Appalachians live but a few hours drive from our nation’s capitol, much closer than most of the country, and yet their voices are so seldom heard here. Maybe it has something to do with the hillbilly reputation. And maybe, because their voices are so seldom heard here, they’ve become prime targets for reckless industrial practices like mountaintop removal coal mining, or MTR.
Today, thousands of Appalachians and concerned citizens are trying to change that, by taking to the streets in DC with all the fierce determination and creative enthusiasm that the steep Appalachian mountains engender. Today Appalachia is rising up to demand an end to mountaintop removal coal mining.
The action’s already started – check out these pictures from an early morning occupation of the Army Corp of engineers building.
There’s no one person that can put an end to MTR – it takes a team. The US Army Corps of engineers directly approves permits for the practice, granting companies like Massey and Peabody the ‘rights’ to bury over 2000 miles of head-water streams and blow the tops off 450 mountains. But they use standards set by the EPA, which determine what the acceptable levels of pollution and stream destruction are. The politics are set by the Obama administration – how to balance justice for the Appalachian people with the ever-shrinking but significant number of coal mining jobs, with the political power of coal company war-chests grown fat from years of raping the land?
Appalachia Rising is intended to make that choice easier for them. Over the weekend 700 Appalachian residents, retired coal miners, faith leaders, scientists, artists and students crammed into the Georgetown conference center (a bit of a shock for the usual Georgetown residents) and learned how to take down MTR. Today, the vision of Appalachian’s like Bo Webb and Judy Bonds and many more will be realized – an uprising in a long Appalachian tradition of plucky determination, transplanted directly to the heart of DC.