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Mackay & Claire

You ready to save the world?

We are so excited that you have decided to join us on this grand adventure! This week is guaranteed to present many challenges physically, personally, and emotionally. But, it also guaranteed to make you laugh, cry, learn, have an existential crisis or two, and ultimately grow as a person. So kudos to you, for you have taken the first steps to learning more about a social issue that affects so many in our country. Don’t fret though, your fearless leaders are guaranteed to lead you astray… we mean, not lead you astray. Though this week seems like a daunting mountain, you’re all coal enough to handle whatever is thrown your way - I mean, you were crazy enough too come this far right? So, top off your coffee, put on your working boots, hold on to your butts, and lets get our Appalachian on.



The history between the coal industry and Appalachia runs long. For as long as the United States has been an economic superpower, it has been dependent on the coal sacrificed by the Appalachian Mountains and its people. Our culture seems to have an idealized version of what the miner in Appalachia is: a strong man, dressed in hard hat, covered in coal soot descending an elevator deep into the heart of the mountains. While at one time that version of the coal miner may have been representative, the reality now is much more sinister. While the wear on the physical bodies of the miners was brutal, the predominant method of coal mining now is much more brutal on a geographic scale, with an appropriate name: Mountain Top Removal. There are many reasons Mountain Top Removal is a less than exemplary means of extracting coal. It perpetuates climate change in every way; burning coal releases more greenhouse gases than any other fossil fuel per unit of energy and it yields more than two time the CO2 of natural gas (Zehner, 123). It also has a number of devastating effects on the surrounding communities. Polluted water supplies and devastated ecosystems are just a few of the consequences for those who have to bear the burden of losing their mountains. So why do we continue to do it? Because of the massive economic benefit, right? Because of our nation and our world’s dependence on cheap energy, i.e. coal? The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that by 2012, two decades of mountaintop removal will have destroyed or degraded 11.5 percent of the forests in [Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, and Tennessee], an area larger than Delaware. Rubble and waste will have buried more than 1,000 miles of streams. (McQuaid, 2009)

It is true that America does rely extremely heavily on coal. “Half of America’s electricity comes from coal, along with 70 percent in India, and 80 percent in China. Coal is more widely available throughout the world than hydropower, oil, and gas. It’s got a lower sticker price too” (Zehner, 122). But this dependence does not necessarily translate to economic benefit for the communities in which it actually happens. As the graph on the next pageindicates, coal mining jobs have seen a dramatic decrease over the last 50 years. This is largely due to the mechanization of jobs that once required human labor. The process has now been streamlined to make it more “neat” and effective. Essentially, when a mountain is chosen as a viable candidate for coal extraction via MTR, the vegetation is cleared near the summit. Then, the bedrock and topsoil is blasted away, sometimes slicing upwards of 600 feet off the overall elevation of the mountain. Once the seams of coal are exposed, it is harvested by giant cranes (Meyer, 2015). Not only is this obviously destructive, but

there are also very few effective policies in place that require the restoration of the remaining land. In turn, mining communities are given high amounts of pollution and poverty with no compensation. The pollution is never sold as quite that bad, and safety regulations are highly touted. But the true story reveals a far more sinister tale. Despite living among the richest coal reserves and one of the most ecologically biodiverse regions in the world, the people of Central Appalachia…are among the poorest people in the United States. Poverty rates here are at least twice that of the rest of the country. (Burns, 2009) A report in the journal Science found that “The wide spread practice of mountain top removal coal mining in the United States found that local residents also suffer from unusually high rates of chronic pulmonary disorders, hypertension, lung cancer, chronic heart disease, and kidney disease” (Zehner, 123). “Poisonous gases, tunnel collapses, flooding, and explosions kill thousands of miners every year (Zehner 120). Polluted water supplies, and chronic diseases. Towns located around MTR sites suffer such consequences as mudslides, f;ash floods, and heavy metal in their water supply. It has been reported that “…in Kentucky alone, almost 4,000 miles of streams have been polluted, damages, or destroyed by mountaintop mining” (Meyer, 2015). This is a heavy price to pay to for an ever-less viable fossil fuel addiction. Ultimately, there seem to be a lot of costs for coal, but fewer and fewer benefits. As lead author of an article in the Journal of Science said, “Scientists are not usually that comfortable coming out with policy recommendations, but this time the results were overwhelming… the only conclusion that one can reach is that mountaintop mining needs to be stopped.” Burns, Shirley Stewart. “Mountaintop Removal in Central Appalachia”. Southern Spaces. Np., 30 Sept. 2009. Web. McQuaid, John. “Mining the Mountains”. Smithsonian Magazine. N.p., Jan. 2009. Web. Meyer, Robinson. “Coal’s Devastation”. The Atlantic. N.p., 12 Aug. 2015. Web. Zehner, Ozzie. “Green Illusions : The Dirty Secrets Of Clean Energy And The Future Of Environmentalism”. Ozzie Zehner. n.p.: Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, c2012., 2012.

FA R M I N G TO N N O. 9 We lie here waiting for the men with rubber blankets to take us up and put us down Remember us When you y over mountains and land in a city at night and see the thousand things they’ve done with our eyes. L LOY D DAV I S

SONG OF DESTINY Here is my song of destiny I sing, Not that I crave the blood of any man, To take his life and doom him in his spring! But here he comes and takes my people’s life. He takes their earnings made by blood and sweat, He cuts the trees from my Kentucky hills, He digs the coal from my Kentucky mines – And even cuts for pleasure our small pines. And do I sing, my friend, for any man Who preys upon us like we’re suckling lambs? And I am tired of prayer and wished “God damns.” It is the time this folly comes to end As summer grass comes to an end by frost. These trees are friends of mine and yet they die, Their stumps stand under blue moons like thin ghosts, They leave such emptiness beneath the sky. JESSE STUART

BLOOD MONEY This blood rolling down my arm Is from the wounds of a dollar bill That cut my fingers as I touched it. The blood runs dwn my elbows And drips off onto the sand. Mr. Pittston is kicking dirt over it, Swearing There are no names written on that dollar bill. All this is the result Of thinking too much About a Law Suit Proving me of “The Survival Syndrome”: I get money But none of the dead are resurrected. GAIL AMBURGEY

MONONGAH, WV On December 6, 1907, the Fairmont Coal Co. exploded, killing all of the Miners on the day shift. The official count of 360 overlooked many immigrants.

1. On December 6, I drive to this place Along Route 19, near the banks of the Tygart And turn my car toward the wrinkled flow Of the West Fork River, and stop. The fresh snow has begun to crest around rocks and debris. In the water, old antifreeze bottles knock Against each other, like aimless chimes. I looked at the river, which is gray In the center, reflecting the sky between hills. Isn’t that always he sky in West Virginia? 2. A spark ignites Black Damp, the methane blows, Flames rush from speck to speck – like a breath Of a surging dragon, licking the coal dust Suspended in haulageways, spitting fire, reaving stout timbers, seeking, by instinct like bones among fossils, devouring the faces before they can scream, as the men duck, are sucked into blazing entries or crouch in a shelter of ash, by crimson steel cars.

3. There’s a meadow, filled with threadbare gray Of five hundred women in the snow. They sob To the heavens, gaunt as the heavens are In West Virginia, I ask them to leave, For we’re in danger from another explosion, But the women won’t go. Eyes starving For news, they peer from snow-soaked scarves, Babushkas, chadors, prayer shawls. The mine blows again, and the earth trembles Like the hide of a frightened mule. 4. I blink and the West Fork River Seems to sizzle beneath the snow’s touch. The fog drifts off down the river, Between two banks of melting snow, Toward Morgantown and Pittsburgh, Cities of what once was – The smoke and fire in the human heart. 5. This spring, I’ll drive out to this place, This wilderness between rivers. The meadow will fill with survivors, and Five-hundred threadbare women Will clutch their dusty lovers and go home.


BUFFALO CREEK {T}he Buffalo Creek disaster in West Virginia in February, 1972…produced a major human tragedy with the loss of hundreds of lives because of the careless administration of a gob pile dam, which wiped out a whole valley. Richard B. Drake, A History of Appalachia

I There may have been a girl, Fourteen o fifteen, waking up just then in a dark room Filled with pink chenille, gold stars from teachers, A Sunday-school collage with a pipecleaner boat, dirty cottonball sky Ad glitter sprinkled over blue construction paper under the feet Of a mimeographed Jesus walking on the water – Too much childhood in the room for it not to pinch, even in her sleep, Like church shoes squeezed on over everyday socks. She may have waked with a start a little before 8:00 From a dream about a beautiful room, spare and open to the air, In a house she brought by opening doors. Maybe she sat up – Long-haired and loose, her first beauty come on her – and suddenly knew That she was someone, and something else might be true. Then the mountains all around must have seems to her a storm Of waves poised to crash, terrible undertow cast in stone, But she was up to it, could sail under her own power, Lift and go. As daylight seeped in through the seams Of the room maybe she felt less sure, but she was marked By the dream of air and space. She may have flopped back down On her side, propped up on one elbow to see What the weather was like outside the window beside her bed In the small built-on second-story room. A raven, just one, May have flow across her line of sight, skidded to a stop in the cold Wet of the back yard, flocked its head back over its shoulder then taken off again, Easy over the mountain. And maybe she thought of Noah, or maybe she didn’t, as she lifted her chin slightly to watch it go and willed it to bring her a sign of the world. II Say her mother was downstairs in the kitchen Standing in the open door of the refrigerator, thinking about eggs And work – inside of an hour, she was thinking, she’d be at Pittston, filing Disciplinary reports and safety reports she tried not to read And workman’s comp claims she tried never to read, the way she never Read the obituary page, though the names sometimes jumped out at her, faces Resurrected from her old yearbook, caught off guard by a sudden flash And someone telling them to smile. Or she may have been thinking about eggs In baskets made the old way, the way Aunt Mandy taught her, How Aunt Mandy used to stand at the fence, an old egg basket on one elbow

Ballasting the jutted-out ledge of a hip seating a child Crooked in the other. Could be then she thought of the work baskets filled With yarn and thread and patches, the ways women find Of holding together what’s coming apart, or maybe of babies left In baskets on doorsteps. Maybe that made her think Of Moses and bulrushes so that as s called upstairs of the girl to come down before the eggs got cold She thought she heard a rush of water in the distance And something small crying. III The father must have been at work on the longwall, graveyard Shift about to be over. Still February, but already Moles and groundhogs would be turning up Clumps of dirt, making the yard look like a kid’s game, a maze On the back of a cereal box – Help the rabbit find his way home. He worked too goddamn hard to make house payments To let the yard go to pot on account of critters. Nothing else to do, goddamn it – and maybe here he slammed the machine harder into the coalface, rehearsing the argument he’d have with his wife and daughter – Nothing to be done but plug up one hole and run the garden hose down the other. It’s how the bosses kept their heads above water: show no pity for thins that burrow. IV If the raven looked back in a minute, or two, he saw failed arks, Houses sacking into bridges and power lines, saw them fly Into the air, burning and drowning at once in the blank Roaring maw of that black wave That hit the valley floor like God slamming the door, Jarring the whole world off the wall, and the stars, With only a smattering of glitter riding The wave, and no babies in baskets, and no one Walking on the water. DIANE GILLIAM FISHER

THE LAST UNMINED VEIN Now it’s neither here nor there to most folks but then I’ve never figured myself to be like many much less most I know what they do no matter what they say I know how they come with trucks bigger than ary road can hold and drive through yer yard and right up on the porch and park her next to yer rocking chair and you ain’t got a howdy do to say about it neither once you put yer name on that paper that’s it Now my daddy and me we used to dig a little coal out of that vein across the bottom Just a pick and a shovel and what could be wheelbarrowed out of there was all that was took and didn’t hurt nothing and kept a fire real good and that’s it but that ain’t what they got in mind They wanting to make steel in Ohio turn on the lights in New York City and heat houses in Detroit Shoot- I don’t know a soul in the whole state of Michigan but that ain’t really it It ain’t my business what they do with it but this farm and everything that’s in it is plenty my concern and I know how they come with their mouths full of promises and leaving with every one of your fields full of ruts and the mud sliding down the hillside right onto your back steps

and there ain’t a creek left what would hold a living thing and that’s it and the money just don’t mean that much to me I done seen all I need to see about where that money goes and what’s got with it Last thing this country need is another new mobile home with a four-wheel drive truck parked on a mudbank in front of it and that’s it and not another thing to show for where and what your mammy and pappy and their mammy and pappy not to mention your own self and family always had So when that man in his new suit and smooth as silk talking came to my door I didn’t even ask him in Said I wasn’t interested He laughed and said he wasn’t selling Said I didn’t figure I was either And that was it Of course, I know he’ll be back but probably after I’m dead and gone and if the children want to be so foolish as to put an end to what came long before then ain’t nothing I can do about it then but I been laying plans to remind them to what it’s gonna cost them I done got my marker and laid out the lines for my grave right smack in the middle of that vein They gonna have to chip out of the coal 6 foot by 6 foot and then put her right back on top of me and that will be the end of that L E E H OWA R D


1 9 0 7 W E S T F O R K V A L L E Y, W V

anger builds like methane gas, that gas that exploded sixteen hours ago down there, in where, thank God, you weren’t working

The whine of the hoist cage Sends a message Through the camp

useless, fury, for I have no walls to blow, no shafts to block, no mantrips or belts to smash, destroy. Just this anger. no meters, no gauges could predict it, could have carried away the gas instead of dead bodies that even now as I imagine them, turn anger to sorrow, and I find myself with you crying

Slowly it rises, bringing up a body. It’s not weighed down, It’s just somebody’s body Creaking up the shaft. “Who’s hurt Mama?” “Hush, child.” “Are they bringing up a body? Is it somebody’s body?” “Hush.” “What’s under the canvas, Mama? Is somebody dead, Mama? Is that a leg, Mama? Whose leg is it, Mama?” “Hush, child.” “Can we go home now, Mama? Ain’t we going home now, Mama.” “Hush.”


THE MINER’S WIDOW TESTIFIES AT T H E B L A C K L U N G T R I A L Yes I’ll tell the truth. I always tell the truth and here it is 38 years underground and down in his back the last fifteen You want to know how he was on his breathing? Well he gasped and wheezed and smothered all the time He’d be up restless all night. Couldn’t put out a garden or mow the grass. No yardwork, no housework Except I did it or the kids did it or we hired it done Phelgm built up all night and choked him of a morning. Every morning he’d drink him A big cup of black coffee, and go out in the yard and vomit it all up, the worse looking stuff you ever saw, green and gray with black streaks in it and some blood sometimes. But then he’d breathe a little better and get through the day. He stayed nervous. The least little thing would get him so tore up he’d have to get off by himself I guess you’d be nervous too If you had trouble getting the breath of life itself in and out of your lungs, slowly smothering to death every minute of every hour of every day of what was

left of your life, and you knew who’d done it to you, and why they done it, and you couldn’t do much of anything about it except file for these benefits. Did he smoke? Yes, he smoked. But cigarettes aren’t made out of coal dust. He had coal dust on his lungs and that’s what took him away. The mines put the dust there not the cigarettes. He wasn’t perfect, but he was always good for working. Took all the hours he could Get, never missed unless he Just had to. He was serious as a heart attack about taking care of his family. Many times I’ve seen him drag himself off to the mines when I knew he shouldn’t have. We tried to keep him home but he’d just go on out. The bosses came to his funeral and said what a good employee he was. I know they made a lot of money off his work. They owned the mines. It looks like they could have done better at keeping the dust down. And now they’re fighting the case with the lawyers to beat me out of the benefits. Well, I know what killed him. I don’t care what their doctors and lawyers say. It was their mines that killed him, choked and smothered to death on coal dust and thick green phlegm. J O H N TAY L O R

A P PA L AC H I A : A N O L D M A N ’ S DREAM DIFFERED As I ride the mountain curves That make one mile ten And my going greets my coming I reminisce my past days In the mountains of Appalachia. I recall my five day weeks Among the diamondsThat glisten and reflect The sweat of my brow And make me proud Of my aches and pains And silicosis and black lung And John L. Lewis and the pension I recall my buddies And slate falls and explosions And union dues and company doctors And script money and company stores And friendly coal camp houses Where smoke spirals from chimneys And meets the tipple dust Causing an excess that returns upon us, my wife and kids and other families, Causing us to cuss and fuss and scrub with lye soap In zinc tubs filled with hydrant water Boiled in the big tea kettle on the cook stove That stands near the kitchen cabinet and breakfast set. I recall the Saturday night balls Or fight and brawls And women and liquor and cards And fish fries and barbeques And wiener roasts and excursions And ball gamesAll kinds of Saturday fun That ends in Sunday school and Church And occasional revivals And preachers and deacons And brothers and sisters And prayers and collection plates And rallies and homecomings. I recall the bare beauty of stripped mountains

That belch black diamonds And choke as we crawl inside To retrieve what is left Leaving a gully that fills With leeched water For children to swim and drown every summer. I recall the shanties And the houses of the bosses And homes of superintendents And spring rains, and fall winds And winter snows and summer sunshines That bring new faces to the hills every year And Christmas and Easter And the fourth of July And fishing and hunting seasons And walks in the mountains And P.T.A. meetings and lodge meetings And trips to the county seat And funerals and birthdays And other memories that practically Bring me to tears. But as I ride the curves of my homeland I must view my dreams For she is empty and dried and dismal And her misery hangs heavy in the air of her discontent I reach out to touch her but find her vanishedAn old man’s dream deferred. ED CABBELL

“After dozens of stomach-churning curves, a small sign announces that the Virginia state line has been crossed.  And suddenly, everything changes.  Now there is a moonscape below, a barren wasteland of dirt and exposed rocks and yellow bulldozers.  From near the summit of Black Mountain can be seen a mountaintop removal site that stretches itself brazenly above the town of Appalachia, Virginia, and it looks like a scar on the face of the earth... Where once there was a mountain here in Virginia, now there is a deep, dead hole.”

If it only took sheer labor to fix these problems, we would have solved them already. The relationships you form are more important. It’s the service you may not know you are providing. —Carol Judy

I don’t like the word poor. Appalachian communities are not poor. We may not have as much money as everyone else. But we are not poor on culture. We are not poor in our community of place. We are not poor in our mountains and in our ecology. —Carol Judy

I've reported on devastation around the world—from natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, to wars in Central America and the Middle East, to coastlines in Asia degraded by ďŹ sh farming. But in the sheer audacity of its destruction, mountaintop coal removal is the most shocking thing I've ever seen. Entering a mountaintop site is like crossing into a war zone. —Smithsonian

“Coal’s costs do not obey national borders. Coal taxes every living person—through acid rain that damages crops, sea acidification that chokes fisheries, and the release of mercury into the atmosphere, which poisons brains. The decline in air quality... Finally, on top of all of that, coal combustion contributes to climate change through its emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.” —Meyer, The Atlantic


SOUNDTRACK MACKAY'S PLAYLIST 1. Cold Canary Gaslight - Marty O’Reilly & the Old Soul Orchestra 2. Family and Genus - Shakey Graves 3. Hymn #101 - Joe Pug 4. Moonshiner - Redbird 5. Gun Song - The Lumineers 6. White Lie - The Lumineers 7. Birmingham - Shovels & Rope 8. Little Lovin’ - Lissie 9. Your Rocky Spine - Great Lake Swimmers 10. Civilian - Wye Oak 11. A Field of Birds - Yellow Bird Project

C L A I R E ’ S P L AY L I S T 1. Hymn #35 - Joe Pug 2. Closer to Fine - Indigo Girls 3. Your Love - The Outfield 4. Cleopatra - The Lumineers 5. Let's Be Still - The Head and the Heart 6. Ain't No Easy Way - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club 7. Sunrise - Norah Jones 8. What You Know - Two Door Cinema Club 9. Wildflowers - Tom Petty 10. All The Small Things - Blink 182 11. Carolina - Jon Bryant 12. Be Still - Canyon City 13. Dance with Me Tonight - Olly Murs

Appalachian Environmental Justice Spring 2017  
Appalachian Environmental Justice Spring 2017