Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kentucky Rising: Wendell Berry in direct action against the coal industry

 “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.”
Wendell Berry

Where are the Australian artists, poets and authors who are willing to directly confront the rapacious greed and power of the mining industry and its hold over the political process? Nowhere to be seen.

Not so the 76 year old poet, writer, novelist, essayist and farmer Wendell Berry whose poetry and essays features regularly on this blog.

Wendell Berry, who is Kentucky's most famous author and poet and one of America's most respected essayists was among sixteen protesters who launched a 4 day occupation and sit in of the Kentucky Governor's office to protest against the practice of mountain top removal of coal in Kentucky.
The occupation and sit in followed a meeting between the activists and the Governor in which the protesters demanded that the governor agree to stop the poisoning of Kentucky’s land, water, and people by mountaintop removal. When he expressed steadfast support for the coal industry and mountaintop removal the activists refused to vacate his office and stayed there for 4 days.

The protesters action is part of of a growing movement across the central Appalachian coalfields to abolish the devastating mining technique of mountaintop coal removal.

Coal extracted from mountaintops provides has irreversible, harmful impacts on the environment and the health of the local community.To get at coal seams, coal companies blast away the tops of mountains. Machines scoop out the coal, dumping millions of tons of waste rock into the adjacent valleys. More than 1,200 miles of Appalachian headwaters streams have been buried with valley fills, some leaching contaminants into the environment.

Berry and others say that the ongoing damage to people, land, and water as a result of these practices leaves them no choice but to engage in civil disobedience.
 "...the government has publicly identified with the coal companies, and has undertaken, with public funds, to support their interests in a court of law. We are here to say, as citizens and as taxpayers, that this is not acceptable." 
“Eastern Kentucky, in its natural endowments of timber and minerals, is the wealthiest region of our state, and it has now experienced more than a century of intense corporate ‘free enterprise,’ with the result that it is more impoverished and has suffered more ecological damage than any other region. The worst inflicter of poverty and ecological damage has been the coal industry, which has taken from the region a wealth probably incalculable, and has imposed the highest and most burdening ‘costs of production’ upon the land and the people. Many of these costs are, in the nature of things, not repayable. Some were paid by people now dead and beyond the reach of compensation. Some are scars on the land that will not be healed in any length of time imaginable by humans.” 
Wendell Berry from Missing Mountains

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