Saturday, January 31, 2009

Blowing Away King Coal - The Coal River Wind Project

Another great article, this time on the Coal River Wind Project, an effort to install a wind farm on one of the remaining mountains in Coal River Vally, currently threatened by mountaintop removal.


Also, get an update on the Coal River Wind Project, here.

Blowing away King Coal

Can a scrawny young wind-power activist topple the biggest, dirtiest industry in West Virginia?

By Jeff Biggers

Jan. 29, 2009 | ROCK CREEK, W.V. -- On Jan. 16, as Barack Obama visited a wind turbine factory in Ohio, Rory McIlmoil snaked along a muddy mountain road in West Virginia on a similar mission. He was headed up Coal River Mountain, the last mountain left untouched in a historic range ravaged by strip mining.

On a ridge, the 28-year-old activist brought his four-wheeler to a skid. He couldn't believe what he saw. Bulldozers had begun clearing the site for the first phase of a mountaintop removal operation, a radical strip-mining process that would clear-cut 6,600 acres of hardwood trees, detonate thousands of tons of explosives and topple the mountain range into the valley. A 100-foot swath of forest just below the ridge lay like an open wound.

For McIlmoil, this should have been ground zero in Obama's green recovery plan. Not a future wasteland.

Read the full article here.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Dirty Coal Reaching a Tipping Point?

We may be reaching critical mass, in more regard than one. As explained, in such interesting detail, by Malcolm Gladwell in "The Tipping Point", social epidemics, such as ideas, fashions, or even virus's tend to spread exponentially through a population after reaching a certain point and touching a few key channels. It seems like the message of mountaintop removal, and the True Cost of Coal, is finally reaching that point at which it will soon become a commonly held fact. Let us work to further this progress, and spread this contagion!

Since I first learned about mountaintop removal, I had a gut feeling that "If only more people knew about it, it wouldn't be happening." It seems to be so vile a transgression against the Earth, that we simply can't let it continue once enough of us know it's happening. An idealistic perspective, I know. It will, at the very least, lay the context for seemingly radical action.

Well, the truth is finally making it's way into mainstream consciousness, in increasing frequency.

The recent TVA coal ash disaster, as horrible as it was, has served to punctuate the growing distrust of the pure marketing tactic known as the Clean Coal Lie. Although the toxic spill, 50 times larger than the Exxon Valdez has passed by some major media outlets, it did make several hits. Time magazine did an article on it (Jan 10, 09), titled "Exposing the Myth of Clean Coal Power"

And then today, I learn about a 12-page article entitled "Mining the Mountains" in Smithsonian Magazine, which brings our attention to the plights of a small West Virginia town.

To anyone paying attention to the stream of media and collective popularity of coal and coal issues, it is clear that we are approaching a tipping point. There is reason to be optimistic, for sure, and ample motivation to continue with this work, with a renewed sense of purpose and validation. We are going to change this thing around, each and everyone one of us.

As a side note, the last article will also bring you to this website, where you can see exactly where your energy comes from and what kind of emissions it causes. It also provides resources on cleaner and greener energy usage.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

There is hope for the mountains, for us still.

With all the destruction happening in the Appalachia, it's important to remember that another future is possible. Another form of energy is possible. There is no reason to be destroying mountains and building new coal plants.

United Mountain Defense volunteer Chris Irwin brings us this set of aerial fly-over videos. Mountaintop removal (aka "strip-mining" has spread into Tennessee. This first shows the staggering destruction, as seen from above.

The second video, however, renews hope, bringing us a symbolic and beautiful image of wind turbines spinning in the clouds. Enjoy.

Friday, January 23, 2009

In honor of our mountains

a guest post from Nichole

Walking towards beauty, I seek my mother's majesty. I search for her bosom, as I'm in need of sustenance. Walking along her water's, searching for the crest, the peaks. I feel her warmth, I'm in the heartbeat. Secure in this connection, I look up now, instead of down. My gaze is forward between her and the sun. Amidst the gaze I see her majesty, in ranges.
Ranges of mountains, caressing the sky so high. I've found the peaks of her sustenance. I will walk up to that range. I will walk up to that mountain that calls my will, my awe and wonder, my name. To the top, I am free. To the summit of her nectar, of her being. My love has grown, just in the journey. In the journey to be free.

- We Must Stop Mountain Top Removal -

We work til the day we expire to find a peaceful valley, yet it's here, within me and within you. In everybody. It's on the other side of every mountain. Walk up to the mountain. Look up and walk. And when you get there, you'll know. The peace will grow. The sight, panoramic, will glow.

"The peaceful valley
Just over the mountain
The peaceful valley
Few come to know
I may never get there
Ever in this lifetime
But sooner or later
It's there I will go
Sooner or later
It's there I will go"

I suppose these words make me imagine a lady living amongst the devastation of mountain top removal. Her life weaved in the appalachia's, she sees what beauty has been removed. She wonders if she'll ever see that peaceful valley again, as opposed to toxic slurries and destroyed earth. She dreams of being able to go up the mountain and witness a miracle, a restoration, a healing, and a cleansing of the devastation.
And she believes, maybe not in this lifetime, her dream would come true. That she may find that peaceful valley. That she may have a place, that peaceful valley place, to be able to transcend from and to. All she has now, is faith and will.
All she needs is faith and will.


We need to talk...- The Fluoride Deception

see also:

Take four deep breaths

This is the difference between the power of our Creator and anything else — particularly evil: That you can go into a pitch black room, full of evil, full of darkness, and light a little candle, and instantly that darkness flees. But you can’t do the opposite. You can’t go into a well-lit room full of truth and wisdom and righteousness and joy and health and harmony with the Universal power — You can’t take any amount of Darkness and go into that well-lit room and have any effect whatsoever.

That is the metaphor which I frequently think of when I think that I’m not empowered. It is the greatest lesson for me, and I think for everybody else, to know that we are on the winning side and that we win in the end.

author unknown

Thursday, January 22, 2009

New Video of the Kingston Ash Disaster

Produced by environmental activist Summer Rayne Oakes, a close look at the people, property and land affected by the Kingston coal disaster...

Swan Pond Road: The Kingston Coal Disaster from SRmanitou on Vimeo.

Obama gets two Green thumbs up, so far...

Although I will continue to be critical of Obama (as I am of anyone who makes it that high in politics), I'll also give him the benefit of the doubt. 1 day in and he's delivering on some of that change I heard so much about. There's reason to believe that we may very well achieve Mountain Justice with help from his administration, and soon. Alas, there is good reason to be optimistic!

On his first full day in the oval office, Obama put the breaks on the Bush's 11th hour, corporate-inspired "Loot and Run" environmental rollbacks. Included in the list of last-minute fraternal favors, was yet another kick-back for King Coal. Obama has undone this deal, which made it easier for coal companies to engage in Mountaintop Removal mining. (Other regulations however, could not be undone so easily, including a paralyzing provision on the Endangered Species Act. Read the full release, here).

Along with the good news, comes word on Obama's newly-appointed Chief of the EPA, who has vowed to "immediately assess hundreds of coal ash disposal sites at power plants across the country in the wake of two spills in Alabama and Tennessee"

Lisa Jackson said the agency also will reconsider ways to regulate the ash and how it is stored, something the EPA recommended in 2000 but did not act upon.

Jackson said the agency's decisions will be based on science and the law and not politics.

Obama and crew know that they can't ignore the coal ash disasters of late. And it sound's like they're going to deal with things in a much different way than we've seen in the past.

I'm looking forward to seeing how things play out.
Put it's not a passive process.
Obama needs us to keep his feet in the fire
Let us make it clear right now.
Regulation is only be a first step.
Coal ash ponds must be banned.

and as always...

Friday, January 16, 2009

The New Safe Cigarette

Ever wonder why we've ever heard the phrase "clean coal?"  Even though coal is clearly dirty all the way from extraction, to burning, and even though none of the 100 or so (and decreasing) coal-fired power plants on the board incorporate any kind of carbon emission-reductions, we still keep hearing those two words in the same sentance!  I've taken a personal mission to stop using the phrase to whatever extent possible.  It is such a magnificant lie.  

But it still begs the question... how did this idea become so prevalent that all the 2008 candidates were talking about it?  (I'll give you a hint: Who was the largest corporate sponsor of the presidential debates?)  Well, we're finally getting the word straight from the mouths of the satan-spawn responsible for injecting the idea of "clean coal"into the presidential campaign.  

A press release from the Kelley Campaign brings to light an internal memo from the spin doctors who brought us the greatest lie since the safe cigarette.  

From the January 14th press release:

"Experts on the human and environmental impact of coal expressed outrage today at a newly posted memo from a D.C.-area public relations firm. In the unseemly memo, the Hawthorn Group extolled their PR campaign on behalf of the coal industry as historic, although “clean coal” does not actually exist."

The whole letter, sent to employees of the PR firm, details a highly organized strategy to simulate grassroots support and convince the candidates that Americans support the coal industry, in coordination with a national advertising campaign that reportedly took the total expense to $55 million.

You can see the full text of the memo right here! (until they realize we're blogging on it, and they take it down....).

A few gems:

“We nearly turned candidate events into clean coal rallies,”

“We did this by sending ‘clean coal’ branded teams to hundreds of presidential candidate events, carrying a positive message (we can be part of the solution to climate change) which was reinforced by giving away free t-shirts and hats emblazoned with our branding: Clean Coal.”

"ACCCE (a coal indusry front group) shaped the debate by finding supporters of the candidates and turning them into clean coal advocates."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

MJSB 2009: Join the movement!

Mountain Justice Spring Break 2009
9 days of training, service and action
for environmental justice in the coal fields
9 more nails in the coffin of dirty coal

This Spring Break - Avoid the hangovers!

Learn about and take action against the destructive effects of the dirty life-cycle of coal!

See ground zero of the huge TVA coal ash disaster in in Kingston, TN - the WORST environmental catastrophe in US history.

Meet the people affected by the spill, and support them, in solidarity.

See Mountaintop Removal Mining, with your own eyes!

Take direct action against the dirty coal industry!

Come to Mountain Justice Spring Break and support grassroots, community led resistance to environmental injustice! Through education, community service, speakers, hiking, music, poetry, direct action and more, we will join local communities in the struggle to maintain their land and culture.

MJSB 2009 is happening in Eastern Tennessee, from Saturday March 7 to Sunday the 15th, near the areas affected by the recent ash disaster.

For more information on MJSB, please visit .

For more about the TVA coal ash disaster, visit

Mountain Justice Spring Break 2009
MARCH 7–15, 2009 Eastern Tennessee

Register Today!

Get involved, now!
The Outreach Team is looking for Outreach Coordinators at your campus and in your hometown. This is your chance to begin organizing for Mountain Justice, today! email

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tell Bank of America: "It's Over!"

What better way to celebrate the next commercial holiday than spotlighting the role of the banking behemoth Bank of America in the systematic destruction of ecosystems and oppression of working families?

Although BofA recently hatched an “ill timed PR ploy” swearing off MTR, they continue to fund coal extraction, as well as widespread oppression, from Black Mesa at Four Corners to the coal fields in Eastern Tennessee, to the urban communities in Mattapan… unless…

This Valentine’s Day, we do something about it.
From the desk of Rising Tide Boston, in solidarity with City Life/Vide Urbana







This Valentine’s Day, February 14th, 2009, join Rising Tide Boston (RTB) in demanding that Bank of America stop its funding of the dirty and deadly coal industry and demanding, in solidarity with City Life/Vide Urbana, stop its unjust foreclosures and evictions of working families. Closing your account with Bank of America (BOA) is an important step in bringing closure to this unhealthy relationship. In Boston, we are planning a day of coordinated bank account closures in at least two locations, and encourage people in other places to organize something similar.

Read the rest of the call to action here.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Recommendation: A poem by Thich Naht Hanh

Promise me,
promise me this day,
promise me now,
while the sun is overhead
exactly at the zenith,
promise me:

Even as they
strike you down
with a mountain of hatred and violence;
even as they step on you and crush you
like a worm,
even as they dismember and disembowel you,
remember brother, remember:
man is not our enemy.

The only thing worthy of you is compassion -
invincible, limitless, unconditional.
Hatred will never let you face
the beast in man.

One day, when you face this beast alone
with your courage intact, your eyes kind,
(even as no one sees them),
out of your smile
will bloom a flower.

And those who love you
will behold you
across ten thousand worlds of birth and dying.

Alone again,
I will go on with bent head,
knowing that love has become eternal.
On the long, rough road
the sun and moon will continue to shine.

Zen Master THICH NHAT HAHN, founder of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and the Unified Buddhist Church (Eglise Bouddhique UnifieĆ©) in France in 1969, during the Vietnam war. Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, a poet, a scholar, and a peace activist. His life long efforts to generate peace and reconciliation moved Martin Luther King, Jr. to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. When not travelling the world to teach “The Art of Mindful Living”, he teaches, writes, and gardens in Plum Village, France, a Buddhist monastery for monks and nuns and a mindfulness practice center for lay people

(thanks Nichole)

Friday, January 9, 2009

I'm an optimist... really. part 1

There seems to be critical decision that many of us are finding ourselves making on the conscious or the unconcious level. Do we try to fix this system and make it work? Do we actively challenge those who are fouling things up for everyone? Or do we walk away from the pyramid and do our own thing. Some say you have to work the system from within and play by the rules. Other prefer to challenge those rules. And others still, walk away and establish their own.

But how can we choose? Is there even a choice? Can anyone ever truly escape this mess? I think not, because there is no boundary to the Empire. It is all encompassing. And the future of the Empire is critically tied to the future of Life as we know It.

What follows are some of the conclusions understandings I have reached:

We can't just establish another program to save the system, so it won't be as simple electing the right official, or diverting more funds to piecemeal conservation and humanitarian efforts (as important and noble as that is). This culture has built massive momentum, like a rock rolling quickly downhill, or a stream that has turned into a roaring river. Through Quinn, the teacher B showed us that a program is like a stick in a river. The water quickly moves around it. Likewise, you can not resist a rolling boulder.

So how do we influence a moving mass, so as to not end up where its heading?
To continue with the metaphor: While we can not directly resist the flowing water, or the falling boulder, but we can direct its path. We can shape the land down which it flows.

How can we shape the path WE are taking?

To clarify, I am certainly not saying that we can not resist the systems of oppression and domination that have been exploiting people and planet for centuries. This is absolutely critical. The machine must be held back in areas, so that something else can grow. The maladies of the self-destructive system must be constantly revealed and exploited. But the key here, is that something new must grow to take its place, and to eventually overgrow it and transform the system as a whole. What grows, is up to us. :)

The colorful metaphor here, of course, is the caterpillar being transformed from the inside. A foreign and novel creature originates from the dissolving tissues of body which came before it. The transformation starts with a few cells working together, and grows out, from within.

We can be those "imaginal cells", and work together, and grow. We will meet resistance from the old, but we are creating something new, with a new path, a new idea, a new way of relating to each other and the planet. Or perhaps a very very OLD way, which we somehow forgot. We will bring the light back to the darkness. We will carry that light and utterly transform the reality of human existence.

It will have to be this radical.
Otherwise, the system will end up where its heading.

This is how I consider myself an optimist. I know this simple, undeniable fact. If human culture is still around 100 years from now, it will be so radically different that what we know today. This has to be true, because this culture of competition and domination is killing itself. If we continue playing out this story, as these characters, we will reach the end of the story, very soon. We will figure this one out. Or we will no longer exist. Either way, things will work out. :)

So, reality check. We currently find ourselves in a precarious position. Our actions up to this point have left us with an interesting convergence of resource depletion, conflict and climate change. Before we even consider where we're going, we must understand how we got here. Fortunately this has been investigated and laid out several times, by many great minds of our time.

As far as recent documentaries go, I would suggest "What A Way To Go: Life at the End of Empire." You can watch the trailer here. This is quite an amazing mind-fxck of a movie, and I would not suggest watching it in any sort of altered state. As for good books on how we got here, in "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight" Thom Hartman provides a critical resource for understanding of how We have systematically overtaxed and sullied our nest. (I would suggest this book to anyone concerned with the environmental crisis.)

So where do we go from here? What will our glowing centers of enlightened resistance look like? How do I know?! All I know is we are dealing a changing world, and inheriting a boat-load of baggage. Surely, we need to be ready to adapt and respond to the ramifications of our prior short-sightedness.

On his website,, one of the OG's of Permaculture, David Holgrem uses a scenario planning model to understand the potential interaction between Climate Change and Peak Oil. "In the process," He says,
I introduce permaculture as a design system specifically evolved over the last 30 years to creatively respond to futures that involve progressively less and less available energy.
That's what we're working with. Things as simple as "where do we get our food" and "where does are waste go" are becoming not so disconnected from daily life. Whatever we do, we better wake up to the natural cycle of resources and the reality of the world we've created.

Let's see what we can do...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Spring Break: Get Some Action

What better way to spend your spring break than organizing for justice in the coalfields of eastern Tennessee? March 7-15th, its Mountain Justice Spring Break.

MJSB 2009 will bring hundreds of students face to face with the devastating effects of mountain top removal and coal industry abuse – and give us the skills and knowledge we need to fight back! Through education, community service, workshops, speakers, hiking, music, poetry, and direct action we will join local communities in the struggle to maintain their land and culture.

Get plugged into the growing movement for energy justice. Gain valuable experience in grassroots organizing. Email, and get involved.

the golden rule [obey]

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Pass this on like a bug







The Un-Natural Disaster
The Tehouse destroyednnessee Valley Authority, better known as TVA, has a coal-burning power plant located near Harriman, Tennessee, along Interstate 40 between Knoxville and Nashville. On Monday, December 22 around 1:00 a.m. residences living near the Kingston coal plant were flooded with over a billion gallons of nasty black coal waste. It covered 400 acres of land up to 6 feet and flooded into tributaries of the Tennessee River - the water supply for Chattanooga TN and millions of people living downstream in Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.

moonscape of sludgeThe coal ash, slurry or sludge is a byproduct left over after TVA burns their coal and they have a huge mountain of this coal waste material stored in a gigantic pile next to their Kingston power plant, alongside the tributary of the Tennessee River. Coal ash contains mercury and dangerous heavy metals like lead and arsenic, among many other potentially toxic and radioactive contaminates. Materials found naturally in coal are concentrated in the ash and more toxic than they start.

This Tennessee TVA spill is over 40 times bigger than the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. This is a huge environmental disaster of epic proportions. United Mountain Defense has been at the site of the spill sharing information about the extremely serious threats to human health and the environment.
United Mountain Defense is actively creating a plan of action to deal with this issue, as bureaucracy, red-tape, and foot-dragging is undoubtedly going to keep TVA and governmental authorities from acting quickly and adequately. We plan to spend as much time as possible in Harriman meeting people, taking photos and video, gathering water samples, passing out information and reporting what we learn. WE NEED YOUR FINANCIAL HELP!! We must make sure residents receive appropriate testing, and the aresenic and other dangerous heavy metals to which they've been exposed are no longer easily dectectable 30 days after exposure. Each test costs hundreds of dollars, and if we wait for TVA and the government to pay, it will be too late. PLEASE HELP US HELP THE RESIDENTS OF THE LOCAL COMMUNITY!
or go to

For more information on what we're doing and where your money is going, and for more specific requests made by UMD of the greater environmental community, please read the email below, or go to Thank you for your support and concern.
Here are some of the projects that United Mountain Defense has been working on for the past two weeks.

- We have distributed more than 250 gallons of bottled water to coal ash impacted residents.

- Our volunteers have distributed over 10 documents outlining the potential dangers of coal fly ash to more than 400 hundred local residents inlcuding Fly Ash Material Saftey Data Sheets.

- We have been taking water and coal ash samples since day 1 of the spill. We have 4 rounds of samples in various certified labs and are awaiting the test results.

- We have been training local residents in our protocals so that they to can gather samples and send them to labs for testing.

- We have distributed the first round of water quality information that Applachain Voices and the River Keepers shared with us.

- We have posted regular updates on our blog, website-, and the local progressive blog at

- We helped the impacted residents organize the first community meeting of the coal impacted residents of the Swan Pond community.

- At the request of the community we are setting up biometric sampling of residents who drank ground water or stayed in the area for a few days after the coal ash spill.

- We have distributed petitions for the Agency for Toxic Sustances and Disease Registry to the coal impacted residents in an effort to get an outside agency to help access and address the communities health risks and concerns.

- We will continue to work with this coal impacted community to figure out what they need and want and help them continue to develop their own community group so that United Mountain Defense can take a step back. We are working hard to work ourselves out of this job.

The following is a list of requests of United Mountain Defense from the greater environmental community, and concerned citizens in general.

Request 1- That all the environmental groups across the country and world please use this disaster to bring the coal industry to it's knees. United Mountain Defense understands that this disaster can be a huge turning point for the coal industry and we have been working hard to make sure and document TVA's response. Feel free to use any of our videos and online information to help out with this work. Please credit United Mountain Defense.

Request 2- United Mountain Defense needs more funding and support from other non profits and foundations. Personal donations are also appreciated. We need funding for bottled water, personal protective equipment for residents and on the ground volunteers, biometric sampling of impacted residents, air quality monitoring, and water quality monitoring. United Mountain Defense is a tiny non profit and the only way that we have had as much success as we have had is because we have been training our volunteers for the past 5 years to deal with a situation like this one and our volunteers were willing to spend the holidays away from our families to help deal with this disaster.

Request 3- United Mountain Defense wants to work with other non profits on this disaster because we don't have a lot of funding, BUT we want to get credit for our ground work with all your future funders, in all your press releases, and with the environmental community as a whole. Please do not cut United Mountain Defense out of the history books as we helped deal with TVA's coal ash disaster of Dec 22, 2008.

Request 4- United Mountain Defense requests funding for water monitoring.

Request 5- United Mountain Defense needs a paid staff person. United Mountain Defense has done all this work with a dedicated volunteer force. Some of our volunteer force is becoming very concerned about paying the utility bills for the volunteer supported Volunteer House.

Thanks for your time and effort and let's please find a way to work together. If you have any questions, concerns, have special skills to volunteer or would like to donate money or other resources please contact United Mountain Defense at 865 689 2778.

Thanks, the full-time volunteer staff of United Mountain Defense

Coal is Dirty. (pass it on)