This note came from Dave Cooper, whose Mountaintop Removal Road Show made its way to Iowa along the way. There is no stauncher ally in advocating against mountaintop removal coal mining. Dave will be missed, but the work will go on.
Friends of the Appalachian Mountains,
After 9 years of traveling across America on the Mountaintop Removal Road Show, and after giving over 875 slide show presentations in 26 states to student, church and community groups about the destruction of the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia caused by mountaintop removal coal mining, I have decided to stop.
I was able to speak to tens of thousands of people over the past nine years – mostly college students – and I distributed nearly 4,000 free copies of my mountaintop removal DVD to students, teachers, public libraries and elected officials. I tabled at countless fairs and festivals, and distributed thousands of pamphlets and brochures about mountaintop removal. I mailed a monthly newsletter to over 25,000 people to keep them informed about important news and upcoming events. On the Mountain Justice You Tube channel that I created, I have gotten over 600,000 views. And images from my website have been featured in dozens of books, including several textbooks for school children.
I was fortunate to have many wonderful traveling companions with me on the road, but I will always remember fondly the time that I spent traveling with the late Larry Gibson and Judy Bonds. To all of the other folks who ever traveled with me, or helped set up speaking engagements, or hosted me in your home or fed me over the past nine years, I offer my sincere gratitude. It’s been a blast.
Doing the road show for nine years as an unpaid volunteer has had many rewards and I have made so many good friends, but it has also been mentally, physically and financially taxing. I have slept in cars, tents, parking lots, spare bedrooms, and way too many cheap motels. There have also been a few bedbugs. But your kindness and generosity over the years has kept me going.
I believe that we have successfully made mountaintop removal coal mining a well-known national issue. There have been countless books, magazine articles and films – and a really cool poster – made about the topic, and the state of the campaign against mountaintop removal is healthy. National environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Rainforest Action Network have pumped major energy, resources, legal expertise and funding into the campaign. The use of direct action that was the hallmark of Mountain Justice in the early days has now spread to the anti-fracking and the tar sands campaigns. And students across America continue to organize and pressure their administrations to shut down their coal plants and switch to clean energy on their campuses.
We haven’t stopped MTR yet, but the tide has turned: The percentage of America’s electricity generated by burning coal has now dropped from 50 percent to well below 40 percent. We have gone from a time when Vice President Cheney proposed building “one new power plant per week, every week, for the next twenty years” to a time when coal fired power plants are shutting down all over America. I hope it isn’t too late.
Other folks are still traveling and speaking – most notably Eric Blevins and the good folks at Mountain Keepers. If you would like to have a speaker from Appalachia come and speak to your student group, on your campus or at your church or community group, contact the Keepers of the Mountains by going to their website. This is Larry Gibson’s organization and I encourage you to support it with a donation. Eric Blevins was my stalwart travel partner for many years and he can be reached at email@example.com
I am still staying involved with the mountaintop removal issue by hosting students on Alternative Spring Breaks in eastern Kentucky. We have put together a great program that teaches students about coal and mountaintop removal, respect for the music, history, people and culture of Appalachia, and appreciation for the beauty of the mountains. We also do community service projects – planting trees on an abandoned strip mine site and weatherizing the homes of low-income residents to help reduce their electricity consumption.
In March we hosted three weeks of student groups from Northeastern University, St’ John Fisher College, Nazareth College, Drew University, University of Connecticut, University of Baltimore, UNC-Greensboro, and Harvard. We were fortunate to have some really great students this year. In May we will host Xavier University, then later in the year we will host the Gap Semester program for incoming students at Elon University, and also a group from Brandeis University.
You can read more and see some pics from our alternative spring break program here. We provide safe, clean indoor lodging, with all meals and a full week of activities. Trips are available year-round.
Right now I am planning the third annual Whippoorwill Festival – Skills for Earth-Friendly Living. This is a four day outdoor festival (Thursday – Sunday July 11-14) near Berea KY, that offers over 75 earth-friendly workshops, plus music and dancing in the evenings. You are invited!
Registration is now live for the 2013 festival, so I hope to see you there!
The Mountaintop Removal Road Show