These are photos I took looking out across an active mountain removal site on Kayford Mountain in West Virginia. It's hard to get a feel for the size of the mining site without being there. It's even harder to imagine what it looked like in its natural state, but look at the dark green, tree-covered hills all around it to get some idea.
We'll be bringing you more about what's happening on Kayford Mountain soon, but I wanted to get these images out there right away. Larry Gibson showed us around here. He grew up on Kayford Mt. and now the land his family and others lived on for generations is being irreparably destroyed. He came with his cousin that day to mow the grass in two family cemeteries that are here. We walked past them on the way to what is now a cliff over the mining site where I stood and took these pictures. Another of their cemeteries has already been destroyed by the mining company as they've blasted the mountain apart and carted away ton after ton of coal from inside of it.
Larry told us not to waste his time. He wasn't showing us around for no reason; he wanted to make sure we were going to do something about what we saw. Larry is for abolishing the use of coal altogether, despite having family members who work in the industry and are upset by his stance. Unlike many people we spoke to who expressed support for continuing mining in a responsible, less destructive manner, Larry told us he doesn't believe it's possible to mine and use coal in a way that is not harmful.
Over and over again last week, people mentioned supporting the Clean Water Protection Act as the most important thing anyone can do right now to help bring an end to mountaintop removal. Contact your Congressmen and make sure they support it!
We spent our first full day in West Virginia visiting people in their homes, taping interviews. People shared incredible stories with us that we'll be bringing back. I recorded about 6 hours of audio today alone. We saw a 90 year-old woman's fingers turn black with coal dust from running them across her tv screen. Again and again, people expressed their respect for the old ways of underground mining. At the same time, they spoke with outrage about mountaintop removal and the unprecedented level of destruction coal companies have caused in this area over the past 25 years or so.
Antrim took this picture of Patty Sebok and her husband Harry "Butch" Sebok in their kitchen. Patty is a community activist who works for Coal River Mountain Watch. Butch is a union miner who worked underground for almost 30 years. He was forced to retire when a doctor told him he risked paralysis if he continued working after an injury on the job that resulted in a herniated disk.
We'll be up bright and early in the morning to tape some more interviews before heading up Kayford Mountain to see an active mountaintop removal site and meet the last man holding onto his home as the mountain is destroyed all around it. I encourage everyone to do their own research to learn more about mountaintop removal and the history of coal mining in West Virginia and beyond. Please let us know if you have any questions or thoughts to share.
Hey folks - one of our interns, Christina Arrison, is in Indiana for the primary. She's going to be sending us first-hand observations and thoughts from there for the next few days. By way of an introduction, here's her first dispatch.
The best part about being on the ground for three important primary contests has been the chance to talk to and work with people who are experiencing this election on an individual and personal level – people who, many for the first time, feel a meaningful connection to Washington and the process that puts politicians there. It's a nice counterbalance to the Big Media view of the campaign – all scandal and spin and personal attacks and very little examination of what the election means to real people. It's been four decades since the last competitive Democratic primary in Indiana. From what I've seen, many Hoosiers are a bit bemused by all of the attention – voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania are used to the swarms of canvassers and scads of robo-calls and TV ads from past general elections, but in Indiana, a solidly red state, many people are experiencing the invasion for the first time. Overall, though, I think people appreciate the attention and genuinely believe that their voice matters. Every day when our canvassers get back from the field they give reports of talking to voters who say that this is their first time voting, and that for once they think an election offers them a chance to concretely improve their lives – by getting better healthcare or livable wages, by ending the war, and for countless other reasons. We hear heartbreaking stories like the Katrina survivor with AIDS who can't afford his pills, and asked our union volunteer to have the Obama campaign contact him to get him cheaper medication. But even if the personal connection to the campaign just involves a voter yelling at a canvasser to get off her property, or slamming down the phone on another prerecorded call, at least they are offered the chance to participate.
That being said, I am a little worried about the length and tone of the race. Even in just the three primaries I've worked on there's been a shift in voters' attitudes. When I knocked doors in Ohio, most of the Clinton supporters I talked to were firm in their choice, but polite. On the plane back to DC after the Ohio election, I was seated next to the president of the New York chapter of NOW, and we were able to chat relatively amicably about the election, she in her Clinton button, me in my Obama t-shirt. Canvassing in Pennsylvania, five weeks later, the tone had shifted. Lots more people yelled at me, balled up their flyers and threw them back, or slammed the door in my face. I remember walking up the driveway of one house just in time to hear the woman say to her neighbor "If I get ONE more thing from Obama I'm just going to-" I didn't quite catch what she was going to do, as I was doing my best to blend in with the trees as I backed away. I think a lot of people (including some campaign staffers I know who literally have not had a day off in 15 months) are ready for this to end.
Check out the first paragraph of this article:
FINALLY SOME GOOD NEWS—someone is going to help me play music with whales instead of warning me that it’s against the law. According to the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act, all “harassment” of marine mammals is illegal, including my idea of playing live music to them just to see what happens. But there are still places beyond the grip of the law.
Before that, after the news at 1pm, join us to discuss genetically modified food. Seems like it was something that was really in the public eye, along with lots of outrage and uncertainty, a few years ago, but all of that has subsided a bit, here in the US, at least. It certainly didn't go away, though, as more genetically modified crops are being grown worldwide than ever, and the highest percentage of any country is right here in the States. Yes, if you're not sure, our food supply is flush with genetically modiefied ingredients. We'll discuss the details, focusing on the company at the center of it all, Monsanto, with Brian Hindo. He wrote the article Monsanto: Winning the Ground War in Business Week.
Every Thursday from 1-2pm for the past few weeks, we've been featuring interviews with the authors of articles that we've come upon and found particularly interesting. If you've caught any of these segments, what do you think? Would you like to see this continue as a regular, weekly feature on the show? Also, comment here with suggestions for articles that you've read and would like for us to consider featuring!
Living in Baltimore, I can't help but notice a lot of distinctly unhappy looking people around town. I know this is not exactly some kind of utopia, so is it reasonable to assume that people are, in general, happier elsewhere?
NPR Correspondent Eric Weiner will be joining us at 1pm today to discuss what he learned travelling the world purposefully seeking out happiness. Check out his book The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World.