Thursday, April 8, 2010

The True Cost of Coal

Zeph Fishlyn of The Beehive Collective

Beatriz Mendoza of The Beehive Collective

The incident that killed 25 miners (and most likely 4 others who have yet to be accounted for) is a tragedy that has weighed heavily on me this week. I'd like to highlight local people who have been creatively involved in bringing to light the pitfalls of coal mining -- a practise which is responsible for environmental devastations like mountain top removal, sludge waste and C02 emissions. It also damages Appalachian communities by employing non union workers, and causing work-related injuries and illnesses. Miners’ Families Grapple With the News, and the Pain; NY Times 04/06/10

Last year I had the opportunity of seeing Jeff Biggers, author of The United States of Appalachia, speak about the importance of preserving the crafting traditions of Appalachia as a way of preserving Appalachian culture. “The use of craft is part of the art of our lives,” he said and pointed out how the craft and story-making traditions of Appalachia are currently being threatened by coal mining practices that displace people and local resources.
Crafting a tradition: by Ursula Gullow in Vol. 15 / Iss. 45 on 06/03/2009 of Mountain Xpress

Biggers was recently interviewed by CNN's Kiran Chetry and asserted the need to hold Massey Energy accountable for it's abuses. He called for "immediate action from the Obama administration" and from regulators. "I think we have to get beyond this mentality that a crisis is never a crisis until we validate it with some sort of disaster."
Read the full article and watch the video:

On a local level, filmmakers Francine Cavanaugh and Adams Wood have been producing On Coal River, a film that explores a grassroots movement to relocate an elementary school that sits directly beneath a 2.8 billion gallon sludge pond. A campaign to get clean water pumped into the community, since the local water supplies are contaminated with run-off, is also featured. The film is powerful in that it shows how much red tape the activists must endure to get their voices heard. Empty promises made by officials including Governor Joe Manchin III, Senator Robert Byrd, governmental health and safety departments, illustrates the relationship between corporate entities and government without being overly didactic. The film also effectively demonstrates how "clean coal" technology is anything but clean since it employs hazardous chemicals and leaves toxic byproducts. On Coal River is in it's final stages of production but you can watch the trailer at

The Beehive Collective is also on a campaign to raise awareness of hazardous coal mining practices through it's artful renderings of the industry's effects on the environment and communities. The collective is currently established in Asheville as it researches and develops The True Cost of Coal, a collection of graphic images meant to be distributed freely for public educational efforts.
Please visit their website for a great deal more information about this talented bunch.

At least 60% of energy expended in North Carolina is from coal. Please turn off your lights and appliances when you're not using them, and encourage the development of alternative energy sources like solar and wind power.

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