Mourn for the Dead and Fight Like Hell for the Living

Join the October 28 Funeral for the Mountains

By Vivian Stockman

The loss of life to mountaintop removal is staggering and Judge Hadenís ruling wonít stop it. So much death so we can have plenty of cheap energy. So we can keep on using more, more, more. Thatís why members of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, the Coal River Mountain Watch, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and other environmental groups are holding a Funeral for the Mountains on October 28. We will join together to express our grief over this needless slaughter. We will send a unified a message to legislators and regulators that this is enough death. We will renew our commitment to fight like hell to save what remains of southern West Virginiaís mountains.

Please join us on October 28, and please bring all your friends in this day of protest theatre. At 11 a.m., we will begin the event with a funeral march. Hereís what we envision: A drummer strikes a solemn beat to lead the Funeral. Two mountains (yes, under the direction of Carol Jackson, we already made "mountains" at the Funeral for the Mountains workshop) carry between them a dead, topless mountains. Coffins follow. The coffins are open, and rising out of them are depictions of plants, streams, mammals, the town of Blair, mountains, trees, fish and birds--all dead because of mountaintop removal. Funeral marchers (you and your friends!) are asked to wear black, or to sport one of the black armbands we will have available.

By 1 p.m., we will solemnly march to the funeral staging area on the west lawn of the State Capitol grounds. We will lay flowers in front of the mountaintop removal mock cemetery tombstones, designed by artist Carol Jackson. Weíll gather in front of the coffins and listen to short eulogies.

We will mourn the dead and renew our commitment to the living mountains.

At press time we had not yet secured our parade permit with the City of Charleston and all the Funeral details are not finalized. Please call OVEC at 522-0246 for more info on the Funeral and how you can help. You can also e-mail us at ohvec@ezwv.com. If you send us your e-mail address, weíll keep you up to date on the Funeral plans.

In an attempt to understand the scale of the death caused by mountaintop removal, I recently flew over several MTR sites, all within 30 air-miles of the Charleston airport. What I saw was sickening. Literally. (Maybe Iíll deliver to the WV Coal Association my sic-sac [sic], so theyíll know my literal opinion of the Associationís promotion of this massacre of our mountains and our future. Hmmm, Send a Sic Sac to King Coal--this could be the stirrings of a new action campaign. But I digress.) OK, nobody else in any of the flyover groups threw up, but they were all sickened.

Hume Davenport, of Southwings, a non-profit group that specializes in flying people over human-caused environmental disasters, spent two days flying folks out from the Executive Airport at Yeager. We werenít the regular bunch in the old exec digs: The three women cyclists of Earth Challenge cycling from Connecticut to Atlanta to promote alternative energies (www.earthchallenge.org); the heavily equipped photographers; the office workers curious about MTR; the members of the United Methodists (the National United Methodist Church has followed in the path of the state church, passing a resolution against mountaintop removal) and other regular folk, 20 in all, took flights.

From the ground itís difficult to grasp the incredible scale of mountaintop removal. (For visual aid see http://www.jimiallen.com/. Click on "stories," then click on "coal mining struggle.") If you travel the turnpike, the deceptive "beauty strip" is pretty well preserved. Only here and there can you get a glimpse of what one national publication called "strip mining on steroids." If you go up Kayford Mountain, a green island in a desert of active MTR sites, you begin to understand the scale of mountaintop removal, though you really canít believe it.

I sure canít believe that the Army Corps of Engineers actually calls this "no significant environmental impact." [Vivian, itís massive denial taken to such an extent that it has to be characterized as a kind of mental illness. This is the diagnosis of a former mental health practitioner. Editorial kibbitz.] Itís incredulous that King Coal and its minions in government create and allow this. Itís flabbergasting that some of the news media condone this. Itís audacious that King Coal and other fossil fuel giants have so much political power (campaign cash!) that they squash federal initiatives for research and development on energy conservation and efficiency and renewable energies. Itís incredible that we who live in America can be so energy hungry that we rationalize and justify this annihilation, this civil war on our ecosystem.

From about 1,500 feet up in the air, the scale of mountaintop removal is still difficult to grasp. My mind canít wrap around the immensity of the sites. Big John and its cousin, 20-story tall draglines that can take about a gargantuan bite -- about 200 cubic yards -- out of a mountain with each bucketful, were dwarfed by the naked scars of blasted, scalped and mined land. Huge dump trucks, that send a mountain of dust into the air each time they dump their 150-200 ton loads of former mountains into former valleys, looked like Tonka toy trucks. Slurry ponds, a convenient way for coal companies to avoid the formalities of valley fills, looked like lake-size abscesses of black pus. Sickening indeed.

There is site after site like this. No one seems to know how much mountaintop removal there is. We have probably lost at least 1,000 miles of streams and at least 300,000 acres of hardwood forest and the habitat it provided for mammals, birds, wildflowers and trees. Southern WV towns like Blair, Kayford and a host of others are dying or dead because of mountaintop removal. Scores of water wells and homes have been lost to mountaintop removal. Jacksonís mock MTR graveyard includes 1,000 mock tombstones, each representing a stream, mountain or community lost to King Coalís greed.

Please be sure to join us October 28 as we mourn our losses and stand up for our future.