a mother fighting against "Disposable Appalachia" and a representative of the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation I got to join some great people and visit Alpha Natural Resources in Abingdon, Va. to approach them with many questions about the future of Appalachia.  We met with Kevin S.Crutchfield, chief executive officer, and Michael R. Peelish, executive vice president to discuss what they "inherited" from Massey Energy. Alpha Natural Resources recently announced plans to acquire Richmond, Virginia based Massey Energy with a $7.1 billion buyout.



We approached them with many topics such as a general overview of the effects of mountain top removal and coal mining on the people of Appalachia. Michael Clark and Dorothy Taulbee, both coalfield residents and representatives of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS), discussed how they had been affected on a personal level by mountain top removal. Dorothy showed them pictures of what used to be her home and explained that her town no longer exists because it is now buried beneath a slurry impoundment. She went through a list of loved ones and friends she had lost due to illnesses they acquired from exposure to toxins. She went on to explain that she had gotten sick as well with lung cancer (she never smoked) and even survived the loss of a lung. She paused in her speech and gently patted Michael Peelish on the shoulder to say "I think God spared me so I can be like Moses and spread a message. You can't do this, honey." She almost brought me to tears.

An image that is lingering in my thoughts is a big picture they had hanging in their board room. It was of a miner's hands clenched together. The hands were dirty from coal and the thumbnail looked somewhat bloody. Michael Peelish started his introduction by talking about those hands.  He proudly said he gave a copy of the picture to each miner they employed. He talked of things like integrity and safety while I was drawn to the reality of what those hands mean. They only thing I could think about was the sacrifice the people of Appalachia have made for coal and what coal has cost us. When it came to be my turn to speak I couldn't stop myself from telling them what those hands meant to me. I pointed to the picture and said "Those hands are my grandfather's hands. He died with dirty lungs. Those hands are my Daddy's hands who died of lung cancer from asbestos and dirty lungs. Those hands are my Stepfather's hands who now has heart disease and dirty lungs!"

Debbie Jarrell of Coal River Mountain Watch continued talking about "those
hands" when it came to be her turn to speak. She talked about "those hands" being her families too. She also said "We have always dealt with the boom and bust of the coal industry. When you are through this time we are really going to be hurting!" Throughout the entire meeting we then tried to portray to them what they had on THEIR hands. The destruction of Appalachia and its people for profit. These are the stories Alpha's executives need to hear when they are worried about bottom lines and this country's demand for coal.

The rest of the meeting consisted of discussions about Coal River Mountain, Kayford Mountain, reclamation, the slurry impoundment in Brushy Fork and with each of us sharing something personal with them and how we were affected. I left feeling somewhat optimistic because even though they said a lot about safety they didn't give us any reassurances or promises about ending mountain top removal. They did promise to investigate our concerns, including visiting the Brushy Fork Impoundment just as soon as things were finalized in June and invited us to come back some time in July. We'll see what comes from that.

I want to thank everybody that got involved in the meeting and for giving me the opportunity to share my voice. I encourage all of you to write letters to Alpha Natural Resources and share your concerns and experiences. They need to know that not only did they inherit more coal production by buying out Massey Energy they also inherited more of the demise of innocent people that goes along with coal production.

Blessings to you all,

Paula Swearengin


Attendees for this meeting were as follows:

-Debbie Jarrell of Coal River Mountain Watch
-Dorothy Taulbee of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards
-Glen Collins of RAMPS Campaign
-Kim Ellis of RAMPS Campaign
-Junior Walk of Coal River Mountain Watch and Keeper of the Mountains Foundation
-Michael Clark of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards
-Paul Brown of Pax, WV
-Paula Swearengin of the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation

Friday, May 20, 2011

Larry Gibson and Mari-Lynn Evans Energize Ohio Citizen Action's Cleveland office

Post Written by Stephen Gabor, Ohio Citizen Action


CLEVELAND — Larry Gibson, Keeper of the Mountains, and Mari-Lynn Evans, 2010 West Virginia Film Maker of the Year for her documentaries “Coal Country and “Low Coal,” spent an hour at Ohio Citizen Action’s downtown Cleveland office yesterday talking to staff about their work to end mountaintop removal coal mining.


According to Gibson, mountaintop removal is “the tsunami of Appalachia,” having destroyed over 6 million acres. Gibson told the staff that 82% of West Virginia land found in the coalfields is owned by coal companies and “wherever coal goes, misery goes.”

Gibson and Evans were featured speakers at the protest outside FirstEnergy’s annual shareholders’ meeting at the John S. Knight Center in Akron. FirstEnergy’s Lake Shore power plant, three miles east of downtown Cleveland on Lake Erie, buys coal from companies engaged in mountaintop removal mining. The extraction site most closely connected to the Lake Shore plant is Kayford Mountain, Gibson’s home.

Gibson has successfully saved 50 acres of his own family’s land even while the land around him continues to be destroyed by mountaintop removal. Gibson said, “There are two trains leaving Appalachia. One has coal on it. The other has money on it.”