Are we still fanatical?

Welcome to the 21st century. (Ok, so I'm 10 years late or something.)

2000: October 11th, in Inez, KY. Where residents arise to over 300 MILLION gallons of coal sludge in their tiny town. Why? because this is America, and we like to burn coal for energy. For over 200 years! Sorry Inez, but in New York City, our lights are shining bright. The EPA calls this "one of the worst environmental disasters ever in the southeastern United States".

2004: December 26th, in the Indian Ocean. Theres an earthquake ranging from 9.1 to 9.3 on the Richter scale. This brings a tsunami over 32 ft. high to the coast of indonesia.

2005: August 29th, New Orleans, LA residents are greeted be Katrina, a formerly catagory 5 hurricane. Over 80% of the city is flooded. Mississippi's beachfront towns were 90% flooded. Katrina is refered to as the costliest hurricane, and one of the five deadliest.

2006: July  17th, once again in the Indian ocean, off the southwest coast of Java, Indonesia. Theres a 7.7 magnitude earthquake, causing a nearly 10 ft. tsunami, taking at least 668 lives.

2008: Begining on September 1st, Hurricane Ike is formed. Reaching category 4 status at various points in its journey,  finally making landfall over Galveston, Texas on September 13th as a strong category 2, with a category 5 like storm surge. Ike moved all the way up through the midwest on into canada in tropical depression, and extratropical status before finally exiting around the Labrador Sea. This was ranked the 3rd costliest hurricane, and brought hurricane like winds and rains to places that knew nothing of such things.

It's barely December 22nd in Roane county, TN. The coal slurry impoundment at the TVA fossil plant has a damn rupture into the Emory river. Over 1 billion gallons of coal fly ash slurry goes rushing through the Emory and Clinch rivers. Surrounding property was covered in as much as 6 ft. of sludge. This spill was more than three times the size of the 2000 martin county spill. They continue to battle clean up efforts to this day.

2009: January 9th, another TVA plant, this time in northeast AL, has a spill. TVA did not deny that the material entered the creek, but figures were not disclosed as they claimed to have "contained" it.

January 25th, Areas of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, West Virginia, and Kentucky are hit with an ice storm that lasted up to 5 days in some places. As much as 2.5 inches of ice can be found on trees and power lines. Over 2 million people lost power, over 500,000 in Kentucky alone, 100,000 of those without power for over a week.

August 4th, Louisville, KY and southern IN are hit with a serious flash flood.

September 30th, Just off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia theres a 7.6magnitude earthquake. Killing at least 1,115, destroying 135,000 houses.

2010: January 12th, there's a 7.0 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Leogane, and Port-au-Prince, Haiti. 6th deadliest earthquake in history, killing an estimated 230,000 people. Approximately 1,000,000 people were left without homes, and many many more were severly injured. In addition to homes and business' that were destroyed. The Red Cross estimates that as many as 3,000,000 people were effected by the quake.

March 5th, once again off the Sumatra coast in Indonesia, they experience a 6.8 magnitude earthquake. to be followed by a 7.8 magnitude quake on April 6th.

April 3rd, A large coal carrying ship runs aground off the coast of Australia damaging and leaking oil into prts of the incurredibly sensitive Great Barrier Reef.

April 20th, an oil drilling rig off the coast of LA explodes causing a large fire and massive oil spill that is on going to this day, currently releasing at least 210,000 gallons of crude oil a day.

May 1st and 2nd Excessive rainfall causes the cumberland river to overflow leading to flooding in KY, MS, and most affected, TN. As of May 2nd, there are currently 29 confirmed dead, but this too is "current", so those figures could, and probably will, change.

All of this makes me absolutely sick!
But I'm just an "environmentalist hippy", what do I know?

I really hope that theres something here for my children, when they're older.



and some progress is made...

Yes, I voted for Obama.
Yes, he's done a few things to disappoint me, such as opening up protected waters to off shore drilling (after insisting it was a terrible idea in his campaign) http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/31/science/earth/31energy.html

But on April 2nd, 2010, he did something that made me really proud, or... his administration did anyways.

The EPA has greatly increased their standards for water quality and proclaims that very few valley fill permits will pass under the new guidelines (regarding water conductivity)

Granted, this is one.... medium. step (we've been making small ones all along, and while this doesn't solve all our problems, its certainly) in the right direction. We still have huge strides to make, but alas, I am currently incredibly grateful for Lisa Jackson, and the EPA, for taking our neighbors water quality into account.

Thank you! to everyone and anyone that assisted in any fashion, to making this happen!


eastern ky

Last week, my family and I visited family in NC. Before baby #3 was born, I longed to drive through eastern Kentucky on our way home from NC sometime, but it hadn't happened for one reason or another. I really didn't plan or expect for it to happen this time either as baby #3 is still so young and not terribly fond of the car, I figured we'd be better off to just get home as quickly and safely as possible.

Well, the common route, through West Virginia, has a few ever increasing tolls, my husband wanted to avoid them, so we took the secondary route (to NC) which involves driving down I75 to I40, then on over to the coast. Much to our surprise, we were forced to take a detour upon our travels down I40, due to some rock slide which involved us going substantially out of our way. In any case, we arrived on the coast with little delay.

As we started the trek home I checked online to see the status of the rock slide (it seemed like they could just blow up these rocks and shovel 'em over the side or something, thats what they do with entire mountain tops, I couldn't fathom it being bigger than that.) and it seemed as though the though of it being cleared was a distant fantasy, so a long detour was still in the cards (that or tolls, which wasn't even an option at this point).

So we start heading on our detour, when my husband decides to make his own detour through all these small virginia towns. Finally, I proclaim that we should just go on through eastern Kentucky.

I made a deal with myself that there would be no camera involved. No pictures, not even with my phone. I was to take it in, with only my eyes and my mind this time. There will be a next time, I'll make sure of it, and next time, is when the camera comes out.
But this time. This time, I tried to drink it all in.
In some ways, I expected it to be worse. The folks in West Virginia said its much worse (eky) because theyll mine right up to the road side. Based on what i saw, this is partly true. The worst, was when we were on this curvy mountain road, that took us to the top of a hill. From that hill i could look in 3 directions (everywhere but behind) and see, quite clearly, an incredibly unnatural landscape, but there wasn't rubble pushed right up to the asphalt. Yet several miles later, on this same mountain road, we looked out at the most breathtaking landscape in all the world. Nothing but mountains, intact mountains. Clouds nestled in the valleys. It was as if nature made this little perch, on the side of this mountain, seemingly much larger than its surrounding siblings, solely for "us" to come to this point, and look out, and see just how glorious things can be, and are!

The West Virginians also commented on how much less hostile eastern Kentuckians are. Every time we'd have to stop for gas, or to use the rest room, my heart would race. Our hybrid import, slathered with activism stickers, manned by young environmentalists makes no attempts at being discreet in these situations, yet aside from a few cross looks, the worst we got was me overhearing a couple miners comment on how easy it is to say "that" when its not your pay check or what have you. (likely referring to the "topless mountains are obscene sticker") And while i didn't make any attempt to let them know, I can empathize with that. Alas, I married a marine, at my height of disent for the military. Sometimes we compromise a few values, for the sake of maintaining the highest value, feeding our family. There is often a thin line between a job, and a life style, but I can see that line, and i respect those that reside on the job side, even if i don't respect their job.



the other day i was talking with someone that commended my work/activism for MTR.
she mentioned that she was from eastern ky, and her parents live in north eastern ky.

the significance? she mentioned that there was no coal (or at least none worth mining) where her parents currently live, but they still blow up the mountains there. why? for gravel.
as sad as it is that they blow up mountains for gravel, its just one more thing to add to the draw backs of MTR coal mining as far as im concerned.

from an objective point of view. if we HAVE to get the coal, and we HAVE to do it by removing the mountain top, it seems logical (and not only environmentally sound, but also economically) to harvest the trees, but instead theyre dumped over the side (into the streams).
and now that its brought to my attention how gravel is ... harvested? (why had i never thought of this?) all of the shale and sediment below the top soil (which is likely the richest in the nation and could probably be sold as well) could be gathered and sold as well, instead of blowing up completely different mountains for that.

all sorts of birds. one stone.

but instead, we strip forests from one area.
blow up mountains for gravel in another.
and distant from all that, were tossing mountains into valleys for coal.


jim foster memorial pt. 1

since im not doing much with my coal activism at the moment, ill try to continue to share amazing things from around the web, that others have done.

heres a video.


of little help

while i sit here, 6 months pregnant, winter quickly moving in, i am forced to realize i will likely not be able to work much on my project until sometime near the middle of next year.

i do have a few coal fired plants in mind, that id like to visit.
particularly meigs county, ohio. where they currently sit under the stacks of 4 coal plants, with another proposed. not to mention the countless other environmental tragedies theyre forced to deal with.

over this period, i will continue to research, learn, and spread the word. as thats what i likely do best.

id like to share a speech jason howard gave at the lexington forum recently, regarding "the true costs of coal"

while were searching for a better way, lets at least conserve what we have.

it pains me, to know, that children born in southeastern cities (such as the one i live in) face higher rates for sids, asthma, allergies, etc. etc. etc. all because of the impurities my air is forced to take on due to the power company, and those plugged into its excessive use.


need a movie to watch?

recently, we watched kilowatt ours (NOTE: the previous link will allow you to watch the complete film.) at the recommendation of a cousin whom i was discussing my documentary goals with.
pretty good film. the first half discuss' a good part of what im trying to cover (though i think the toxicity, use, and misuse of coal ash needs to be covered as well)

so, following that i finished up somethings rising and was duely impressed.
what better way to learn about the history, in addition to current events, in appalachia, than from those who live it? numerous stories, from those best equipped to tell them.
such rich history, makes me jealous that i didnt grow up with that. but alas, i have found my.... "calling"? if you will.

and then, last night, thanks to our local library and someone leaving the search field of "dvd" up without my realizing it, we checked out and began watching harlan county, usa .
which just reinforces the damage coals been doing to this area since long before i was born.

knowledge is power, eventhough ignorance is bliss. i think, that regardless of what you may think or feel, its important to know where your electricity comes from, and what it really costs. your bill puts a monetary value on it, and there is so much more to it than that. coal may very well be cheap. for the power companies that burn it, but so are clothes and toys made in china. everything has its price, even if its not represented in a dollar amount.


coal ash has all kinds of uses

heres an article about a town built on coal ash, i wonder if thats like building a city on rock and roll?
in any case. the proponents of coal insist coal ash is useful as well. its great for road fill, ground fill, building fill, etc. not enough dirt? just use coal ash.

well, heres just one small towns story of what happens when you make such wonderful use of the substance.


kayford mountain

practically everyone remotely interested in mountain top removal (whether your for or against it) knows of a man by the name of Larry Gibson, for good reason.
mr. gibson has property on a mountain called kayford mountain, when i look at an aerial shot of west virginia, kayford mountain jumps out at me due to... well, its lack of existence? i dont want to tell all of Larry's story (im not sure thats possible), but ill attempt to introduce you to the basics, in case youre unfamiliar with him. (feel free to visit his site for more information.) larry inherited this land and can trace it (being in his family) back over 250 years. in the early 1900s, his grandfather signed over the "mineral rights" to this property, like many others in this area, for .01c an acre (its my understanding that they originally had over 1000 acres.) people did this, because they only knew of deep mining, and could respect the wealth this brought to their communities, they in no way saw this as a threat to the land they lived and played on.
over 20 years ago they began to surface mine on kayford mountain, taking over much of Larry's property. somehow, at some point, he managed to get 50 acres into a land trust, making it so that no one could purchase, sell, trade, etc.
originally, Larry looked up 400ft. to the peak of the mountain from his property, his property is now the highest point among multiple mountain top removal projects.
due to his courageous efforts, Larry receives more harassment and threats than i can fathom. but alas, he is the "keeper of the mountains", and a wonderful one at that.
upon walking out to the site, were greeted with a pile of rubble, including a large rock with a hole drilled in it, this hole is a remnant from the coal company drilling down, to fill with explosives (like those used in the Oklahoma City bombing), to blast away "overburden". in addition to a no trespassing sign.

we stepped up on the high wall, and looked down at what was going on. immediately in front of us were the alien grasses character of "reclamation". far off in the distance, a lovely mountain range. and in between, something id expect to see on the moon, with a group of heavy machinery.

i think i could have stayed, and just watched, shocked, in awe, all day. i wanted to know what was really running through these miners minds. deep down, the secrets they share with no one. i understand that this is about the only decent paying job in the entire state. i understand that they have families to feed. but surely, some of them think beyond that on occasion, but are just too scared to tell anyone. for those, my heart goes out.

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the last house in mud.

on june 20th me and my family began to take a road trip that would involve a few stops in west virginia. i hoped to see the devastation of mountain top removal first hand, for the first time. it was a success.
sunday morning (the following day) we were up bright and early, in charleston, wv. not sure what to do with our day we decided to check out their unitarian universalist congregation, it wasnt until shortly before the service that i realized this could have multiple benefits, a big one being finding potential resources to help in my journey. upon walking through the parking lot i noticed several bumpers proudly wearing "i love mountains" bumper stickers, and knew i was in the right place. inside a gentleman appeared to me almost like an angel of sorts, sporting a shirt that largely exclaimed "i love mountains", named julian.

naturally i began to discuss my goals and ask questions, he was eager to provide stories and information and even offered to take us on a tour of a couple places, one of them being "the only house left in mud, wv". yes, mud is a town, or was. i guess. most towns have communities, stores, animals, etc. not this one. after a drive down a long winding dirt road, mostly lined in trees we got to the infamous house. it was a quaint little farm house style residence, unfortunately the family wasnt home, but julian was happy to tell us about them and their property.
when the coal company decided to mine on this land they insisted all the residents leave, as they often do using various tactics (mineral rights, bribes, threats, etc.). this particular family had no interest in relocating and went all the way to the supreme court to assure they could keep a portion of their property. with that they also included a single stipulation, that they be able to sit on their porch and only see the land the way it was intended (no site of mining). and thats what they got.

the first site is right through the trees to the left of their home (in the first image you can see it midway down on the left). the trees disappear and theres... dirt?
julian walked us along through the trees to see what lied beyond, the sky was beautiful on this particular day, one of the most photogenic skies ive photographed to date, it contrasted the land that lie ahead very dramatically. you look one way and see forest, another, something more like desert.
this particular company apparently takes sundays off, as the equipment was all lined up and not a soul in sight. it was just so surreal, to imagine a beautiful mountain where all this rubble was. human and environmental impacts asside, there was nothing remotely pleasant about the acres and acres that spanned beyond my view filled with tossed up rocks and minerals yet no trees, water, or wildlife. in the middle of the appalachian mountains, the north american rainforest, oldest mountains in the world, richest ecosystem in north america.

this final photo, is of our dear friend julian, standing in front of what is considered a "reclaimed mountain" (that sits just off the property line of the aforementioned house). this land is what the coal companies tout as being restored to natural contour and ready for plant and wildlife reintroduction. they also claim this land is much more useful than the previous hillside. perfect for shopping centers, airports, golf courses, etc. im wondering where the customers for such attractions will come from?

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