Pan Appalachian Defender

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Healing Mountains

During Memorial Day Weekend, over 300 mountaintop removal opponents converged for the Healing Mountains conference at the Cedar Lakes Conference Center in Ripley W.Va. The event combined Heartwood’s 16th annual Forest Council with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalitions (OVEC) 6th annual Summit for the Mountains.
“The destruction of our natural heritage and the obliteration of our mountain communities would be considered an ‘Act of War’ were the damage perpetrated by a foreign power,” said Heartwood event organizer Andy Mahler. “The Forest Council/Summit opened the door wide on this dirty little secret.”
Conference keynote speaker Doris Haddock, better known as the 90-something Granny D who walked across America to raise awareness of the need for real campaign finance reform, described mountaintop removal: “Great electrical shovels, like invading space monsters, take apart our mountains...The question for environmental activists is this: can the planet be saved even if many of the people do not understand the problem or, despite the ready facts, are insistent upon staying the course of self-destruction because it profits them in the short term?”
Granny D, introduced by former Congressman Ken Hechler, urged young people to set goals for their communities, states and nation. Conference attendees – from 19 states and the District of Colombia – spanned four generations, including a large contingent of students and young adults. Many heeded Granny D’s advice as they participated in Mountain Justice Summer 2006. (Read Granny D’s entire speech at
Throughout the weekend, participants could choose from a variety of trainings and workshops and panel discussions. Filmmakers and authors presented their documentaries or spoke about their books—and filmed and wrote for unfinished documentaries and books. carried video from the conference on its popular website.
Other activities included an auction on Saturday evening to help raise funds for Heartwood, followed by a dance featuring live music from the Charleston-based Voodoo Katz, and a hilarious Sunday evening talent show.
Mary Hufford of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Folklore and Ethnography presented “Holding Up the Mountains, The Narrative Ecology of Southern West Virginia’s Community Forest ” to thunderous applause.
She noted, “In this region that one cannot talk about places in the mountains without talking about people, or about people without talking about the land…
…The names on the land are touchstones to the historic depth of a seasonal round of hunting, gathering, and gardening, which we schematized and placed online at the Tending the Commons website. (A participant in her work noted), ‘People on Coal River — just about every one of them does the same thing. They dig the ramps, pick the greens, they get the molly moochers, they pick the blackberries, they fish, they hunt, they dig ginseng. It’s the traditions of the people. They do it, their kids is gonna do it, their grandkids is gonna do it, and that’s the way it is on Coal River ’.”
That’s the way it is—until mountaintop removal destroys the forests, the streams and the culture of the people that rely on them.
Healing Mountains attendees will work to ensure that the mad destruction of our future stops!
Healing Mountains was organized and co-hosted by Heartwood and OVEC. Co-sponsors included Coal River Mountain Watch, United Mountain Defense, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Sierra Club Central Appalachian Environmental Justice Program, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Model Forest , and SouthWings. Dozens of groups, businesses and individuals sponsored the event. Thanks to everyone who participated!


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