“Mountaintop removal is an act of aggression. Civil disobedience is an act of love.”
– Terry Tempest Williams
A mountaintop insurrection is underway in Kentucky, and it’s got be on Gov. Steve Beshear’s mind this week.
As we contemplate Gandhi’s adage, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win,” it’s painfully obvious that the governor is trying to ignore the Appalachian uprising unfolding in his backyard this election year. He’s seen how the insurrection in West Virginia has turned mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining into a national issue and pulled Big Coal out from under their safe little rock, and he evidently wants no part of it.
This morning after a four-day occupation of the governor’s office in Frankfort, 14 Kentucky anti-MTR activists emerged victoriously from the state capitol to join a crowd of well over a thousand people at the annual “I Love Mountains” march and protest. Kentucky Rising was a group comprised of writers, academics, a film-maker, a retired coal miner, a nurse practitioner who treats miners, community organizers, a graduate student, and others who’d staged a sit-in demanding an end to mountaintop removal. The group refused to leave Beshear’s office after he’d expressed his die-hard support for the coal industry and MTR.
Author Wendell Berry participated in the sit-in and said: “We came because the land, its forests, and its streams are being destroyed by the surface mining of coal, because the people are suffering intolerable harms to their homes, their health, and their communities.”
Kentucky Rising garnered international support from Argentina, Germany and Canada, as well as from a host of renowned writers including Bill McKibben, Michael Pollan, Terry Tempest Williams and Naomi Klein, and other Appalachian communities in West Virginia, Tennessee and Virginia.
Beshear told his security team to “let them stay as long as they want.” But he can’t ignore Kentucky Rising forever, and I have a feeling that this sit-in is just the beginning for a growing, ferocious movement in Kentucky to end MTR. Kentuckians and Appalachians will be back again and again through ridicule and struggle to abolish mountaintop removal.
The governor had better buckle his seat belt because it is going to be a bumpy ride.