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Appalachia Rising: On September 27th, A Resounding “No!” to Mountaintop Removal

Bo Webb

Goldman prize-winner and fellow Appalachian Maria Gunnoe has said: "Go to the most peaceful, beautiful place in the word that you can imagine. And then watch somebody drop a bomb on it. That's, basically, what's happening right here" - here, in Central Appalachia.

The "bomb" is mountaintop removal strip mining. The most beautiful places that Maria and I know, the most beautiful places that generations before us have treasured in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia, are now, literally, being blown out of existence.


Because a few men from the energy industry think their hostile attitude toward the Earth will continue to go unnoticed.

I beg to differ. Americans are noticing. And realize that bombing our Mountains and our land is the wrong way to go.

The Mountains are the most precious resource in Central Appalachia today. The Mountains contain scores of medicinal plants, clean water, fresh air, and are the headwater source for much of the drinking water in the mid Atlantic and Southern states. They are a life giving forest, an incubator of life.

The Mountains are sustainable, the coal is not.

And that is why I am joining with hundreds, if not thousands, in Washington D.C. on September 25-27 for "Appalachia Rising." We share a new vision for life on this planet.

There will be housing and food, speakers and cultural events.  And a major demonstration. Everyone is invited - it's easy to register:

In a massive, positive action, we want the world to say with us "No!" to mountaintop removal strip mining.

I grew up in the mountains. My family homesteaded in Central Appalachia in the 1820s. But today, my ancestral home is regularly under assault from the blasting of a nearby mountaintop removal site.

Like others, I have cringed at the news of over 500 mountaintops destroyed and 2,000 miles of streams buried by mountaintop removal rubble.

And so, I have made the choice to join the fight for what we all love: the land, the people, our communities. Already mountaintop removal has devastated or eliminated community after community in Southern WV, from Mar Fork to Blair, from Lindy Town to Kayford and beyond into Eastern KY, Southwest Virginia and Eastern Tennessee.

But Appalachians are not, and never shall be, the "collateral damage" of a need for so called cheap electricity.

And if you share our values, I urge you to come to Washington, D.C.

Let me offer three reasons why you should join us in D.C. on September 27th.

First, because silence perpetuates violence. The violence of coalfield residents forced to breathe air poisoned by silica dust from mountaintop removal bombing, among other injustices and health violations. Such violence will continue until we end our silence, until we blend our unique, individual voices together as One Big Voice.


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Second, because our children and grandchildren demand it. Who will inherit this world? They will. And that includes the land, the water, and the air. The only way to preserve this world for them is to stop this global mentality of turning Earth's lands into wastelands. From the Tar Sands of Canada to the mountains of El Salvador, this mentality leads to tragic consequences like contamination of water supplies. Consequences that generations after us have no choice but to live - and die - with.

Third, because the commitment of so many others to be in Washington, D.C. holds great promise. Not just the promise of enthusiastic young people - who have climbed trees and blocked roads to focus the world's attention on Central Appalachia. But the promise of our conviction in the value of water, forests, and safe, live-able communities.

Not just the promise of power in numbers, but the promise of sharing heartfelt and humorous stories.

And not just the promise of a network that can win the fight, but the promise of ending human suffering in one corner of the nation.

To the thousands from Appalachia who live displaced throughout America - join us! Can you recall the beauty of the mountains? The hollow or community you grew up in? See to it that America protects that beauty, not that more mountaintop removal destroys it.

We can live without mountaintop removal strip mining and still meet America's current demand for electricity.

Less than 5% of all electricity in America comes from mountaintop removal. For that 5%, we get a lot of suffering. But we can plug that gap with renewables like solar, wind, and hydro energy - IF our government provides the right incentives to business... and IF our representatives do their job responsibly.

I call upon all Americans of conscience and goodwill to stand with me on September 25-27 in Washington D.C. And in the days and months beyond.

We must pressure Congress and the White House so they can no longer elude our demands for a life of dignity in Central Appalachia.

The late Senator Robert Byrd - a friend of Appalachia - pointed out before his death that there is a "diminishing constituency" in America willing to defend the practice of mountaintop removal.

Our demand is simple. The federal government must fully enforce the Clean Water Act and abolish mountaintop removal. In doing so, we will protect the Mid Atlantic and Southern water systems from contamination due to mountaintop removal.

We are fed up with the thousand and one violations of our lives and property rights. But through Appalachia Rising, we want the world to see how America resolves its deepest, most difficult conflicts through dialogue, peaceful demonstration, and democratic politics.

Our common struggle, and the commitment of so many young people, gives me reason still to champion the ideals of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" in Central Appalachia - and America- today.

Won't you join me in Washington, D.C. on September 27th?

Appalachia Rising:

Bo Webb is a documented 6th generation of his family living in Peachree Hollow in the Coal River Valley, West Virginia. He is a decorated Marine combat veteran serving in Viet Nam 1968-69. He is alsos a former business owner and the former board president of Coal River Mountain Watch, a sponsor of Appalachia Rising.

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