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Fight for a World Without Coal
Posted on Feb 14, 2011
By Chris Hedges
“Civil disobedience is all we had left,” he said. “We are not at present being civilly disobedient, but this event we are carrying on now in Frankfort required our willingness to be civil disobedient and to be arrested. In our opinion this was the last resort. We had tried everything in our power to get attention to our problems and to have the existence of the problems even acknowledged in state government in a public way and we had failed year after year. There simply came a time when on the part of a number of people this readiness occurred. And so we are now where we are.”
Berry said that the state and federal governments’ refusal to concern themselves with the rights of citizens and the stewardship of the ecosystem that makes human life possible must now be fought on the ground. The tactics he has employed in Frankfort have to begin to be employed across the country if there is to be any hope of thwarting the effects of climate change and breaking the country’s reliance on coal and other fossil fuels.
“It is possible now to say that this is a controversy involving on one side citizens acting on behalf of the mere earth and its ecosphere for the sake merely of their children, grandchildren and on down into the future,” he said. “On the other side are very powerful and very wealthy interests. The influence of those powerful and wealthy interests upon the government is excessive and unacceptable finally to we who are mere citizens.
“It’s a mistake to approach this simply from the standpoint of climate change,” Berry went on. “The problems that we’re up against are the problems of greed and waste. If we correct those problems, whether or not we are confronted with climate change, we will certainly improve our lot in this world and our prospects.
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“You can’t dismiss quantification as a necessary process, but when you begin to quantify things that are not quantities, then you begin to get in trouble,” Berry said. “The health of an ecosystem, for instance, can’t be reduced to a quantity. The health of a water supply can’t be very easily reduced to a quantity. What we are talking about here is not just that, we’re talking about the faith of neighborliness in these coal fields. We are instructed by everything in our tradition, our local community traditions, to be good neighbors to one another. The coal companies have been historically the worst possible neighbors. If they damage somebody’s home water supply, for instance, they will do anything to keep from paying for it. That record has been established. The mistreatment of individual citizens in these rural neighborhoods has accumulated a long record, a massive record. There has been a lot of bad behavior towards neighbors. This is remembered. This is part of the motivation for our presence here.
“To accept that there is nothing to do is to despair,” Berry said. “It is to become in some fundamental way less than human. Those of us who are protesting are protesting in part for our own sake to keep ourselves whole as human beings. We don’t agree that it is impossible because we don’t intend trying to stop it. I’m speaking as somebody who’s been involved in these efforts for a long time and we have stopped some things. We stopped the project for damming the Red River Gorge. We stopped the Louisville International Jetport. We stopped the nuclear power plant that was scheduled to be built, and was nearly built, at Marble Hill in southern Indiana on the Ohio River. There is no reason and I don’t believe there ever is a reason to despair that what is wrong by clear moral and ecological standards cannot be corrected.
“We have to put ourselves in the way of business as usual,” Berry said. “It is a little bit hard to give you a neat answer because we don’t know where this is going from here, we don’t know what’s going to be required of us after this. We are all pretty conscious that what we’ve done here this weekend we are going to belong to for a while and be responsible for.”
Chris Hedges is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute and a weekly columnist for Truthdig. His latest book is “Death of the Liberal Class.”
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