Friday, September 30, 2011

Why I Fight

Why-I-Fight Fridays -- A glimpse into what's keeping me fighting this fight.

What keeps you fighting? Leave a comment or a link to your blog.

Solidarity, baby!

 * * * * * * *
Photo by Kim Sperry

Because this is Surry County, not heavy industry.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"Psst . . . Your pants are on fire"

I thought we could do a fun new feature detailing some of the outrageous, outlandish, and just plain out-there statements we've heard in this coal plant fight.

Introducing:  "Psst . . . your pants are on fire!"

Let's start with one of the earliest and most egregious, shall we?

A quote that appeared in one of our local newspapers--in an article that would later be photocopied and passed out to citizens and town council members by ODEC.

"The only thing

 that comes out of the top of the coal plant

is water vapor." 

- Jeb Hockman, ODEC
Smithfield Times May 13, 2009

Heh heh . . . water vapor.

Kind of makes you wonder about the pages and pages of "hazardous" and "toxic" emissions ODEC estimated would "come out of the top of the coal plant" in their application to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), doesn't it?

And why the Smithfield Times would say that experts at the VA DEQ and Department of Health agreed with Mr. Hockman's statement. (I spoke directly to the folks at the DEQ and Dept. of Health and they categorically denied agreeing with such nonsense.)


Because this is the "Psst . . . Your pants are on fire" kick-off, let's make it sort of a two-fer (and, because, as my father always said, "One lie always begets another."). Here are some of the out-there follow up statements to that doozy:

Later, Hockman told the Smithfield Times that he “misspoke.”

The Smithfield Times said they took his statement “out of context.”

While an attorney for ODEC explained the gaff to the Surry Board of Supervisors as the reporter “misquoting Mr. Hockman.”

Misspoke, out of context, misquoted.

Wow! That's a lot of pants on fire right there.

But don't worry, there's still plenty more where that came from. Until next time! xoxo

Monday, September 26, 2011

Greenpeace Summit promised, I have spent a good week revelling in the the trip to Chicago for Greenpeace's Quit Coal Summit, and am ready (as ready as I'll ever be) to share the delicious details here.

First of all, my camera bit the dust over the weekend, so I am short on photos of the fun. Sorry.

The back story on this trip is that Greenpeace was given some funding to develop a new campaign fighting coal in impacted communities. The stipulation was that the work be directly with community members and community groups--not a "top down" effort, but a real grassroots effort. Yay!

In that spirit, Greenpeace set out to let the communities in question guide the direction of their campaign. Double yay!

After reading the speech I gave at the March on Blair Mountain, I got an email from a delightful Greenpeace staffer who wondered if I might be willing to provide some feedback for their effort. We spent a couple hours on the phone discussing the fight, my community, myself, and so on, and they asked if I would attend the Summit in Chicago to further develop their campaign. They had me at "all expenses paid."

One of the (many) cool things about the event was that it was held at a religious retreat and center. Hence, it was beautifully quiet and sparse. Loved that!

There were so many interesting and wonderful people in attendance: a filmmaker from New Jersey who had fought toxic pollution in his community, women from West Virginia and Kentucky fighting mountain top removal coal mining, several Navajo people from out West fighting coal plants and working for renewables on their reservation, a veteran activist from California fighting incinerators, some wonderful young people from Texas fighting coal, a real live Sea Shepherd, and several others who are involved in this fight in their own right--not to mention the many Greenpeace staff members who attended. A diverse and wonderful group of people, for sure!

Our intrepid leaders, Hannah and Ivy, took us through many hours of interviews, discussions, and brainstorming, which morphed into some very specific plans-of-action that Greenpeace might take on.

There were so many insightful and creative ideas, it was truly mind blowing--from peer-to-peer workshops to video campaigns to coordinated days of action--the ideas were as dynamic as the people in attendance. I can't wait to hear which projects Greenpeace takes on. I will let you know when I do.

In the meantime, you can check out their new Quit Coal website

And watch a video of the history of the organization:

Thanks, Greenpeace! For a great weekend, forty years of kicking butt and taking names, and infusing a whole lotta hope for those of us on the front lines fighting coal!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Why I Fight

Why-I-Fight Fridays -- A glimpse into what's keeping me fighting this fight.

What keeps you fighting? Leave a comment or a link to your blog.

Solidarity, baby!

 * * * * * * *

Because when I was little I read The Lorax.  And believed it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


 "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
                                                   ― Margaret Mead

Monday, September 19, 2011

Let's Make a Deal

First of all, I am back from the Greenpeace Quit Coal Summit in Chicago and it was AWESOME! I will need a few days to process all of that awesome, but when I do I will definitely share it here.

In the meantime, I thought I might do a post on where we are geographically. After trying to describe to folks over the weekend where in Virginia the plant is proposed, and where in the community the plant is proposed, I thought it might be a good idea to give a little perspective on both. (I think some folks thought we were in Appalachia. We're not.)

Usually what I tell folks is,

"We are just across the James River from Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg,"


"We are half-way between Richmond, VA and Virginia Beach,"

but, what usually gives them context is,

"We are the county where the Michael Vick dogfighting ring was operating." Everyone's heard of that.

Yup....that's us.

Here's what it looks like on a map of Virginia--we're the county in red:


Here's a close-up of the Hampton Roads area. The yellow circle is the proposed plant. The red lines are the waterways with existing mercury advisories (i.e. don't eat more than 1 fish a month from these waters, etc. As you can see, we've already got a lot of mercury in our water.):


This my friend Helen:

Helen fence

This is her ancestral home (on the main street in the town--pop. 300):

Helen house

This is what her home will look like should the plant be built, literally, in her backyard (hers is the house on the left. Her in-laws live in the house on the right):


The land where that plant might be built is currently farmland. Now it is zoned for "business." How's that for an understatement? Is a coffee shop the same as a factory? Is "business" the same as "heavy industry?"

Would you want that in YOUR backyard? To send electricity to other communities, counties, states?

If you were Helen, what would you do?

And how many other "Helens" are there out there? People who are directly and negatively impacted by electricity generation.

When you flip on your switch are you doing this to someone?

Do you know? Do you care?

What if you wake up one day and find out that you are the next Helen?

Will people care?

We'll care--me, Helen, and a whole bunch of others.

Call us. We'll have your back.

In the meantime we just ask that you have ours now.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Why I Fight

Why-I-Fight Fridays -- A glimpse into what's keeping me fighting this fight.

What keeps you fighting? Leave a comment or a link to your blog.

Solidarity, baby!

 * * * * * * *
Late summer 2011-10

Because even recreationally, clean water matters.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Day in the Life

As a bit of a homebody and introvert, looking at my calendar these days is giving me heart palpitations.

Never in a million years, when I started this fight, did I think I would be doing the kind of work that I am now. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate public speaking.

Hate. It.

Makes me nervous, anxious, name it.

But, for whatever reason, God gave me a loud voice, an opinionated mind, and this coal plant fight. So, I try to remember that it's not about me--it's about the fight. It's about using the gifts that God gave me to fulfill His will (and, yes, I firmly believe it is His will to protect each other and His creation).

Meeting some of the most incredible people you could imagine is another reason why I do public speaking. It never ceases to amaze me how kind folks can be, and I've gotten to share a podium with some truly amazing and inspiring activists. It's all pretty humbling, really.

So here's what's coming up that will pull me from my usual comfy spot on the sofa--clad in pjs, laptop next to me, kids building some fantastic new Lego creation on the floor:

Sep. 17 - Chicago, IL - Greenpeace Quit Coal Summit

This is sort of a "focus group" for coal activists to help guide Greenpeace's new Quit Coal campaign. I'm super excited for this! Not only because I've always loved Greenpeace (their baby seal campaign was my childhood clarion call), but because I will get to meet other folks who are in the same boat we are. I can't wait to hear their ideas and inspiration!


Sep. 28 - Norfolk, VA - The Last Mountain at The Naro Theater

I've been dying to see this movie (about mountain top removal coal mining). My dear friend has been touring with this movie (and Bobby Kennedy!) for the past few months. I'll be speaking about how our local fight ties into the larger issue of coal extraction. Bobby Kennedy will not be there. Sad panda.


Oct. 1 - Blacksburg, VA - Virginia Power Shift

This is a student-run event (and movement) working on clean energy solutions. I will be participating on a panel specifically about our coal plant. ODEC (the utility proposing the plant) has been invited, too. It will be interesting to see if they attend.


November (TBD) - Fairfax, VA - George Mason University

I'm super excited for this, not only because I may be speaking with the phenomenal Larry Gibson, but because GMU is my alma mater (and where I had to take public speaking for my degree requirements! Who knew that class would come in so handy?).


Whew...I'm tired and nervous just looking at all that! Did I mention I'm a homebody?

I have a couple of other exciting guest blog invitations in the works (some involving actual $$!), and I will keep you posted on those.

Until then, you can find me right here: Couch, laptop, coffee, and kidlets. Just to keep it fresh I'll round it out with some dishes, laundry, baseball, grocery shopping, and home renovations.

Just another day in the life!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Why I Fight

Why-I-Fight Fridays -- A glimpse into what's keeping me fighting this fight.

What keeps you fighting? Leave a comment or a link to your blog.

Solidarity, baby!

 * * * * * * *
                                                                                                                                  Photo by Alice Bryant

Because the Chesapeake Bay is a National Treasure.

And paying to restore it while simultaneously dumping in it makes no sense.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What's Your Alternative? Part One

{Excerpt from a speech I gave at the March on Blair Mountain}


Lately I think about that big Firestone Tire recall that happened about 10 years ago: the tires were shredding off SUVs and people were getting injured and dying. Turned out the Firestone workers were on strike and non-union workers were the ones on the lines creating these malfunctioning tires.

Could you imagine if Firestone Tires turned to the American people and said, “Look. We need to keep tires affordable. What’s your alternative?”

Instead, we all understood that injury and death were not an acceptable outcome.

Not an acceptable side effect.

We understood that this company was going to be the one to eat the costs—no matter what they were.

And furthermore, we all understood that the company was going to have to figure out how to create a product that did not result in injury and death.

The coal companies and the electric companies need to be held to these same standards!

We need to stand together and demand that these companies go back to the drawing board to figure out an alternative.

And if they are unable to create jobs and create a product in a safe and affordable way, then maybe they are in over their heads.

Maybe they need to stop giving millions of dollars to politicians and start spending that money on hiring some people with the ability to think outside their one-trick-pony box

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sympathy for the Devil

This week there have been a spate of coal plant closing announcements in Virginia.

The Potomac River Generating Station in Alexandria and two here in Hampton Roads.

You'd think I'd be celebrating.

And I am.

Sort of.

That is a lot of toxic pollution that will no longer be an issue for millions of families. That is a lot of toxic coal ash that will never be generated. It's also a lot of mountains that may be spared destruction.

For that I am very grateful.

But I'm also concerned that these coal facilities may be converted into natural gas facilities.

This is an emerging trend: Replacing controversial and heavy polluting coal plants with less controversial and less polluting natural gas plants.

In fact, we're hearing a lot more talk and speculation about "our" coal plant being scrapped for a natural gas plant.

And while that would surely be the lesser of two evils, it's still definitely an evil.

It's still heavy industry--something our rural agricultural community has strongly opposed.

But more importantly, for me, is the issue of natural gas extraction. The method of fracking for natural gas is devastating communities. People's wells are being contaminated by the process, and people are getting very sick.

Just as I want no part of blowing up mountains for coal, I want no part of poisoning other communities for natural gas.

Josh Fox's documentary Gasland shows some of the devastation:

This resolve to not destroy others so that some may benefit was cemented for me very recently.

In the wake of Hurricane Irene we have had a large number of brave and hardworking electrical workers in the area attempting to restore power to our homes.

While washing dishes the other evening I heard a loud explosion, and I ran out to see if my neighbors were OK.

Thankfully they were.

It seemed the noise came from the electrical workers around the corner.

When I mentioned to my neighbor that I hoped none of the workers had been injured, he said something that was surely meant to be a joke, but struck me nonetheless,

"I don't really care, so long as my power comes back on."

I'm sure his statement was akin to, "I'd cut off my arm for a hot shower right about now." Nothing to take literally. I hope.

But it symbolizes one of the main problems with our current electricity set-up: We often don't care. Mostly because we don't have to.

We don't know who is getting injured.

Probably the majority of Americans don't know that someone is getting injured.

Someone is.

Some of us more directly than others. Some of us sooner than others. Some of us more disproportionately than others.

And all kidding aside, I do care.

I care about the electrical worker. I care about the people who live near the plant. I care about the people who live near the extraction sites.

I am not comfortable living a life that is based on injuring others for my gain.

I am not comfortable accepting the lesser of two evils when it means the greater portion is simply redistributed.

It's one thing to make a pact with the devil for one's own soul.

It's a whole 'nother thing to make a pact with the devil for another person's.

I don't wish to do either.

In the immortal words of Sid the Sloth,

"No thanks. I choose life."

Not just for me and mine.

For you and yours, too.

Whoever you are.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Why I Fight

Why-I-Fight Fridays -- A glimpse into what's keeping me fighting this fight.

What keeps you fighting? Leave a comment or a link to your blog.

Solidarity, baby!

* * * * * * *
Pow wow & Luray-42

Because blowing up mountains for coal is unconscionable.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...