I Acknowledge Coal Country

“Almost heaven, West Virginia … Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River…“

… ‘Ka- Boom! And ‘thar’ she goes’ !!! …

I wrote one piece on mountain top removal systems tearing up Appalachian coal country, but have not posted it.

I’m trying to coach myself to blend passion with some measure of calm. Those who know me have witnessed my sometimes prancing pronouncements – metaphor and colorful image pouring forth to evoke in a listener the passion that I feel.

Over time, I am likely to provide a range here – postings of passion on the verge of bursting into song and dance; postings of energy without ‘pushing’ at a reader; and postings too dry and academic.

C’est moi!

When I am made aware, even by hint, of giant machines employed to tear up natural habitat, passion begins to emerge. I have witnessed the diminutive chickadee thrive in sub-zero temperatures; I have marveled that lower legs of moose and deer do not freeze solid at -40d; I have seen the color of willows change as spring nears and sap is rising; have noticed poplar buds swelling long before any human would declare the season “spring.”

I know something of the essence of “life” on this earth – natural and also natural but separated out as ‘human’.

It is all One.

It is we humans who operate by “economic construct”. It is we humans who somehow manage to turn those among us living close to the land into paid laborers, who manage to manipulate land use in such a way as to convert them to consumers, no longer empowered to provide for themselves.

I do not mind so much that we do this, we benefit from “progress”; what I mind is the level of “ignorance” we develop as we increasingly rely on “complexity of rules layered atop natural law” to guide our lives.

I mind that we coach ourselves to “gloss over” mention that “all is not right in Mudville” – with or without a baseball game in progress!

So there is this devastation of land and of people going on in the Appalachians. Out of our sight, and thanks to common media editorial choice, out of our minds.

But it’s happening anyhow. Habitat of countless creatures, the plants that sustain them, plants that in wilderness knowledge can sustain humans. All under siege.

The humans involved are of two camps: those who suffer as they watch home and health deteriorate due to environmental air, soil, and water deterioration; and those so desperate for income that they argue in favor of mountain top removal in order that they may have “jobs”.

Those with remnants of “natural understanding”, and those with belief in “paid wages to enjoy the good life” argue, sometimes violently, with one another. Families are torn.

There is a group also involved, a dramatically smaller group, that is concerned only with corporate ‘bottom line’ figures. It seems reasonable to them to view life (of human and critter) as “statistically relevant” or not. Depends on the profit picture.

It simply does not need to be “this way”. This is due to human mental construction of what is “economically sound”, what “makes sense”, or not, at a level of facts and figures.

That it does not “need to be this way” is the realization that turns my passion into sorrow.

I feel that we have got to examine our values. And I do not mean values like whether or not they are best represented by Republicans or Democrats. In fact, I think we need to reach deep down and find values within that give us voice to tell those who trash one another to drop it, cut it out, grow up .. and if need be .. to entirely shut up.

We also need to find within the values that let us understand that a Washington scene that capitulates to snake oil sales pitches of the lobby industry is skewed and anti-democratic, even when we “hope our side wins”. The lobby industry is unsavory and way off the mark – yet those of us who have bought into “bottom line economic interpretation of value” are inclined to hope some of that economic power will be reflected in our personal levels of success.

That same some of us (who have bought into economic interpretation of fundamental, ultimate, value) have come to fear a world in which dollars are not the driving ultimate force.

We don’t even recognize this in ourselves. We honor people we love and who are close to us; and interpret this as “honoring life in all respects”. But we stop short if the construct, the invention, of ‘bottom line economics’, is challenged.

Democracy is not predicated on bottom line economics. It is predicated on “one person, one vote”. It’s that simple. To my understanding it is modeled in part on First Nations practices, some of which did not even allow the warriors to vote – only the elders and the women!

But – one person, one vote. This in turn is predicated on a belief that each and every one has value.

So there are these folks, whose story I scarcely know, living in beautiful natural country, where coal is found in abundance.

They are our fellow citizens. Their woods are our woods. Their wilderness habitat our wilderness habitat – even if we never visit the region.

And it’s not just “ours” in an American sense. This earth is filled with triumph and misery. It’s not balanced in a lot of places. And we, as “consumers” here in America have often benefited. “Out of sight, out of mind” allows us the luxury of ignorance.

A very very few are especially focused on the “bottom line”. (I’m talking “extreme high wealth”, possibly as few as 1%). Most, if not all, among them cannot help but view each and every living, breathing, individual and natural creature as “objects”; as something to be made statistical, as something to manipulate for the bottom line grail.

The rest of us are inclined to hope those “bottom line economics” folks are on the right track. We hope even to the point of teaching ourselves to believe this is the case. We speak out; we confirm the “value” of this economics over anything that calls us to broader responsibility. We become willing voices for this small percent without examining what and whose interests they actually represent.

And so it is. We seem not to want to “look” with a more critical mind. We seem not to want to ask pertinent questions. We have well-documented evidence available that points to human capacity – good minded, caring humans – to follow leaders who encourage us to dismiss evidence of things out of control. Or to accept ideas to the same effect. Despite evidence of suffering. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment). If we call unquestioning conventional attitudes and views “leadership”, we are all set.

Many of us attend “church”. We recite in unison. We affirm belief in compassion. Following which, many of us “accept” levels of corruption so long as the consequences, the actual disruption and suffering, is “out of sight, out of mind”.

Does one wave arms and prance in passionate speech delivery? Or does one withdraw and weep!

Here’s an interview link on what’s happening in Appalachia, along with some websites referenced by the interviewee, Rob Perks. See also You Tube video documentaries, and run a searches for sites; also, several documentary films are available.

http://www.electricpolitics.com/podcast/, interview with Rob Perks, of the Natural Resources Defense Council (approx. 1 hr.)

http://www.mountainjusticesummer.org/facts/steps.php, downloadable fact sheet, step by step description of process, more …

http://www.nrdc.org/energy/coal/mtr/ no more mountain top removal details, video, fact sheets, …

http://www.appvoices.org/index.php?/site/mtr_overview/ Appalachian voices on the experience of mountain top removal. …

http://www.ohvec.org/galleries/mountaintop_removal/007/ Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

Mountain top removal, like universal health care, like questionable to downright dishonest warring, to government by lobby interest groups, to other issues that confront us, are nothing more, nothing less, than the outcome of inability to practice critical questioning with goal of maximum honorability.

 “Think Up!!” (We can do better than this!) – MaggieAnn


About maggieannthoeni

A description once given of me was "rooted in the earth while roaming the stars" - and this has felt 'right'. I believe in something akin to this for each of us. I am a passionate supporter of discovering the autonomous self while serving the whole as primary intent. I believe in discovery of innate principles, clearing the overlay of socialization that obscures this from us. I believe it is our responsibility to leave no one behind - most particularly to respond to suffering as best we can whereever we find it, whenever we are made aware. I believe in this for the insect as well as the most magnificent form of humanity. I believe in brother/sisterhood without boundary. I believe in righteous indignation when it is appropriate, but do not believe in an enemy. I believe in consciousness, in intelligence, in logic, in rationality, in emotion, in transcendence - and am convinced until we generally practice explore and honor all this in ourselves, we remain profoundly immature. (I believe real maturity is known and practiced by many young children, and not enough adults!)
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2 Responses to I Acknowledge Coal Country

  1. Isadore says:

    A young boy goes down the narrow rough hewn stairs to the celler and pauses to survey the large pile of anthracite coal piled reassuringly high in the coal bin, the minus forty degree wind howls outside, but here in the basement a huge old furnace blazes away holding the winter at bay and bringing the tropics to the old house in the midst of a brutal prairie blizzard. The boy slits a huge boulder of coal with a blackened axe and examines the imprint of a fern brought to light after eons of imprisonment, he imagines a steamy jungle in the far off past and wonders what creatures may have seen this fern so long ago. He fills the coal pail half full of small shiney chunks , opens the great maw of the furnace and dumps the coal on embers still glowing red he feels the heat on his face, and smiles contentedly knowing that he will warmly survive another prairie winter . He climbs back up the stairs offering a silent , wordless prayer of thanks, for the coal piled high in the cellar.

    He didn’t know how the coal got there, beyond the coal man and his horse drawn wagon, but as the years went by it became clear to him, that men and boys and little ponies ventured into the bowels of the earth and sweated and toiled , and died, in that stygian place to give him the coal that kept him alive all those winters…and he was even more thankful than before when as a boy he pried loose that ancient fern.

    There is more at stake here than just the profits of a few or the survival of a boy in the prairie winter. In the final analysis a few mountain tops may be a bargain price to pay for the benefits of the treasure they hoard,then again, maybe not.

    • maggieannthoeni says:

      This is part of the community arguing that is tearing “community” apart from what I gather. I really do not know this situation. The interview I listened to described more than “a few” mountain tops; some mining families argue with great emotion and energy that nothing previous is as dramatically horrific as what is going on now. There seem ‘earmarks’ of big money indifference to what conditions will be left behind; the region has a interesting and significant historical role in earth recovery following ‘post ice age’ times. I need to learn more and hope my post helps generate thoughtful and responsible interest. — Your coal/fossil story is wonderful! (The best I ever found turned out to be “fools gold” and it was such a disappointment!) -MA

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