Sandra Sleight-Brennan produced a three part series for the Environment Report on NPR about Mountaintop Removal which aired this week.  Part 3 of the series focused on the role that relgious groups play in the fight against MTR and features Christians for the Mountains.  Please check out the story.

http://www.ilovemountains.org has a great round-up of recent news surrounding the TVA spills in Tennessee and Alabama including various news articles, releases from TVA and other agencies, fact sheets on fly ash, coal waste, ecological risk, etc, photographs, and videos. Thank you ilovemountains for putting together this wonderful resource page.  Please check it out here.

Congressman Nick Rahall from southern WV, who also serves as the House Chairman of Natural Resources, is calling for federal regulations concerning coal ash dams.  Check out the Charleston Gazette article here.  But what good will this do? It is already painfully obvious that countless rules and regulation that are supposed to govern coal extraction and plants are not followed.  Furthermore, what use is a regulation with no one to enforce it?  Doesn’t the “P” in EPA and DEP stand for protection? Better yet, outlaw this sort of containment all together.  By using the dry-press method, there is no need for ponds that may potentially bust and release toxins. The slightly higher processing fee is worth protecting health and safety. Hopefully the tragedies in Harriman, Tennessee and at the Widow’s Creek plant in Alabama will serve as a wakeup call for policy makers, the new Presidential administration, and the American people that something needs to be done. Just think about the children that attend  Marsh Fork Elementary in southern WV. The school sits just “225 feet from a coal loading silo that releases chemical-laden coal dust and 400 yards from a 385 foot tall leaking sludge dam with a nearly 3 billion gallon capacity.” (Pennies of Promise) This is not the same material released at the TVA site, but is still extremely toxic and poses a tremendous threat.  Many of the children already suffer from nosebleeds, asthma, headaches, and much more. Just think of the unimaginable tragedy that would occur if this containment pond were to break as well.

In some cases, certain types of regulations create negative impacts on other ecological and health issues.  For example, The second TVA disaster in AL last Friday concerned Gypsum which is used as a “scrubber”, chemicals that are used in coal burning power plants to pull sulfur dioxide from the emissions in order to meet clean air standards. While this is good for the air, it creates a by-product that must be disposed of somehow, and in this case the gypsum spilled into the Tennessee river and damaged the water.  Regulations need to be formulated in a holistic manner and be truly enforced with severe consequences if not followed.

Is this what God had in mind when he called us to tend to his garden?  We must use what God has given us in responsible ways, and it is a possibility.  What is also very disturbing about these recent disasters is that they could have been prevented. There are methods in place to limit risk, but of course sometimes added safety  may mean an added cost. We must ask ourselves, what is best for the future of God’s creation- the environment and his children? In the long run, what has a higher cost, a small amount of money added to each ton to ensure, in multiple facets, a more ethical practice, OR the cost of cleaning up a major environmental disaster, the impact on health, safety, and ecosystems, and the cost of defiling God’s gift to humanity?

We must take action in order to protect our families, environment, and future.

  • Share this news with your friends and family.  Educate them and yourself about the TVA disasters.  Let them know that there are many other sites in similar danger.
  • Write or call your congressmen as well as those in affected areas.
  • Advocate for clean energy and responsible mining, processing, and containment behaviors.  One way you can do this is by pledging to make a call to the White House on Jan 21. the national call-in day hosted by CLEAN.  See previous post for details or just go here to sign up.

Wild Wonderful WV

The above picture is how many people are greeted into WV for the first the first time.  Do you think that this is what they expect to see in a Wild and Wonderful land?

view from Kayford Mountain

view from Kayford Mountain

On November 6-9, Christians for the Mountains and Restoring Eden: Christians for Environmental Stewardship put on the event Shoutin’ For the Mountains, a Mountain Top Removal Coal Mining Witness tour.  We were very fortunate to have a wonderful group of around 30 students from Christian Colleges all over the country.  Calvin College, Cleveland State University, Eastern University, Grace College, Northern Illinois University, Spring Arbor University, Trinity College and Waynesburg College were  all represented by committed, passionate students that are now ready to be advocates for the Appalachian Mountains and share their experiences with the world.  A High School youth group from Morrow Memorial United Methodist Church in Maplewood, New Jersey also got the chance to join us for part of the road trip throughout the southern coalfields of West Virginia.

It was a very action packed and educational weekend. By meeting with a variety of community members and listening to their struggles, the students got to experience many of the devestating issues that that arise due to Mountain Top Removal such as  poor water quality,  health issues, and  negative impacts on communities. The students also came away with a knowledge of the history of coal mining and union struggles in West Virginia. Participants visited Kayford Mountain, Coal River Mountain, Prenter, Sylvester, Whitesville, Marsh Fork Elementary School, Blair Mountain, Rawl Church of God, Red Jacket, and Matewan.

The students now have a deeper understanding of how Appalachia is involved in America’s energy consumption and have made new connections as to how that pertains to their faith. Now every time they flick on a light  switch, they will remember those communities and individuals that pay the high cost for energy in America.

By the end of the trip, many of the students were already developing plans of action to take back to their colleges and  get more people involved in the struggle to stop Mountain Top Removal and protect coal field communities. It was wonderful to see a group of passionate and committed students that spent a weekend delving in to a rich cultural area that is often misunderstood and overlooked.  Especially in an important time in America’s history where the political landscape is changing and open for new directions, it is great to see that a new generation of advocates for the mountains is springing up and working on how to protect and preserve the Appalachian Mountains, people, and way of life.

Blair Mountain Kayford Mountain

Check your local bookstores or favorite online seller in October for The Green Bible which is being released by Harper One, a division of Harper Collins Publishing. This Bible is a New Revised Standard Version green letter edition with passages referring to the care of God’s creation highlighted in green.  This is a truly extraordinary version and features an introduction and essays from a wide array of respected religious leaders and thinkers such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Wendell Berry, Mathew Sleeth, Barbara Brown Taylor, N.T. Wright, and many others. Other features include a historical overview on Christian teachings of creation, a green subject index, study guides that reference scriptures dealing with environmental themes, and a resource guide that gives you ideas on how to be a better steward of God’s creation.  Another interesting aspect of this Bible is that it has a 100% cotton/linen cover, is printed on recycled paper with soy-based ink, and is produced in a green-friendly environment.

For more information visit The Green Bible’s website

Please check out the video below from the publishers that explains the Bible’s powerful message for the Earth and features interviews that highlight the general perception about what the Bible has to say about caring for the environment.

Please check out the wonderful YouTube video below produced by the Sierra Club. It illustrates how the destruction of mountains in Appalachia through the process of Mountain Top Removal is a spiritual and moral dilemma. This short video spotlights Christians that are motivated by their faith to take action against the anihillation of God’s mountains. Also featured in this clip is Christians for the Mountains Intern Sage Russo. The video lays out actions that persons of faith can take to show love for their Creator and become a better steward of God’s planet.  The Sierra Club has done some great work in partnering with faith communities. Please take a look at the work they are doing with church groups fighting against Mountain Top Removal and care of God’s creation as whole.

“I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable.”   Jerimiah 2:7

“Let him who possesses a field, so partake of its yearly fruits that he does not suffer the ground to be injured by his negligence, but let him endeavor to hand it down to posterity as he received it, or even better cultivated.  Let him so feed on its fruits that he neither dissipates it by luxury, not permits it to be marred or ruined by neglect.  Moreover, that this economy, and this diligence, with respect to those good things which God has given us to enjoy, may flourish among us, let everyone regard himself as the steward of God in all things which he possesses.  Then he will neither conduct himself dissolutely, nor corrupt by abuse those things which God requires to be preserved.”

John Calvin

Commentary on Genesis, chapter 2:15; translated from the first Latin edition, 1578, English translation of 1847, reprinted by Banner of Truth Publishers, 1965  excerpt from A Cloud of Witnesses by Frederick W. Krueger

God calls each and every one of us to be stewards of the earth. Does this resemble stewardship to you?

photo courtesy of Vivian Stockman OVEC

view from Kayford Mountain; photo courtesy of Vivian Stockman OVEC

You may be asking yourself, but what can I do to be a better steward?  Surely I cannot help stop the powerful forces behind the destruction of our mountains. There are plenty of ways that you as an individual can take  a stand!

Share the atrocities with your friends, neighbors, and church community. Let them know exactly what is going on in the Appalachian Mountains. The only way we can create a generation of stewards is by educating people about the devastation that is taking place and by laying out the impact that the damage has on people, wildlife, the environment, and God’s creation in general.

Conserve energy.  Become part of the solution by cutting down on the amount of energy that you use. Taking this step will also help you save money on your energy bill. Kilowatt Ours is a great film by Jeff Barrie that examines the sources of energy in our country and explores the dangers of coal-generated electricity. On the film’s website there is a great wealth of information on steps you can take to cut down your consumption and save on your bill.  http://kilowattours.org/ There is also another site affiliated with the film that allows you to count your kilowatts and show how you are conserving energy.  Once you enter your statistics, it calculates your annual savings in money, pounds of coal, and CO2 emissions.  http://countyourkilowatts.com/

Stand up for the mountains!  Let your senators and representatives know that mountain top removal, and other practices that degrade God’s mountains, must end. Let your energy provider know that you would like to see them start using sustainable energy. The We Can Solve It campaign has some great resources on steps you can take to make your power company carbon-free.  They even have a little slip that you can include with your next power bill that states how you expect them to start including more renewable energy.  Check out the resource page at http://www.wecansolveit.org/content/pages/291/

These are only a few of the possibilities of ways that you can become a better steward.  I encourage you to post your own ideas or share steps that you have taken in the direction of caring for God’s creation.