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Fight for a World Without Coal

Posted on Feb 14, 2011
AP / Shawn Poynter

About 50 people, a mixture of environmentalists and religious leaders, gather on a mine-scarred mountaintop near McRoberts in eastern Kentucky in 2002 to pray for a halt to the coal companies’ destruction of the land.

By Chris Hedges

Watch video of Berry delivering a speech on page 2 of this article.

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The writer and philosopher Wendell Berry, armed with little more than a copy of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and his conscience, has been camped out for three days with a handful of other activists in the governor’s outer office in Frankfort, Ky. Berry, who is 76 and the author of a number of important books including the “Unsettling of America” and “Life Is a Miracle,” has been sleeping on the floor of Gov. Steve Beshear’s reception area since Friday night with 13 others to protest the continued blasting of mountaintops in eastern Kentucky and the poisoning of watersheds, soil and air by coal companies.

“We’ve come, we’ve lobbied legislators,” he said when I reached him by phone this weekend. “As recently as last May we had an interview with the governor in his office. None of this has produced any effect. There are no changes in the attitudes of the government towards surface mining, and attention from the media is minimal or nonexistent. We understood, not because we like what we are doing, that this was the next thing that had to be done if we were going to carry our efforts any farther towards the elimination of surface mining.”

The extraction and burning of coal in 26 states is perhaps the most urgent environmental concern facing the United States. Nearly 40 percent of our CO2 emissions come from coal-fired plants. If we do not begin to regulate and control the coal companies and plan for a future without coal, there will be no possibility to thwart the spiraling effects of climate change. Hundreds of thousands of acres, as well as major watersheds, have already been turned into poisoned wastelands, especially as coal companies blast away mountaintops for the last seams of coal. Communities in the coal fields have been poisoned out of existence by the release of mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, manganese, beryllium, chromium and other carcinogenic substances into the air, soil and water. Hundreds of communities are now ghost towns. The health effects in the country’s major coal fields, where the water running out of the tap is often so rancid it is undrinkable and cancer and respiratory illnesses have reached epidemic levels, are spreading far beyond the coal fields. These toxins migrate to us all.

Coal, like oil and natural gas, is in an inexorable decline. There will be major shortages in as little as two decades. The continued extraction and burning of coal at these levels make any alternative energy policy, including carbon credits, a joke. We must begin to prepare for a world without coal.  If we continue to wait passively we will be faced with a crisis that will make basic energy consumption unaffordable and create widespread human misery and suffering as increasing parts of the country and the globe become uninhabitable. Corporations, in their relentless quest for profits, shredded the Kyoto Accords. Corporations, which place greed above the protection of life, determine government policy at the state and federal levels. Corporations block serious reform and regulation and keep the country bound to this wheel of fire. The only hope left is to carry out civil disobedience such as the protest under way in Frankfort. And if you can get to Frankfort, be there Monday morning for the planned street demonstrations. Details of Monday’s action, and of the occupation of the governor’s outer office, are available by clicking here


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Berry, who has lived and farmed for more than 40 years in Kentucky’s Henry County and who is the author of some 40 works of fiction, nonfiction and poetry, said he and 13 other activists from the state were able to meet for 20 minutes with the governor on Friday. Gov. Beshear, whose administration has joined with the Kentucky Coal Association to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the EPA’s attempt to enforce the Clean Water Act, agreed to two of the activists’ requests. He said he would visit some of the people and communities affected by the strip mining operations and he promised to oppose what Berry said was “the violent speech” directed at those who defy the coal companies, much of it generated by the coal industry. But Berry said this was not nearly enough. The governor’s continued support for surface mining and his refusal to acknowledge the ecological and social devastation unleashed by strip mining pushed Berry and the other activists to vow to occupy the office until their other demands were met or they were arrested; those demands include the state government’s withdrawal from the lawsuit against the EPA and steps to begin a transition away from coal. The governor’s office has not moved to arrest the group, although this could change Monday when the office reopens.

“Massive destruction is taking place and this is permanent destruction,” Berry said. “When you destroy a mountain, when you destroy a watershed, when you open the earth so as to permit the escape of trace minerals, acids and other harmful substances into the watershed it permanently affects people’s water supply downstream. That isn’t going to stop within anybody’s lifetime and probably the lifetime of several generations. We would say that that is massive destruction. It involves the oppression of the people who live in the proximity of the mines. Furthermore, it involves a permanent threat to the people who are dependent on these watersheds for drinking water. There is a high incidence in the coal fields of various kinds of cancer. There is oppression.

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By christian96, February 24, 2011 at 1:44 pm Link to this comment

The picture is on a mountaintop near McRoberts,
Kentucky.  My deceased mother was born in McRoberts
in 1920.  She died from smoking Lucky Strike cigarettes.  I hate to see what is happening to
people living near the sites where mountaintop
mining is taking place.  If we are going to use
coal we need more deep mining but that’s probably
not going to happen because of the money that would
have to be spent on deep mining.  Money rules!  Like
it or not.  That’s reality.  It will continue to rule
until judgment falls upon the rich and it will fall
SOON!  The Bible says the wealthy will cast their
gold and silver into the streets and seek to die
because of the misery that is coming upon them.
Let it be so, Lord!

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By auspiciousbunny, February 21, 2011 at 10:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We need to put together an organized effort to get folks in New York and New Jersey together to understand this issue.  We need to understand that our coal-fueled power comes from the destruction of the Appalachian mountains. I would like to organize the NY-NJ area to actively join the fight to end mountaintop removal.  We have a major population center here, but right now, except for an occasional special event, we don’t have a regular public forum to act to end this disastrous industry.  Please contact me through facebook at Science-Arts Alliance for Energy Responsibility. Thanks!

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John Best asks,

By John Best asks, "What IS Progress"?, February 21, 2011 at 10:22 am Link to this comment

colin2626… and others comment that Chris is sort of ‘off base’ with this issue….not so.  In the fighters style, he is moving close in so we can see a tree.  Usually he moves back so we can see the forest. 

But look at this issue in a broader sense…....anything (like reckless mountaintop mining, or fracking) that destroys aquifers will strengthen the hand of people like Nestle, who have a wonderful bottled water business.  I’m also thinking about investing in commercial aquaculture, as we additionally poison the fisheries in the gulf of Mexico and beyond, those enterprises gain in monopolistic advantage.  And what do commercial fish hatcheries require? Feed?  Likely feed from corn raised from oil based fertilizers, and genetic mono-cultures? 

Chris is showing us there is big money to be made by eliminating competition…......the competition of naturally occurring resources.  Through futures markets, anyone can play in the desecration. 

This is hardly a ‘fringe issue’.  On the contrary, it is one mechanism of many where blind funds and holders of paper wealth make a tangible impact, and there at the end of the paper trail, far from sight is some very toxic stuff.  What goes around comes around though.  Keep connecting the dots Chris.

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By Patricia, February 19, 2011 at 11:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Colin26, if you are, by any chance, willing to take up the question on why Christianity has failed our culture, it is important to be very honest. For eg, I didn’t write that it was a heresy to believe this world will pass away.  I wrote, “It is an old lazy heresy to believe that “this world shall pass away” and therefore we needn’t pour our hearts out towards the destruction and suffering that occurs here.” There is a vital connector “and” in that statement, which completes the statement. But maybe you simply missed it.

You wrote: “This attitude [ignoring religion] alienates people who otherwise would be supportive of progressive causes.”  Yet you also clearly state that religious people are the only ones legitimately driven to action by the truth in their hearts.  If that is so, what does it matter to Christians if they share some ethical commonality with people who think that religion is useless?  They know what their God calls them to do and one might be forgiven to assume that off they’d go, joyfully and eagerly pursuing their calling, happy for whoever along the way would share their vision, even if only partially. Yet this doesn’t happen.

Are Christians so easily wilted that they will cancel all their hearts’ desires for justice and righteousness because some few people are hostile to religiosity?  Yes, they are. You yourself say so.

But faith without work is dead, right?  So what is this entity that you are calling “religion”, that is called “Christianity” in our culture?

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By Patricia, February 19, 2011 at 9:37 am Link to this comment
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Hi colin26:  My original disagreement resided in this statement: “The real problem I see with Hedges and other leftwing intellectuals and activists is their focus on “this world”. Look at the protesters in Egypt….It was fueled by religious belief, the basis of morality. Ultimately that’s the only mode of protest that will appeal to the masses in America, where most of the country is Christian or believers in God.” 

Why are you criticizing these few activist people, belaboured and ostracized as they are? Among them are Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics. Some are simply plain uncertain.  They are a cross-section of people.  And they are constantly harassed and you want to add your little stone.  Why?

If Christians *wanted* to attach to the moral stance of the left, they could find any number of Christians, at any time. But they don’t.  Why not?  I’ve wondered, over and over.  It seems to me that the criticisms and negation by the American Christian church towards activism are merely flimsy gestures of a refusal to take a moral stance towards love and justice.  And yet, they are the moral voice of our nation??  This is my disagreement with you—not on the theory of spiritual belief as a foundation for moral action, but on the reality of it as seen in our society.

Some among the left-over left have seen religion as “some kind of barrier to change” because it has been so. Even worse than the above refusal-to-justice, larger American Christianity has stood firmly in the way of societal justice and democracy over the last 30 years. In the past ½ yr alone, Huckabee said we should assassinate Assange, and that numbers of people are just going to have to do without health insurance. Yet he is a darling for many Christians.  And look at Clarence Thomas—he goes to church regularly and calls himself a Christian. I could make an extensive list of the various media and political and religious “Christian” leaders who have recently made rotten statements and done rotten actions, without a peep from the church.  There is no protest among the “moral elite” over words/actions of these figures!! The only protest comes from the activists who happen also to be Christians—and they, as you so well show, are not considered a real part of the church.

It would be much more useful for our nation and world if you would turn your critical thinking towards your own religious community. 

I agree with you on this: believing in God and maintaining an active spiritual life gives one a better chance of seeing reality clearly and acting honestly.  That the American Christian church rarely produces this in it’s people shows to me that it is not really about God and spirituality as much as it is about…well, what do you think it might be about?

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By colin2626262, February 19, 2011 at 4:04 am Link to this comment

Also, one more thing.  About Egypt, I don’t know if you saw the images of a mass of men praying while being doused with water hoses on the bridge in Cairo. It was quite moving to see.  Later they were facing bullets.  Egyptians have gone through an Islamic revival in recent years.  Clearly there were economic and political reasons for the revolt, but you have to wonder what kind of people are going to have the courage to put their lives on the line and be willing to die for their beliefs.  People who believe in God and the afterlife and have the moral convictions to resist nonviolently?  Or people who have no beliefs whatsoever?  Certainly if there is a God (and believe me, there is), the only way to achieve justice on earth is through religious belief.  It’s not enough to be right about the issues.  You also have to be right inside.

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By colin2626262, February 19, 2011 at 3:40 am Link to this comment

By the way, it’s not a heresy to believe this world shall pass away.  That’s the truth.  If you have some new ideas about how to improve the lot of humanity aside from being more compassionate toward one another, I’d like to hear them.  Christianity teaches us to have compassion, especially for the poor.  Also, the scourge of war is addressed in the Christian teaching: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

The reason I’ve read Chris Hedges’s books and articles is his connection to his Christian faith.  There are some on the left who are openly hostile to religion, and he’s not one of them. Belief and practice, however, are not always easy to reconcile.  That’s because we’re imperfect beings.  We suffer, we struggle, and yes, we die.  This is why most people turn to religion: for help.  If you think you can make yourself or anyone else, or the world, better by ignoring religious belief, good luck.  You’re gonna need it.

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By colin2626262, February 19, 2011 at 3:17 am Link to this comment

Hey Patricia,

I don’t know if you read the last thing I wrote.  I said “we actually could make the world a better place.”  Which is to say, we should.  Obviously I agree with you that this world is precious, as does everyone living in it.  My critique was that some people, especially on the left, are only interested in identifying problems with our society from a cold, rationalist viewpoint, ignoring religion or even making it into some kind of barrier to change.  This attitude alienates people who otherwise would be supportive of progressive causes.  It’s also just plain wrong.

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By Mark Goldes, February 18, 2011 at 6:41 pm Link to this comment

Black Swans may soon begin to replace black coal.

See Green Light and “Cold Fusion” at for an overview of why and how as well as a bit about a Black Swan that is now in production.

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By Patricia, February 17, 2011 at 4:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Colin26:  The Egyptian revolution, in it’s infancy, has not been primarily motivated by particular religious fervor but by a sense of justice betrayed over decades and decades. We here haven’t felt the injustice for long or severely enough yet.  It is an unfortunate aspect of human nature that we do not get excited about suffering that is not our own.

Moreover, “this world” is infinitely precious. If you are a Christian, then you believe it was made by the hands of God.  Further, a Christian also understands that humans are meant to love “this world”, to be the shepherd/gardener/steward of it. It is an old lazy heresy to believe that “this world shall pass away” and therefore we needn’t pour our hearts out towards the destruction and suffering that occurs here.

Of all people, those who supposedly believe in the “one and true God” should be the most passionately involved in bringing his justice to this earth. That they aren’t is a testament to the fact that they don’t truly believe.

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By colin2626262, February 16, 2011 at 3:47 am Link to this comment

Fighting for a world without coal is such a fringe issue for most people.  That’s not to say it’s not important, especially for the people who live in that area, but to expect the whole country to erupt in climate change protests—that is just not going to happen. 

Civil disobedience, like workers going on strike, can work, and it can have an effect.  But there has to be a clear moral issue at stake that a lot of people can get behind.  Otherwise, it’s like Henry David Thoreau spending a night in jail.  Sure, he took a moral stand, but he mostly is known for having written an essay about it.  He’s not known for ending the Mexican War.  Wendell Berry says it’s not about that, though, not about changing the systems of power; rather it’s about being whole as a human being and trying to make this world a little better. 

The real problem I see with Hedges and other leftwing intellectuals and activists is their focus on “this world.”  Look at the protesters in Egypt.  They were saying Allahu Akbar.  It was fueled by religious belief, the basis of morality.  Ultimately, that’s the only mode of protest that will appeal to the masses in America, where most of the country is Christian, or believers in God.  Anyone who tries to live without religious belief is going to be in despair.  This translates to political life as well.  If people understood that, then we actually could make the world a better place, but it wouldn’t just be the world we’d be improving; it’d be our souls.

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By Hellbender712, February 16, 2011 at 3:21 am Link to this comment

Wow this is all news to me. Had no idea I have been living within half a mile of such a toxic wastleland for 20+ years. I suppose the area wildlife are unware of their dire enviroment as well, being population and diversification have been exploding for the last few decades now. Hey but don’t let facts get in the way of a good old fasion crusade.

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By colin2626262, February 15, 2011 at 5:38 pm Link to this comment

I see Chris Hedges this week has limited himself to a smaller scale doomsday scenario, but he doesn’t let up entirely, linking some pollution in Kentucky to “a crisis that will make basic energy consumption unaffordable and create widespread human misery and suffering as increasing parts of the country and the globe become uninhabitable.”  Ouch. 

There’s no denying that there’s an environmental problem and corporations, which care only about making profits, are responsible (or rather irresponsible).  The mantra of Hedges is: “If we continue to wait passively we will be faced with a crisis.”  If it’s not the economy collapsing, or a new form of fascism spreading, or an ecological disaster making the earth a wasteland, it’s the Democratic party or liberal establishment stabbing working and poor people in the back.  Then of course there’s his speciality, the relentless and egregious war spending, fighting unnecessary wars, killing innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere, breeding more hatred against America because of imperialist designs on the Middle East. 

The thing is, Mr. Hedges, we already know all this!  You say don’t be passive, go out and practice civil disobedience, even though you acknowledge it probably won’t make even a hint of structural difference since no one really pays attention except the activists themselves, who do it for their own sense of “being human,” their own self righteousness or dignity.  I have no problem with what Hedges says, even though I do think he tends toward hyperbole at times.  I just wonder why he all the sudden is calling for civil disobedience and writing stories about some modern day Thoreau in Kentucky.  What does this have to do with actually helping to change the dire conditions he writes about?  People have been nonviolently protesting in America for years before he mentioned it in his columns and some people have gone to jail for a long time, not just a day.  What has it done?  The media ignores it, the government continues on its destructive way, and unlike other countries, our activists aren’t even bothered usually, because they don’t have any broad base support.  Look at Hedges himself.  He can write whatever he wants, publish a book every year, write a column every week.  He’s a dissident if there ever was one, but he’s not being hauled off to prison and tortured.  He’s free to speak his mind and demonstrate or whatever, as is everyone, since this is a free country.  But does it make any difference? 

There has to be some mode of protest that actually garners large scale support.  Personally, I won’t be making the trip to Kentucky.  But more power to people like Hedges who do have some hope in small acts.  I support this.  I just think it’s difficult to understand, as is the entire political mess in this country.

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By Beaudigger, February 15, 2011 at 4:18 pm Link to this comment

Sustainable Downtown Seattle’s lead Rafael Ravenet lauds Mr. Hedges pronouncement.  Ravenet calls out to sustainable community with a request americans organize much as Egypt has.  We demand american cooperation with all the other countries represented at Copenhagen, Kyoto.  American policy creates no jobs, this is a ruse, an excuse.  Where are these jobs?  American policy has nothing to do with the will of the people.  It has everything to do with hustlers and corporate war profiteers.  Meanwhile utilities are subsidized to the tune of the environment- the future.  Yes, we are paying with our planet’s future.  That tax is too high!

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By David J. Cyr, February 15, 2011 at 10:28 am Link to this comment

The “solution” to mountaintop removal that large foundation funded liberal “environmental” organizations support is to get the environmental damage done less visibly underground, using Haliburton’s fracking process. It’s the more insidiously done means to the same end that mountaintop removal has.

The Un-Clean and Un-Natural Side of Natural Gas

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By FjordDriver, February 15, 2011 at 6:46 am Link to this comment

Here’s video of Wendell from this past weekend:

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By mrfreeze, February 15, 2011 at 3:58 am Link to this comment

Wow, It’s incredibly disturbing that a Chris Hedges article as powerful and timely as this received very little attention today. But why should I be so surprised? I can see from the 30 comments (2 of which are mine) that all of the “usual suspects,” the Rico Suaves, Fat Freddie’s and all the other “libertarian and conservative” jerks here on TD don’t have a lot to say about the wonderful “productivity gains, economic growth and increase of the GDP” when it comes to raping and destroying the environment. Ya, that “capitalism” thing is great in theory when one can sit back, relax and blame all the problems in the world on welfare queens and lazy liberals. Ya, all of the denuded forests, toxic runoff, flooding, polluted groundwater….all of the beauty and natural wonder ground into shit.

What’s the matter with all you people. Cat got your collective tongue?

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By SteveL, February 15, 2011 at 12:45 am Link to this comment

These denuded areas could be covered with solar panels or would that make too much sense?

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By Allen Johnson, February 15, 2011 at 12:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I live in West Virginia,  under the iron Pharaoh fist of King Coal, whose reign continues unabated after 130 years.  Check out state rankings of Quality of Life indices. Lots of studies and surveys, many of them solid and well researched.  West Virginia is usually at the bottom of the heap. And the coalfield areas, and I can include eastern Kentucky in this, are categories further down in misery, brokenness, poverty.  Check out the facts, or see for yourselves.

Yet in spite of this coal-induced damnation, our politicians lead the crowd to worship at the feet of King Coal. “Oh, may you prosper, oh mighty god. Long live King Coal.” This groveling by state politicians (which can be seen in the virulent attacks on the EPA right now), are most sickening and portentous of the dearth of democracy and decency in our corrupted government.  People in the coalfield areas affected by mountaintop removal are dying, the air and water quality is that bad.  But then, these “hillbillies” don’t matter, so the affluent can declare this region a National Energy Sacrifice Zone and enjoy their low electric power bill. Mercury contamination (all local fish has an advisory), pollution, ruined land, high poverty, despair into massive drug addictions, etc…. And the rest of the world will suffer, too, as greenhouse gases do what greenhouse gasses do…raise the earth’s fever.  Mammon will be avenged. But I won’t go down without a fight!!!

Yes, I’ll FIGHT to end coal!!! Yes. Let’s rise up.

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By Luis Lozano, February 14, 2011 at 11:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I get the feeling that no one is listening and no one cares.  The media is not paying attention that’s for sure.  What is it going to take?  10 people arrested; 100 people arrested; 1000 people?  I know there have been some victories in this fight to end coal mining especially mountain top removal but for one step forward we are taking two steps back.  Thank you for putting yourself on the frontline of the fight and for speaking truth to power.

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By tunewright, February 14, 2011 at 11:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I live in Frankfort Kentucky and can tell you what Mr. Berry and his cohorts are doing is having a real effect.  Coal interests are very strong in this state, their lobbyists have bought many a politican, and their spin machine never sleeps.  We need coal, but Berry is right.  We need to get it more responsibly and start now to plan for alternatives.  History will vindicate Berry and company, if there is anyone left to read it.  God save us all.

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By Bob Kincaid, February 14, 2011 at 10:57 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Some misinformation, disinformation and un-information in this thread.

For Inherit The Wind, who suggested resistance “start in states where you MIGHT have a chance, like West Virginia or Pennsylvania,” I can only inform you that our struggle in West Virginia has been going on for over a decade, just as it has in Kentucky.  There is NO chance of changing the political climate here.  The pressure will have to be mounted outside the Appalachian Sacrifice Zone.

Second: nuclear power is no answer.  The only alternatives are wind, solar and geothermal.  We need to focus on a new SmartGrid that can get electricity from America’s windiest, sunniest places to our population centers.  We also badly need government support/investment in individual, family-based alternative energy.  Yet the Repiglickens want to zero out even the modest weatherization program in the coming budget.

Further, just to correct a minor error, plenty of Appalachian coal already goes to China.  Most of the so-called “metallurgical coal” mined in Appalachia is sold to China.  India and Russia have also invested by purchasing mineral rights in the region.

Finally, a solution: we MUST recognize that we are ALL part of the problem.  Anyone can go to, input their zip code and find a direct correlation to mountaintop removal.  It’s almost ubiquitous throughout the U.S.  Armed with that knowledge, we need folks to begin pressuring their local power companies to stop using mountaintop removal coal.  THAT will constitute a beginning.

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By prosefights, February 14, 2011 at 8:25 pm Link to this comment

‘According to estimates, 25 million to 50 million tons of coal was displaced by natural gas. That’s out of a 900 billion ton market. The normal domestic market’s about one billion tons per year of coal burned to generate electricity. Central Appalachian coal tends to be the most expensive to mine and the highest-priced coal. Powder River Basin coal wasn’t displaced ever to our knowledge by any of the natural gas plants even when natural gas dropped below $3. I’m a firm believer that the energy required in the United States and around the globe will require that we useaU energy resources. If the globe is growing economically at about 4 percent a year or more, we begin to be short of energy. And if you think through it, we’re seeing 2 billion people in China and India go through an industrial revolution. We’ve never seen that before, and they’re skipping generations of technologies. China is buying every energy source they can.

ENERGYBIZ - Are they buying from Arch Coal?

LEER - We have shipped coal from Wyoming to China, which if you think about it, is truly halfway around the world.’

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By mrfreeze, February 14, 2011 at 8:23 pm Link to this comment

A couple of things:

1) In Grays Harbour County (WA State) there has been some resistance to upgrading the harbour (county run) to make way for the shipping of coal to China. Some here in the state wonder why we would be so generous? The coal is being strip-mined in WY. Someone else on this thread noted that the eastern coal is being shipped to Europe. So out west we are shipping energy to our “friends” in Asia. WTF!

2) A little off-subject but one of the most powerful short essays about the plight of working people was written by Wendell Berry in the mid-80’s. I highly recommend you all read “What Are People For.” It’s powerful and prophetically accurate even today.

3) I can’t help but think that many of the social and environmental battles worth fighting have been abandoned by Americans the vast majority of whom have imbibed the “soma” (Brave New World) and are too fat and happy to care. The rest are too poor and disenfranchised to push against the corporate behemoths that run this country.

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By Big B, February 14, 2011 at 7:21 pm Link to this comment

writer on the storm

Ya nailed it dude! We are americans, and because we are americans we are going to drill and dig for every last ounce of carbon the earth has. And then when it has gone, we will all stand there with a dumbfounded look on our faces and say something like “why hast thou forsaken me?”

Kurt Vonnegut once wrote an epitath for the people of Earth, it read “We probably could have saved ourselves, but we were just too damn cheap”.

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By karlof1, February 14, 2011 at 7:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’d like to point out to Mr Hedges that a planet without coal would be a dead planet—one without the existence of the lifeforms needed to become coal, which is a natural process: Plants. A better title for your essay is essential.

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By Chris Herz, February 14, 2011 at 6:57 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hi Nabob:  This coal, almost all of it goes to the ports of Baltimore and Norfolk for shipment to Europe.
Germans and Brits are too smart to wreck their lands with this form of mining, so they buy our coal, because we are stupid. 
I’m a sailor myself and I see these colliers everytime I sail my boat in the Chesapeake.

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By prosefights, February 14, 2011 at 6:39 pm Link to this comment

More than, about twice, 3412.14163 BTUs apparently have to go ‘in’ for each 1 kWh ‘out’ of electricty.

The ‘in’ for each 1 kWh ‘out’ is apparently called the HEAT RATE.

For coal the heat rate, we’ve read,in on the order of 10,000 BTUs for each kWh.

Natural gas heat rate, we’ve read, is about the best at around 7,500 BTU.

Some in New Mexico assert that heat rate does not apply to solar and wind generation of electricty.

We are in the process of examining this assertion by contacting power electrical engineers experts.

Bryon King and Andrew McKillop cite uranium production figures that report that the US on produces 7% of uranium it consumes.

Big trouble on generation of electricity appears to loom?

Our visits to the Power River coal deposits.

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By TAO Walker, February 14, 2011 at 6:15 pm Link to this comment

Those retro-viral tormenting ‘entities’ (a-k-a; “The Destroyers of Worlds”) are again loose in this Living One we ALL belong-to (and not, as so many inmates seem so desperate to believe, the-other-way-‘round).  Their degenerate “energy”-eating turbocharged twin-engined cyborgian corpse-of-choice this time is (SURPRISE!!!!) the monstrous wrecking-ball device produced by that indecent and illicit seudo-sexual congress fusing gangster “governments” with criminal “corporations.”  The damned fools are taking one helluva final run, too, at turning Earth into yet another of their trademark undead Hells….the latest (and, as it happens, the last) in a long string of our Mother’s ruined Sisters stretching half-across this Nourishing Way Star Nation. 

Because they’ve been seduced (by the “self”-satisfyingly intoxicating illusions, the false promises of cold comfort and crippling CONvenience) into a stupefied yet half-wittingly willful failure to give freely their unconditional affectionate Respect and their undivided precious Attention to our Mother and Her Living Arrangement, the currently captive collective of domesticated “individual”-ized Humans, in their institutionally terrorized and organically dysfunctional “....huddled masses,” now has pure Hell to pay, instead.  There is no Way whatsoever to get free of this much-sooner-than-later (“WriterOnTheStorm”‘s frantic “nuclear” mantra chanting to-the-CONtrary notwithstanding) terminal predicament that does not require, from all of these poor abused (and abusive) prisoners of the “global” immuno-suppression regime, immense and bound-to-be very painful sacrifice.

The first toxic by-product of the industrial disease process that has to go is….well, the artificial “self” itself, the fake IDentity overshadowing and suppressing the essential Human Nature of those afflicted with its lethal presence.  Let that cheap imitation substitute (for your Natural Human Person-hood) go, tame Sisters and Brothers, and the rest will seem almost like a-piece-of-cake….but not, of course, “yellowcake.” 

It is still possible to arrest the disease process, and to recover from its depredations, with a sufficiency of the Living Virtue inherent in the Organic Functional Integrity available to Natural Persons ORGANized as genuine Living Human Communities.  So….....



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By gerard, February 14, 2011 at 5:32 pm Link to this comment

Well worth watching:

Thanks to StoptheInsanity.

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By gerard, February 14, 2011 at 4:02 pm Link to this comment

It can be done—if you do it.  It’s called democracy.

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By ML Baker, February 14, 2011 at 3:23 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I grew up in an old Coal mining town called Cabin Creek, W.Va. My father passed away several years ago but never gave up the fight against moutain top removal of coal. We realized Big Corporations target depressed areas and they selected Cabin Creek knowing thousands of people were desperate for work and willing to work in unsafe conditions to provide for their families.  Dupont, Carbide, and Applachian Power build their plants along side our Kanawha River to dump waste and use our river water. Standard Oil took most, if not all the oil out of a small reserve.
Big coal companies came in and dug and blasted coal out of our undergrounds and mountain tops. Corporations are motivated by profit and greed and they do not care about the people working or living in the area near their plants, oil wells or coal mines. These operations leave toxins in the local water and air and many people suffer from severe health problems from being exposed to these toxins.We need to fight for more regulations and support alternatives for fossil fuels.

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Leo Wong's avatar

By Leo Wong, February 14, 2011 at 2:09 pm Link to this comment

An admirable act by an admirable man.

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By clearwaters, February 14, 2011 at 2:08 pm Link to this comment

There are a thousand ways to participate in efforts to stop the corporate coal state
of Kentucky . Pick one. Stand and deliver. ” To accept that there is nothing to do is
despair. It is to become in some fundamental way less than human.” Find a way, in
your everyday life, to confront the destruction of corporate coal, of corporate
controlled government. Deny, in every way possible, corporate control of your own
life. The life you save could be your own, your children or your children’s children.

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By WriterOnTheStorm, February 14, 2011 at 1:50 pm Link to this comment

Major shortages of coal in 20 years? That’s good news. It means in twenty years we
can anticipate serious debate about alternative energy sources. It won’t happen a
moment before the shortages, however, because the only serious contender in the
energy race is nuclear power, and Big Coal has been waging a successful smear
campaign against it for decades.

There are only two viable options right now: go with nuclear power and accept a
small risk of sudden environmental catastrophe, or stick with coal and be 100%
certain of slow motion environmental catastrophe. That’s it. That’s all we’ve got. If
Berry wants big coal to go away, he’d do much better to publicly sing the praises of
nuclear than to stamp his feet in the offices of the governor of a state with an
economy wholly dependent upon the black stuff.

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By william, February 14, 2011 at 1:47 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“...There is oppression.”  Yep. There sure is!  And as to “Fight for a world…” fergedabadit.  ‘Fight-fight-fight!!!’  Yeah, uh-huh.  The deafening silence you hear is the majority of Americans not hearing you because they are watching ‘Dancing with the stars’ and wishing they were rich like the beautiful people.  Honest to christ they don’t care.  And the others pray to mammon as god and reagan as savior.  Maybe another future generation but not this one and nothing you do say or write will make any difference.  How’s that peace march working for you?  Ain’t it just 1969 all over again?  No.  It ain’t.  The working poor want a BMW.  Not beans and rice.
And a note to StopTheInsanity: On CNBC this morning wall street announced that the change in Egypt is the next Bull Market as cheap labor and a regime change will now open the door to Corporate investment that will create “Capitalist Democracy in the mid east”...  What?  You didn’t know that capitalism is democracy and democracy is capitalism?  Where you been?
Stick a fork in it…past done.
(ps: Voting is for suckers and Obama and the dems sold you out.)

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By StopTheInsanity, February 14, 2011 at 1:14 pm Link to this comment

as Amerikan Fascism
continues its death march

we need to take cheer
in what so many ordinary Egyptians
have accomplished

for if the Egyptian street actions
prove anything
it is this:

We the People
have the Power
to force Change

from the bottom up

so, take cheer
and lots of it

but remember this

deposing a figurehead
is not enough

not nearly enough

we need to be willing
to not only take to the streets
for days and months on end

to kick the moneyed politicians
and systems managers
out of their seats of power
in Washington
and on Wall Street

but we also need to be willing
to dismantle the existing System
from the bottom up

a System
which serves the few
at the expense of the many

and create and craft
a new System

in short:

we need a Revolution

a real one

not the thinly veiled Fascism
promised by the Tea Party

but a Revolution against
(real and intellectual)
corporations and money
(as presently conceived, implemented and enforced)

a Revolution against
a System
which views the world
its people
and life itself
as little more than resources
to be used and abused
for the comfort and power
of a few
at the expense of the many

as things continue to get worse

and they will continue to get worse

for increasing numbers
of ordinary folks
while the rich soak them
in the name of saving
their predatory system

people will be encouraged
to laterally lash out
within the Amerikan class hierarchy

thereby dividing and conquering
the Power of the People
to fight
the liars, thieves and thugs
at the top
from the bottom up

which means
top down movements
like the Tea Party
will manipulate
popular socioeconomic
frustration and desperation

directing and unleashing
its wandering, undisciplined
dangerous and terrifying wrath
against the poor
against Muslims
against immigrants (legal and “illegal”)
against homosexuals
against environmentalists
against “leftists” (as if Amerika had a meaningful, substantive or effective “Left”)

we need to
and organize

to tear down what is
and build what will be

we have never lived
in a Democracy

but we could

it’s up to us

contrary to what Peak Movement
(such as it is)
sites and propagandists
like, The Automatic Earth
promote and promulgate

there isn’t anything
about any of this

all of it
is wholly dependent
on human behavior

which can be changed

and it’s incumbent
upon us
to change it

there are people
in this country
who are already
thinking about
and implementing
real Democracy

many of them
in places
you wouldn’t believe

because when you reframe
the issue

from saving the biosphere
regulating the corporations
and protecting the poor

to the few (Corporations and Government)
preventing the many (ordinary Americans)
from creating the communities they want
and living they lives they want

the stark reality
of their Corporate State
becomes clear
and personal

two good places
to start

The Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy


Democracy School

see also:

Thomas Linzey - Challenging Corporations

Thomas Linzey at a Bioneers Conference
(pt 1)
(pt 2)
(pt 3)
(pt 4)

Karen Coulter - The Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy

Jane Anne Morris - Defying Corporations, Defining Democracy
(this one may take a short while to load, buffer and play)

Laura Nader - When the Rule of Law is Illegal

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By LillithMc, February 14, 2011 at 1:02 pm Link to this comment

There are small victories every day won by brave people that are never reported.  Usually the community is split between jobs and pollution.  The best place to defend is the community where protesters live.  As one appalachian community said, we have had coal destroying communities for many years and we are just as poor today as we were when the coal business came in and began their destruction.  The town fought off the strip mining, took back their town and are better for it.

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By Don Huber, February 14, 2011 at 12:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Former darling of the Democratic party, Richard Gephardt is one of the leading lobbyists for the coal industry. Two of his clients are St. Louis based Arch Coal and Peabody Coal. Go Dems!

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By Textynn, February 14, 2011 at 12:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The thing that makes all of this particularly heinous is people trust the epa and the government to protect them from hazardous materials , areas, practices, etc. For example, I worked at a school that was near some big giant tanks. These tanks were a stone throw away from the back of the school, like less than thirty yards. I didn’t know what was in them. I assumed they were safe because they had a HeadStart and school right there next to them.

These tanks were/are full of oil and they pollute under darkness of night. This was something I was totally unaware of because I wasn’t there at night.

This area was an actual Superfund site. I became very very ill and arthritic to a disabled degree and my best friend who worked with me is dead at 47 from five kinds of cancers. NO one is protecting us. The people are nothing but chop liver to our government and these corporations.

You government is NOT protecting you and don’t ever think they are.

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By ben, February 14, 2011 at 11:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Dude, Frankfort is spelled with an ‘o’, not an ‘u’

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By madisolation, February 14, 2011 at 11:13 am Link to this comment

Where are the so-called “environmental groups,” like the Sierra Club? Why aren’t their members showing up in force, or are they part of the Obama veal pen now? What about labor unions? Heck, where is Al Freakin’ Gore? They should all be nonviolently protesting with Berry.
I can’t believe that after witnessing the Egyptians and all they accomplished, that many people aren’t reaching a breaking point. The so-called “environmental groups” and labor leaders have sat on their fat asses for too long, happy with their worthless “access” to the Washington elite. It’s time they’re called to task. If they can’t do the job, they should be exposed for the opportunistic, phony, and absolutely useless human beings they are. It seems we don’t need “leaders.” We just need people standing up for their beliefs.

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David J. Cyr's avatar

By David J. Cyr, February 14, 2011 at 11:13 am Link to this comment

In March of 2009, Obama provided a well publicized “study period” pause in mountaintop removal permitting, to maintain delusional states. Then Obama’s Extraction Protection Agency (EPA) very quietly MovedOn to green light the continuation of mountaintop removal.

When Cheney/Bush were so easily revileable, mountaintop removal was an environmental atrocity that Democrats would surely end, if only more Democrats were elected. When Democrat control could have ended mountaintop removal the Democrats decided to instead “review” its impacts. The result of that “review” was a 9/11/2009 EPA report. Obama’s EPA agreed to move forward with 79 new “coal-mining projects in Appalachian states” which meant 79 more mountaintop removal permit applications were considered Obama EPA permit worthy. The EPA’s report stated that it (Obama’s EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers were engaged in a collaborative relationship (facilitating mountaintop removal together). The words “mountaintop removal” were, of course, never used in that EPA report. Mountaintop removal was euphemistically referred to as being the “surface coal mining operations in Appalachian states” that Obama’s EPA concluded would be a “sustainable economic development” activity, with Obama’s EPA regulating it.

The Extraction Protection Agency (EPA) does not regulate polluters; it regulates environmentalists.

Mountaintop removal is part of Obama’s commitment to “clean” coal technology… his commitment to, as he said, “restore science to its rightful place”... the scientific destruction of places.

“Happiness is the perpetual possession of being well deceived.”
— Jonathan Swift

BOOK REVIEW: Sustainable Energy — Without the Hot Air

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By Not for publication, February 14, 2011 at 10:29 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

FRANKFORT is the capital of Kentucky, Chris, not Frankfurt.  Otherwise great as usual.

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By timothy price, February 14, 2011 at 10:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Song Description
An “Inconvenient Truth” about coal and all fossil fuels; it explores the link
between the words, “Carbon” and “Satan” Get the book, Ravings of a Lunatic.

Song Lyrics
Prince of Darkness
Timothy K. Price

Ol’ Satan Coal
Down in his hole
Has every past soul
There collected.

Cast into their graves,
Bituminous slaves,
In these last days
Are resurrected.

In furnaces to burn,
Power to churn,
Engines that turn
The generators

Prince of Darkness,
Unseen ruler of men,
Who has dominion
Over all the Earth.
Prince of Darkness,
Unseen ruler of men,
Who will have the strength
To turn away from him?

Higher up he flies
Into the skies ....making
.....temp’ratures rise
And climates change.

Satan the Deceiver
Powers the receivers,
Watts for the believers of
.... Electronic lies.

Offers you his powers
In kilowatt hours
Gives credit cards like flowers
...To tempt you.


His name, if you’re able
by the periodic table,
Learn the Beast of the fabled
Number: 6-6-6.

6 Neutrons are his heart,
6 Protons are a part,
6 Electrons that arc
Make ... “Carbon the Beast”

Lucifer, Light Bearer,
Bringer of terror,
War waged in error
For fossil fuel.


He’ll gas-up your car,
Take you so far,
But the money you are…..
...Paying to him.

He’ll lend you his name
in the credit card game,
tattooed in your brain,
...helps you to buy and sell.

Credit is easy
The slope it is greasy
The lender’s so sleazy
-He’ll take your soul.


Last judgment neglected
To judge, as expected,
Those being resurrected,
But the living are, instead.

Used power for greed,
Ignoring the need,
Got fat on the feed
from slave labor.

—He has your face
In his data base.
Your debt won’t be erased.
....Links in your chain.


You say each time…
you go into the mine, Lord,
Let the sun shine
On me again.

But ol’ Satan Coal
Down in his hole
Has every past soul
There collected.

Died in their prime,
Buried in slime,
Now in our time
Are resurrected.


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By Queenie, February 14, 2011 at 9:35 am Link to this comment

Unbridled capitalism, whose mantra is “Grow or die”, is the enemy of nature. And since it owns our government, all three branches, we are spitting in the wind in beseeching our government to do other than follow its corporate masters. Nothing will change until all money is removed from the political process.

As far as praying to God for deliverance from the corporate beast, just remember that God helps those who help themselves. It is up to each one of us to be a monkey wrench in the wheel of commerce.

One simple way is to take any and all money out of banks and put it into a credit union. Every dollar in a bank is used as a weapon against nature - invested in more destruction of the planet.

Another way is never to vote for anyone who takes corporate money. Register as a Green, for instance.

Find your own way and just do it.

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By TheProphetNabob, February 14, 2011 at 7:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Population is growing, electricity is a necessity, this campaign will fail.

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By visitor, February 14, 2011 at 7:40 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Coal mining and oil company should pay more attention to the air and water circulation,  and should stop to disconcert the biorhythm of the earth.
They should have a right to foster the precious lands, but not have a right to use up natural resources or ruin the really delicate biorhythm of the earth.
This blue Gaea is living and breathing.
Thank you, Chris, it is important post.

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By Inherit The Wind, February 14, 2011 at 7:18 am Link to this comment

So, Mr. Berry is jousting at windmills in the state that just elected Rand Paul, a guy who believes in ZERO government regulations on industry.  Paul was elected to replace Jim Bunning, long a friend of industry.  2 years ago, Kentucky RE-elected Mitch McConnell.

There is no way Mr. Berry is going to marshal enough support to get ANYTHING done in Kentucky by the state of Kentucky.  And, since McConnell is the Senate Minority Leader, he’s not likely to get it done in Washington either.

Naturally this is what Chris Hedges focuses on.

If you want to stop the raping of the land in Kentucky, you have to start in states where you MIGHT have a chance, like West Virginia or Pennsylvania, rather than the land that can elect a Rand Paul, a Jim Bunning and a Mitch McConnell.

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knobcreekfarmer's avatar

By knobcreekfarmer, February 14, 2011 at 6:04 am Link to this comment

“Coal, like oil and natural gas, is in an inexorable decline.”

As much as I admire all the work of Chris these are the most important he has ever
posted. Climate change aside, they have the largest impact on life as we know it.
Or should I say, life as we used to know it…

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