Pages tagged "water'"

5 Photos That Show Why Barclays Bank Must Stop Financing Mountain Destruction

Barclays, the British banking giant, is the number one financier of companies engaged in mountaintop removal mining for coal.

Often referred to as MTR, mountaintop removal is a horrendous practice that destroys mountains, poisons water supplies and hurts communities. That's why more than 19,000 Rainforest Action Members have sent messages to Barclays demanding the drop MTR financing and is one reason protests confronted the banks annual share holder meeting in London this week.

Barclays executives should take a good long look at these photos. Maybe then they'll stop investing in mountain destruction.

Paul Corbit Brown MTR image

MTR uses explosives to literally blow off the tops of mountains and get the coal underneath.

MTR site

Hundreds of thousands of acres of beautiful mountains and forest are being destroyed in central Appalachia by companies using MTR.

Contaminated Stream

The rubble from mountaintop removal mining is then pushed into valleys where local streams and water sources are contaminated.

Contaminate Well Water

Hundreds of families have had their wells destroyed by nearby mining practices. Cancer, birth defects, heart and long disease and shortened life spans plague communities near MTR sites.

Polluted vs. Clean

The difference between contaminated and clean water can be stark. It is time for Barclays to get on the right side of history and stop financing companies that poison water.

Photos by Paul Corbit Brown.

All Our Water is Going to a Plant We Don’t Eat to Support a Diet We Don’t Need.

2013 went down as the driest year in California’s recorded history.  A major reservoir outside of Sacramento has been reduced from 83% to 36% capacity in just over 2 years.  In the Central Valley, 1,200 square miles of land is sinking at a rate of 11 inches a year from the drilling of groundwater.  And the annual measure of the Sierra Nevada snowmelt done every April 1st indicates that the end isn’t in sight.

In this time of drought, we are often encouraged to reduce our water intake by taking fewer and shorter showers, and to not water our lawns and wash our cars.  But is that where we Californians use a majority of our water?  Surprisingly, an upwards of 80% of our developed water supply (water designated for human use) goes towards agriculture.  Some of it to grow tomatoes, broccoli, potatoes…  but most of it goes to alfalfa.

Yes.  Alfalfa.

Why alfalfa? Because alfalfa is what we feed dairy cows and beef cattle.  This crop drinks up more of our water than any other, and is used to sustain the 5.25 million cows that call California home.   Alfalfa isn’t just used on factory farms and dairies, it’s also used as a filler on grass-fed, pastured cows.

So how much water do we use to produce a plant we don’t eat, to fatten cows for an environmentally destructive diet we don’t really need?


According to a study by Mekonnen and Hoekstra, it takes 1700 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef, 660 gallons of water for one pound of pork, and 264 gallons of water for one pound of chicken.  The University of California Alfalfa Workgroup states it takes 683 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk.

This isn’t an isolated incident here in California.  As climate change increases and our water sources dry up, we are seeing this play out all over the world.  However, we have an easy fix at our fingertips. By reducing our meat intake by half, we reduce our water footprint by 30%.  But why stop there?  Switch to a plant-based diet and you’ll be reducing it by over 60%.

In the spirit of Earth Day, let’s look for new innovative ways to sustain the planet and those we share it with - let’s cut the bull and eat a plant-based diet.

"Without clean water, we cannot survive."

RAN is proud to be an original supporter of ClearWater, which has launched an incredible new website today. Here are a few words from our friends at Amazon Watch about the important work ClearWater is doing and how you can get involved. "Without clean water, we cannot survive," Emergildo Criollo told me recently. You may have heard of Emergildo. An indigenous leader of the Cofan Nation in Ecuador's northern Amazon, he has been a relentless advocate for his people, speaking out about oil giant Chevron's toxic legacy in his territory. But today, even as he continues the fight to hold Chevron accountable, Emergildo isn't waiting for a cleanup that seems always on the horizon. Emergildo is taking matters into his own hands, helping to bring clean water to thousands of Indigenous people who have suffered without for decades. Rainforest Action Network is proud to stand with Emergildo, and the other Indigenous leaders who are part of an effort to address that dire need. It's called The ClearWater Project.


ClearWater began with a big goal: provide safe, sustainable access to clean water for every Indigenous family in the region, whose ancestral waterways have been poisoned by oil production and ensuing industrialization. In just two years, ClearWater has installed more than 500 family-sized rainwater harvesting and filtration systems that serve thousands of people in communities that have long suffered an epidemic of cancer, birth defects, and other illnesses that numerous health studies in the region blame on a lack of access to safe sources of water for drinking, bathing, and cooking. Our efforts have been able to make this impact because, from the beginning, ClearWater has been a collaborative partnership between the five indigenous nationalities here—the Cofan, Siona, Secoya, Kichwa, and Waorani—and international supporters, such as water engineers, humanitarians, activists, and philanthropists. ClearWater believes in collaborative, integrative, community-led solutions, where someone like Emergildo is coordinating amongst the different Indigenous nationalities to install new water systems, local youth are using GPS to map their biological and cultural resources, and frontline leaders are learning new media techniques to broadcast their concerns to the world. Clean water, health, and dignity. From this foundation, Emergildo and the Indigenous people of Ecuador's northern Amazon are building a movement for rainforest protection and cultural survival. I’m proud that Rainforest Action Network is a founding partner in this project, and I hope you’ll join us, too. Explore ClearWater's impact by navigating around this cutting-edge interactive map designed by another Amazon Watch family member, Gregor MacLennan, now Digital Democracy's Program Director. Learn more about ClearWater on our website or find us on Facebook and Twitter.
han-headshot   Han Shan is an Amazon Watch Advisory Board Member.

INFOGRAPHIC: 12 reasons to reject Keystone XL

It’s not a matter of if Keystone XL will spill, but when. Pipelines carrying tar sands have a horrible track record. In early 2013, 80,000 gallons of tar sands crude devastated a residential neighborhood in Mayflower, AK. And 2010 saw the worst oil spill in Michigan State history when a tar sands pipeline spilled 900,000 gallons into the Kalamazoo River. TransCanada, the company building Keystone XL, might have the worst record of any pipeline company. Its Keystone 1 pipeline, the predecessor to Keystone XL, spilled 12 times the first year after its construction. Preventing this kind of spill is one reason why everyone needs to speak up and tell Secretary of State John Kerry that Keystone XL is not in our national interest. It’s also not just when the pipeline will spill, but where. Keystone XL runs over Nebraska’s Ogallala Aquifer*—one of the world’s largest underground aquifers, providing 30% of the nation’s groundwater used for irrigation and drinking water to millions. An oil spill in the Ogallala would be devastating. But don’t take my word for it. Heather Libby at TckTckTck and Emma Pullman from DeSmog Blog made this excellent infographic to illustrate the point. Check it out: Keystone XL Infographic TAKE ACTION: Tell Sec. John Kerry to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. *Since this infographic was published, Nebraskans successfully organized to reroute Keystone XL to protect the fragile Sand Hills area. But the pipeline still threatens the Oglalla Aquifer.

Field Report: Engineers Without Borders Team Inspects ClearWater Systems In Ecuador, Day 4

This is part four of a series. Read part one here, part two here, and part three here. San Pablo San Pablo, about 2 hours upriver by canoe from Cofan Dureno, is a Secoya community—though they’ve recently voted to re-adopt their traditional name, Sia’Copai, so I should say it's a Sia’Copai community. Here's what it looks like to ride in a canoe down the Aguarico with the ClearWater crew and the Engineers Without Borders team from San Jose State University: [youtube Lo2VN_kDVbw 550] The Sia'Copai had a road built through their community fairly recently. Mitch said that when he first visited San Pablo, they didn’t have the road, and their whole lifestyle was built around the river. Now that the road has gone in, they are a motorcycle community. Everyone has a motorcycle. Like Cofan Dureno, San Pablo received ClearWater systems as part of the pilot project. While the systems have made a huge difference in many people’s lives in San Pablo, proper maintenance has been more of an issue for them than it has for the Cofan, which points up one of the challenges we face as we try to roll out ClearWater to the remaining communities that need it. [caption id="attachment_19697" align="alignnone" width="550" caption="Kevin Koenig of Amazon Watch and Jason Graham of the San Jose State University chapter of Engineers Without Borders inspect the filters in a ClearWater system in San Pablo."][/caption] We visited the house of Javier Piaguaje, who received one of the ClearWater systems. He lives with his father and two sisters, as well as two pet monkeys, a tortoise, and a cockatiel. They’re all very pleased with the clean, potable water they’re getting from their system. [caption id="attachment_19696" align="alignnone" width="550" caption="Javier Piaguaje shows the Engineers Without Borders team his ClearWater system."][/caption] Javier took us out to the community water system, which stopped functioning years ago. No one is sure why. There’s a newer, smaller system that was installed just a few years ago, which functions better than the community systems in Rumipamba and Cofan Dureno—that is, when there's gas to run the pump. When there isn’t gas, the people of the village have to get their water from the river, which is contaminated. And even when it is working, the community system isn’t piped out to people’s homes, so they have to walk from all points of the community to this central point to get water. In other words, a sustainable supply of resources is still an issue preventing the people of San Pablo from getting enough clean water. At this point, my camera died, so while I went back to recharge it, the engineers went off to speak with a couple more community members about how their ClearWater systems are working out. I took the opportunity to sneak in a quick swim in the river. Unlike in Dureno, the riverside here was all sand, no rocks. It was such fine, soft sand that you could sink all the way up to your knee on any given step. But the water was cold and felt delicious after the sweaty, insect-harried afternoon I’d had. Turned out to be just the right time of day to photograph the river, too: Dinner that night was in the house of Marcelo, the vice president of the community. His wife and kids could not have been more hospitable as the nine of us took over their small living room and front porch. [caption id="attachment_19699" align="alignnone" width="550" caption="The crew sits on the front porch and in the front room of Marcelo's house eating dinner."][/caption]

Field Report: Engineers Without Borders Team Inspects ClearWater Systems In Ecuador, Day 1

Coca and Rumipamba – July 30 We spent one night in Coca, at the Hotel Auca, before embarking out into the Indigenous villages of Cofan Dureno and San Pablo in the Amazon. "Auca" is apparently a racist name for the Huaorani. It's another tribe's word for “savage”, and the white men who built the hotel were so amused by the fact that another tribe referred to the Huaorani that way that they gave the hotel that name. We returned to the Quechua community of Rumipamba for a second day to see the ongoing clean up effort behind Guillermo Grefa’s house (read about our first day in Rumipamba here). The word “tragic” leaps to mind immediately—after two years of cleanup, they’ve still only cleaned about 40 square meters of land. Even more tragic, here’s how the cleanup works: Two workers put on rubber waders, gas masks, and gloves, walk out into the water, and use high-pressure hoses to stir up the mud at the bottom of the pond. This causes the oil that has settled there to rise back to the surface. Then workers on the shore skim the oil off the top and drop it in buckets which then get emptied into barrels, which PetroEcuador eventually comes and hauls away. None of the workers on the shore wear gas masks. [caption id="attachment_19556" align="alignnone" width="550" caption="Workers use high-pressure hoses to stir up mud on bottom of pond, causing the oil to float to the top. You can see the black ring of oil all around the workers."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_19557" align="alignnone" width="550" caption="A worker hands a giant clump of mud and oil to another worker. Note the one on the right is not wearing a gas mask."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_19558" align="alignnone" width="550" caption="Even though the oil spill behind Guillermo Grefa's house happened about 30 years ago, plenty of oil still readily floats to the top of the pond seconds after the workers start spraying the hoses."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_19559" align="alignnone" width="550" caption="Workers on the shore skim the oil off the surface of the pond, then dump it into these buckets."][/caption] These Quechua people may be cleaning their land—slowly if not altogether surely—but it’s hard to imagine that they’re making themselves any healthier in the process. After Guillermo’s house, we toured the community water system built by the local Orellana municipal government, which isn’t functioning properly. Some people still get water from it, but they don’t have the chemicals to treat it properly—those ran out a few months after the system was built, and the government doesn’t provide the community with any more. The system uses gravity to get the water out to the community, but due to poor design it doesn’t reach everyone. Guillermo, for instance, doesn't even live that far from the system, but he only gets a little bit of water from it, not nearly enough for him and his family during the dry summer months. [caption id="attachment_19566" align="alignnone" width="550" caption="The engineer team, along with the president of the Quechua community (left) and ClearWater's Mitch Anderson (right) tour the community water system."][/caption] Because the community water system no longer provides clean water to most people, many families are drinking from wells they’ve drilled themselves, which have never been tested for contamination, or from surface water sources known to be contaminated by oil. The community members lack the expertise and the resources to fix the community water system, and perhaps were never terribly motivated to fix it because it never reached all the houses in the community anyway. Still, the Engineers Without Borders team (from the San Jose State University chapter) felt that fixing the community water system might be a good part of the solution to the lack of clean water, along with rainwater catchment systems. We climbed to the top of the water towers. It was a nice view, unless you were facing in the direction where you could see smoke from gas flares in the distance, or the drilling rig soaring above the forest canopy. The day before, Guillermo had told us that his rainwater catchment system (not a ClearWater system, but built by a previous effort to bring rainwater catchment systems to communities suffering the impacts of Texaco’s oil pollution), was mostly working well, except in summer months when there wasn’t enough rain to keep it filled. Also, even though the system was only put in a few years ago and has several years of life left, the wooden framework it was built on is already starting to succumb to the harsh rainforest environment, pretty much melting away under the relentless assault of rain, humidity, and heat. The community water system might help meet this summer shortfall, but there's still the problem of the wooden structure's short lifespan. The EWB team inquired about the availability of concrete, which could be used for the structures instead of wood, and also said that a “first flush” system would be needed, since there was gas flaring in the area and they were concerned that particulate matter could be settling onto the house’s roof. A first flush system, they explained, would cause the first bit of rainwater passing across the roof not to go into the catchment system’s storage tank, thereby flushing any toxic particulate matter off the roof before collection of rainwater begins. After Rumpamba, we did one of the famous “Toxitours” as led by Donald Moncayo. When I first met Donald at the airport in Coca, I told him “He visto a muchos photos de ti”—“I’ve seen many photos of you.” When he reacted with some surprise to this, I told him, “Pues, tu eres famoso!” Donald got a good laugh out of being told he was famous—and, as I would discover, laughter is something that comes very easily to Donald and many of the other residents of the oil-ravaged Ecuadorean Amazon. But it was actually true: I have seen many pictures of Donald, because he is somewhat famous. The number of journalists, researchers, scientists, and other folks who have taken a Toxitour probably cannot be counted. He has been written about in numerous publications, and photographed and videotaped, I’d guess, as much as any celebrity. Much like when I first witnessed the oil pollution at Guillermo Grefa’s house, it was an entirely new, authentically moving experience to see the Toxitour for myself. Chevron lawyers have claimed that Donald goes out the night before a Toxitour and buries the oil he then digs up for his audience. This is absurd, of course. Donald took us out by the Sacha Sur separation station within the Sacha oil field. Right across the street is an old drill site, and Donald only had to dig down a few feet with his augur before the mud took on a distinct petroleum odor. When he hit a rock or something else that wouldn’t allow him to go any further, he moved over a couple feet and again was pulling up petroleum-smelling mud after just a few feet. [caption id="attachment_19554" align="alignnone" width="550" caption="Donald Moncayo with his augur. He only had to drill down a few feet before the mud started smelling like oil."][/caption] Donald then took us down a short jungle trail to the bank of a small creek. There was oil plainly visible on the top of the water. Donald picked up a shovelful of mud from the creek’s bank and it was all oily black. He told us that this was one of the creeks that Texaco deliberately dumped billions of gallons of toxic oil waste into, and that he had had “the pleasure” of trekking some 800 meters down the creek to witness the extent of the damage. [caption id="attachment_19555" align="alignnone" width="550" caption="Donald with a shovelful of mud he dug from the creek's bottom. It's clearly all oily black."][/caption] While walking back to our van, we noticed some poles sticking out of the ground in what was otherwise jungle. Donald told us that those used to be the stilts that Maria Garrafolo’s house sat on. You might have seen her in the movie Crude—she’s the woman taking her teenage daughter into the city to be treated for cancer. It’s probably no wonder her daughter had such a severe illness at such a young age—she literally grew up in the flickering shadows cast by the three gas flares at the separation station next door. PetroEcuador has since moved Maria Garrafolo and her daughter, and the jungle has reclaimed the site her house once stood on. [caption id="attachment_19565" align="alignnone" width="550" caption="Two wooden posts still stand to mark the spot where Maria Garrafolo's house once stood."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_19561" align="alignnone" width="550" caption="The gas flares of Sacha Sur."][/caption] So, now we'd seen the problem: extensive oil contamination and insufficient supply of clean drinking water. We still had a little bit of Toxitour left, but we would soon see the solution: ClearWater.

In Chevron RICO Suit Against Amazonians, Who's The Real Gangster?

This post originally appeared on the San Francisco Chronicle's City Brights blog. Have you ever seen the movies Erin Brokovich or The Rainmaker? Basic plotline: evil company dumps poison into town's drinking water, for years people get sick while the company denies any wrongdoing, but then someone decides it's time to fight back. The big company has a band of lawyers and dirty tricks up its sleeve. But, in the end, the community wins. The underdog town prevails and restores our belief that bullies, even the rich and powerful, don't win in the end. Let's hope the upcoming verdict in a landmark case against Chevron — brought by an Ecuadorean community in the Amazon for decades of drinking water contamination — has the same victorious end. Unfortunately, right now all I see is a big, rich company and a lot of dirty legal tricks. This week, Chevron slapped the Ecuadorean community and their lawyers with a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) suit. Congress enacted the RICO Act in 1970 in an effort to rein in the Mafia. That's right — Chevron is accusing a remote rainforest community in the Amazon of racketeering. Chevron's Toxic Legacy in the Ecuadorean Amazon Ines Suarez, 33, and her daughter Angie Christina Castillo Suarez, 2, outside their home near San Carlos, Ecuador. Angie and her family suffer severe health problems from drinking water contaminated by the oil waste that was dumped into local watercourses when Texaco (now Chevron) drilled for oil in the area. Photo by Caroline Bennett / Rainforest Action Network. View more images of Chevron's Toxic Legacy in the Ecuadorean Rainforest. Quick straw poll: between the multi-billion dollar oil company and the Indigenous rainforest community in Ecuador, who do you think has more in common with a gangster? The company's attempts to deflect attention from the overwhelming evidence of its guilt in polluting the Ecuadorean Amazon is looking as desperate as a Mafia Boss running from tax evasion. As the New York Times put it:
Chevron Corp.'s racketeering likely part of a wider strategy aimed at helping the oil giant reach a more favorable settlement, according to legal experts. A judge in Ecuador is close to issuing a decision in the long-running case there, and Chevron is becoming ever more desperate to undermine the plaintiffs in U.S. courts. The company could face billions of dollars in damages, potentially making the case the biggest environmental verdict of all time.
Chevron is facing a multi-billion dollar lawsuit in Ecuador after failing to properly clean up billions of gallons of toxic oil waste the company dumped in the Amazon. The lawsuit has been ongoing for eighteen years, and during that time many have died from toxic exposure. What is at stake for the people in Ecuador is the cleanup and remediation of a fragile eco-system that the community depends on for their basic survival. What's at stake is justice. For Chevron the stakes include the billions of dollars in assessed damages, the company's self-ascribed do-gooder reputation, and a precedent for how corporations are held accountable for environmental and human rights crimes. The precedent this case will set for corporate accountability explains why it is the environmental lawsuit that scholars, advocates and the industry are closely watching. With so much on the line for Chevron, the company is ramping up its efforts to absolve itself of any liability, including prosecuting the very victims its actions have harmed. Ultimately, Chevron's executives and lawyers have shown that they are willing to do whatever it takes to avoid responsibility for cleaning up the oily mess left in the Amazon, a mess that is making people seriously sick. The RICO suit is the latest in a growing list of corporate bullying efforts aimed at discrediting the case and the affected communities. Chevron's aim: to shroud the case with enough suspicion and controversy that, should the court rule in favor of the Amazonian communities, a guilty judgment would be difficult to enforce in the U.S. or other countries where Chevron has assets. Basically, even if the company is found guilty, which its recent behavior seems to indicate is likely, the oil giant has positioned itself to avoid paying a cent. So, who's the real gangster here? The Chevron Godfathers with their team of fancy legal consiglieres and PR wise guys, engaged in a whole host of cons and intimidation tactics? Or the Ecuadorean plaintiffs, who are largely poor, forest villagers who have literally seen their families and neighbors poisoned? It's hopeful to remember that the movie Erin Brokovich was based on a real person and a real story. Dirty companies making people sick is not just a Hollywood phenomenon. Luckily, neither is justice.

Forget the Black Gold, Just Clean Water Please

Chevron Protest, Lago Agrio EcuadorI’m sitting opposite the ‘Hotel Black Gold’ as the sun goes down over Lago Agrio and the streets start to hum with evening traffic, people returning home from work and families out walking together. It’s hard to believe that just a few short hours ago this street was filled with hundreds of indigenous people and peasant farmers loudly, passionately protesting Chevron’s (which became synonymous with Texaco when the two companies merged) continued refusal to clean up the toxic mess that they left behind almost twenty years ago. One man held a sign that said bluntly: “My family was killed by cancer, Texaco”. DSC_0389 As Chevron works overtime to complicate, undermine and even corrupt the trial that is very likely to find them guilty of health and environmental damages to the tune of $27 billion, the resistance of the affected people grows stronger and more determined. The crowd marched from three directions and converged on the courthouse, where a member of one of the Indigenous group approached the doors to ask if he and four spiritual elders could enter to perform a cleansing ceremony. DSC_0350The guard refused, saying (with a straight face and not a hint of irony) that it was impossible because the men would need to light tobacco and that might contaminate the inside of the courthouse. Undeterred, the elders from the Cofan, Siona and Secoya peoples performed their ceremony for the crowds on the street, grinding and drinking the bitter yoco root to give them all strength and renewed determination to fight Chevron. Walking in the streets with these people was powerful and achingly painful at the same time – almost all of them are living without access to clean drinking water and many of them can’t afford to buy bottled water. I watched as an elderly indigenous woman drank deeply from a plastic water bottle that had been handed to her by one of the Frente (the coalition of groups working to fight Chevron and represent the affected peoples), wondering when the last time was that she had quenched her thirst without poisoning her body. It sounds dramatic, but it is no word of exaggeration to say that these people are dying. The indigenous groups are losing the last of their land and livelihoods and the peasant farmers are barely surviving on land that is growing more and more toxic as oil from the waste pits leaches out into streams and rivers. Is there any doubt about this? I don’t think so. Just two nights earlier, I was sitting in the lounge of our hotel in Quito when a clean-cut American man came into the room and began to work on his computer. I asked him what his business in Ecuador was and he replied that he was just here for a visit to the Galapagos Islands. But as it turns out, Rick is a biophysical chemist, specializing in cancer research. So I inquired without telling him why I wanted to know: “is there any way that there is NO connection between long-term exposure to crude oil and cancer”. I expected to get some scientific prevarication, but Rick didn’t even pause, not for a second. “No way at all” he said. Are you listening Chevron? These people need something very simple – clean water, free from crude oil residue. Or they will die.

Mother Gunnoe: Mountaintop Removal Organizer Wins Goldman "Environmental Nobel" Prize

Last night Maria Gunnoe received a Goldman Prize for her work to end mountain top removal coal mining (MTR) - and protect her home. This is an issue that we are all a part of and Maria believes that, as energy consumers, we have a responsibility to know where our electricity is coming from. “When you flip a switch on, there is a 52% chance that you are destroying the water, air and land of where I live.”  Read more about this amazing activist, who was a 2006 World Rainforest Awards recipient at RAN's annual shindig, REVEL. Jeff Biggers: Mother Gunnoe: Mountaintop Removal Organizer Wins Goldman "Environmental Nobel" Prize. "Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living" Mother Jones Listen here, King Coal. Maria "Mother" Gunnoe, a fearless community organizer for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition in West Virginia, whose home sits on the frontlines of an atrocious mountaintop removal operation in Boone County, has just been awarded the prestigious Goldman Prize. Considered the "Nobel prize for the environment," the award recognizes a grassroots leader on each continent and their extraordinary actions to protect the natural world and human rights. Gunnoe is the second anti-mountaintop removal activist in Appalachia to win the Goldman Prize in the last six years: West Virginian Judy Bonds was recognized in 2003 for her work against devastating strip mining operations in the Coal River Mountain area. Since 1997, when Gunnoe served as a volunteer on underground mine fires and air quality issues, the West Virginia and Cherokee native has been one of the most vocal advocates for justice in the Appalachian coalfields. Refusing to back down to numerous threats from King Coal thugs or leave her ancestral land, she has emerged as an inspiring heroine in the coalfields for the rest of the nation. In 2000, her house and orchards along the hills of her grandfather's homeplace became the frontlines for a mountaintop removal operation that would eventually lead to wide scale erosion, flooding and water contamination. Gunnoe's home has been flooded seven times in the last eight years. She writes: "The mountains are slipping into the hollow and in turn, it's washing by me, and [it's] flooding the people across from me. Everyone downstream from where that mountaintop removal site is gets flooded and their wells are contaminated. My well is contaminated. Can't drink my water. I buy on average about $250 worth of water a month, and that's on a slow month." Since President Jimmy Carter signed the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act in 1977, which shamefully recognized mountaintop removal as an approved mining technique, over 500 mountains have been clear cut and blown to bits in Appalachia, and an estimated 1,200 miles of streams have been jammed with mining waste. A frequent speaker around the nation, and a mother of two teens, Gunnoe has also pointed to the issue of human rights violations from mountaintop removal. In the essay collection, Like Walking onto Another Planet, she wrote: "People around here are swiggin' down contaminated water all day long, every day. The health affects are sometimes long-term. It's usually pancreatic cancer or some kind of liver disease, or kidney stones, gall stones - digestive tract problems. And then, too, people's breathing. The blasting is killin' people - just smotherin' them to death through breathin' all of the dust. The computers and electronics and stuff in my house stay completely packed up with black coal dirt and rock dust together. Why do they expect us to just take this? It's not gonna happen down at the state capital. I mean they're not gonna go up there and blast off the top of a mountain in the background of the Capitol." Here's a clip of Gunnoe describing the flooding at her home in Bob White, West Virginia For more information on Gunnoe and the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, see: And have a look at the official Goldman site - there's a great description of Maria, the issue and a video that really tells her story and her relationship to MTR in her community.

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