Destroying West Virginia, One Mountain At A Time Christians battle King Coal to save Appalachia

I wrote this article for the June 2010 issue of Sojourners Magazine.

In April, the Environmental Protection Agency announced rules that could significantly reduce mountaintop-removal mining in the U.S. For longtime activists like Allen Johnson, co-founder of the group Christians for the Mountains (CFTM), it’s proof that “hope is not always in vain”—but only one step of a long journey towards environmental and economic justice in coal-mining areas of Appalachia.

Hope has long been kept alive by people like Kayford, West Virginia’s Larry Gibson, who hasn’t been afraid to stand up to the principalities and powers to protect his family’s mountain. Gibson has literally put his life on the line, facing gunshots, death threats from coal company supporters, and even the killing of his dogs.

According to Gibson, mountaintop removal, in which companies blow up mountains with dynamite to access coal, “destroyed over 3 million acres of mountains, 1.5 million in West Virginia alone.” Gibson calls the boundary between his property and the area destroyed by mountaintop removal “Hell’s Gate,” because no one can live on the other side.

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Walmart in East NY: Desperation Exploitation

The piece was first posted on A New & Unsettling Force Blog

With my Walmart job I have been able to get off of welfare and buy my home.”-Walmart Radio Ad

This morning while listening to the radio I heard the above quote in a commercial placed by Walmart. I have been paying close attention to the proposed East New York Walmart, because I was born and raised in this community. I do not think this ad was placed haphazardly, because corporations spend millions on marketing, and psychology is a VERY important aspect of advertising. To place this commercial on New York City’s first and only African-American-owned radio station shows that Walmart knows who it needs to reach to come to East New York, and this commercial hit a couple of targets. East New York is one of the twelve communities in New York City that sends the most people to prison; the community has very high poverty and violence rates. Walmart is very familiar with these statistics and the desperation that residents face, and it is exploiting this desperation.

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