“Mountaintop removal is an act of aggression. Civil disobedience is an act of love.”
-Terry Tempest Williams
A mountaintop insurrection in Kentucky is underway. And it definitely must be on Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear’s mind this week.
As we contemplate Gandhi’s adage -”first they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win“- it’s painfully obvious that the governor is trying to ignore the Appalachian uprising unfolding in his backyard this election year. He’s seen how the insurrection in West Virginia has turned mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining into a national issue, pulled Big Coal out from under their safe little rock and wants no part of it.
This morning after a four-day occupation of governor’s office in Frankfort, 14 Kentucky anti-MTR activists emerged victoriously from the state capitol to join a crowd of well over a thousand people at the annual “I Love Mountains” march and protest.”Kentucky Rising” was a group comprised of writers, academics, a film-maker, a retired coal miner, a nurse practitioner who treats miners, community organizers, a graduate student, and others who’d staged a sit-in demanding an end to mountaintop removal. The group refused to leave Beshear’s office after he’d expressed his die-hard support for the coal industry and MTR.
Author Wendell Berry participating in the sit-in said – “We came because the land, its forests, and its streams are being destroyed by the surface mining of coal, because the people are suffering intolerable harms to their homes, their health, and their communities.”
Kentucky Rising garnered international support from Argentina, Germany and Canada, a host of renowned writers including Bill McKibben, Michael Pollan, Terry Tempest Williams and Naomi Klein as well as other Appalachian communities in West Virginia, Tennessee and Virginia.
Beshear told his security team to “let them stay as long as they want.” But he can’t ignore Kentucky Rising forever and, I have a feeling, that this sit-in is just the beginning for a growing ferocious movement in Kentucky to end MTR. Kentuckians and Appalachians will be back and back through ridicule and struggle to abolish mountaintop removal.
The governor had better buckle his seat belt because it is going to be a bumpy ride.