Mar 062013

Reflections on attending I Love Mountains day

Daniel, the 24 year old, with Unitarian Universalists at I Love Mountains march in Frankfort on February 17. Photo courtesy of  Stacey Stone.

Daniel, the 24 year old, with Unitarian Universalists at I Love Mountains march in Frankfort on February 17. Photo courtesy of
Stacey Stone.

By Joseph G. Anthony

Daniel, my 24 year old, was happy to be a part of the annual Frankfort “I Love Mountains” rally and march organized by the Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. He wasn’t, however, thrilled to be carrying the Methodist sign—(the Methodists had more signs than people). He kept trying to hand it off to me as we paraded up to the capitol steps and settled in for a rally. But I’m a well-lapsed Catholic, current Unitarian-Universalist. I need no other religious affiliation.

The U.U.’s and other faiths were well represented.  It was a big, enthusiastic crowd. And the February day kept acting like it was early April. All that coal-induced global warming has its plusses.  After the marching, we were ready for speeches. Continue reading »

Feb 062013

Kentucky author Silas House to be featured speaker

The immediate need to end the devastating health impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining, as well as the great potential for clean energy jobs, will be highlighted at this year’s I Love Mountains Day.

The annual event, which draws more than a thousand Kentuckians to the steps of the state capitol, will take place on Valentine’s Day, Thursday, February 14. It’s organized by Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KFTC) with dozens of churches and other civic organization participating. Continue reading »

May 022012

Doctor: coal regions produce high cancer rates

By John Hennen

In science, it is seen as a virtue to hold your views tentatively, rather than with certainty, and to express them with the requisite caveats and without emotion. It is also seen as admirable to change your mind, based upon the weight of new evidence.

—Chris Mooney, The Republican Brain

On April 10 about seventy-five students, faculty, and regional visitors gathered on the campus of Morehead State University for a presentation by one of the Appalachian region’s foremost experts on community health, Dr. Michael Hendryx. In terms of structure and style, the lecture and subsequent discussion were academic, measured, non-confrontational, and dignified. In terms of content, and potential long-term implications for the coal industry’s historic stranglehold on Eastern Kentucky, Hendryx’s research might be revolutionary. I hope so. Continue reading »

Feb 082012

By Stanley Sturgill

I live at the foot of Kentucky’s highest peak, Black Mountain, in Harlan County. I am retired with 41 years service to the mining industry. My wife and I have lived in Harlan County most of our lives. We have raised our family here, and we want to continue to remain here.

And I want to see my grandkids grow up here and find meaningful work and get as much joy and comfort from this beautiful part of Kentucky as I have.

That’s why I’ll be attending I Love Mountains Day.

Demonstrators gather in front of the Kentucky state capital building during last year's I Love Mountains Day. Photo by Jeff Gross.

Continue reading »

Feb 082012

By John Hennen               

Everyone understands the importance of music to social movements, and no song of working-class justice is more widely known than “Which Side Are You On?” written by Florence Reece in 1931. Florence was embroiled in the 1931 Eastern Kentucky coal strike, when thousands of Harlan and Bell county coal miners struggled for survival against local coal operators and law enforcement. Florence performed her masterpiece hundreds of times in the next half-century and never failed to inspire the spirit of militant resistance to economic, social, and political oppression.

Radical actions, radical reporting: Harry Simms was a 19-year old organizer for the National Miners Union who was assassinated by Knox County deputies in February 1932. His murder was a front cover story for the Labor Defender, a now-defunct radical labor magazine from the 1920s and 1930s.

Many may not realize, however, that the organized resistance to the “gun thugs of J. H. Blair” during the 1931-1932 Harlan and Bell county mine war was led not by the United Mine Workers of America, but by a competing radical alternative to the UMWA, the National Miners Union. Convinced by the Great Depression that capitalism was on the road to extinction, the NMU rejected the capitalist accommodation practiced by the American Federation of Labor and the UMWA. Instead it promoted a radical vision of social revolution, class solidarity, and workers’ control of the means of production. Continue reading »

Dec 232011

Friday, December 16, 2011

East Siberian Arctic Shelf—Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, Santa Claus would like to have a word with you. Clad only in sunglasses, red boxer briefs and his trademark black boots, the centuries-old jolly fat man walked up to a North Pole podium yesterday and cited a litany of Christmas-killing coal initiatives that the Kentucky governor had endorsed during his first term in office.  His message to the governor? Change your message on coal or expect a personal visit from Santa this coming Monday.

Eastern Kentucky bituminous coal is a commodity that is near and dear to the North Pole business man. The hamlet of Benton, Kentucky, has long been rumored to be the global provider of coal destined for children who behaved badly throughout the year.

Though Claus did not mention the town by name, he did allude to the disastrous effects of over-extraction of coal. “Coal is a precious resource. For companies to rip off entire mountains to get at the stuff is criminal. At the rate these coal seams are going, in fifty years, switches will be the only thing I’ll be able to offer bad little boys and girls. Christmas will never be the same.”

As a staunch supporter of Kentucky coal corporations, Santa charged, Beshear is a key figure contributing to global warming. Greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal are some of the leading causes of climate change, which is destroying Santa’s North Pole home one glacier melt at a time.

“We’ve had to move our entire operations twice in the past fifty years. The ground has literally melted beneath us.  Do you know what it costs to relocate an operation like ours? And don’t even get me started on the fact that my reindeer can’t find anything to eat around here no more.  The tundra plants have all become mush and I haven’t seen an arctic ground squirrel scurrying by since Clinton was in office. Importing Reindeer food is not cheap.”

Claus chose an apt place to give his press conference. The pant-less Saint Nick stood on the banks of the Chukchi Sea not far from Alaska. This spot, he claimed, was buried in ice not too long ago. Behind him huge plumes of methane gas shot up from the sea, both a result and cause of global warming. As warming temperatures cause ice and permafrost in the arctic to melt, formerly trapped methane gas bubbles are released. Once in the atmosphere, the gases act as mirrors, reflecting heat back down to heat the earth’s surface.

These are all bad things for North Pole residents.

“Look at this place. Fifty years ago, this land was all snow and ice for as far as Rudolph’s nose could light. And now? Nothing but marshy tundra and methane-filled seas—which now belch gigantic balls of methane into the air. If this keeps up, there’s no way I can stay in business. Something’s got to change.”

Press conference attendee Von Finnie, a North Pole toymaker and North Pole Local 548 union member, stated that he supported his white-bearded boss. He did, however, want Santa to make labor conditions in Kentucky a more visible issue.

“I think it’s great that my boss is attempting to change the Governor’s Christmas-killing support for coal corporations. I’m all for it,” said the elf. “But I would also like to point out that Beshear has also made it more dangerous for miners to work their jobs, and that his support of mountaintop removal is a job-killer, plain and simple. Since October, this year has already become one of the most dangerous years on record to be a miner in Kentucky according to MSHA. And as out-of-state coal companies rely on gigantic machines to peel away mountains, coal employment in the region has plummeted. In the face of these things, his telling regulators of all stripes to get off his back seems obtuse.”

To that end, Finnie says, he and his fellow elf-workers are contemplating going on a solidarity strike if Beshear does not enforce worker safety regulations at the mines.

Santa’s demands

With the holiday season coming on, Claus felt he had a platform with which to publicly address the Governor. He’s willing to let coal bygones be coal bygones, so long as Beshear publicly supports three specific Christmas-saving initiatives.

  1. End surface mining in Kentucky, immediately.
  2. Employ every surface mine worker in reclaiming the land and waterways already damaged.
  3. Work to help Appalachians build a just, diverse, and sustainable economy and healthy communities.

“Hey, look. I know how it goes,” Claus stated as the press conference wound down under unseasonably warm weather. “I see it all the time: snotty little kid plays mean and nasty all year long and then wants to make good a week before the big day. I get it. I’m Santa Claus, the jolly old Saint Nick, I know the deal. I can live with that as long as it’s sincere. The ball’s in the Governor’s court.”

Aug 242011

Science teacher Martin Mudd recently returned from a two hour stint in Governor Steve Beshear’s office as part of the ongoing Sit-In for the Mountains. Mudd spent his time there lying on the ground beneath a homemade tomstone that read, “RIP: In memory of our friends in Appalachia past present and not yet born who suffer under the sin of strip mining.” North of Center tracked down Mudd, a Lexington resident living in Kenwick, to ask him a couple questions.

NoC: Why were you in Frankfort last weekend?

Mudd: I went to Frankfort last Thursday to occupy the Governor’s office and send the message to Steve Beshear that people are dying in Appalachia and we will not be ignored. I also wanted to participate in the weekly sit-in that has been happening at the Governor’s office since the Kentucky Rising action in February. Continue reading »

Apr 272011

Help defend the mountains by visiting them

By Dave Cooper

The Summer of 2011 will be a summer of action in the Appalachian Mountains.

Mountain Justice Summer Camp

Mountain Justice Summer Camp, 2009. Group 2.

Mountain Justice Summer camp will take place May 21-27 on top of beautiful Pine Mountain in eastern Kentucky.  From the top of the mountain, you can see a mountaintop removal mine on Black Mountain and hear the blasts go off.  The forests on top of the mountain are spectacular, and there are good hiking trails to the Mars Rocks, Tower Road, the Little Shepherd Trail, and the Pine Mountain Trail. Continue reading »

Apr 272011

By Joan Braune

Mountaintop removal has led to poisoned drinking water, deadly avalanches, and unemployment in Appalachian communities. The recurring blasts shake homes, destroy graveyards and other important sites, and irreparably flatten the beautiful mountains and forests, some of the oldest in the world. Residents of the region are often left feeling as though they are living in a war zone. In a constant drive for profit, coal companies treat coalfield residents as collateral damage, “externalities” that do not need to be taken into account. Continue reading »

Apr 132011

Last week, Rick Handshoe of Floyd County talked with Governor Steve Beshear about the acid mine drainage in the settlement pond above his home. Handshoe was one of the Appalachia Rising activists who occupied the governor’s Frankfort offices over Valentine’s Day weekend in an act of civil disobedience. As part of the conditions for leaving his office, the Appalachia Rising activists made Beshear promise to visit Eastern Kentucky in the spring and talk with people living around the region’s coal mining sites.  Continue reading »