Saturday, October 29, 2011

Christmas on the Front Lines

Did you know that coal plants are usually sited in certain kinds of communities? Want to take any guesses as to what those communities generally look like?

This, maybe?


LOL....yeah, right.

Could you see a big industrial site and smokestacks coming up next to the tennis courts at the clubhouse?

Here's a more likely looking neighborhood:


And according to the NAACP, race--over class--is the number one indicator for the placement of toxic facilities in this country. In their recent report, "Coal Blooded: Putting Profits Over People," they said coal plants do significant and disproportionate amount of harm to low-income communities and communities of color.

That's pretty much my community: "low-income" and "of color."

Thus, making it a perfect target for a project like this.

One of my strongest motivators in fighting this plant is that injustice. I fight for my children, but the reality is that my children will not be here should this plant be built. We will leave. It will mean sacrifice and closing down a thriving business, but we do have the resources and we would be able to make it work.

There are so many who do not share the same privilege.

There are hundreds of children here who are just as beautiful, just as special, and just as deserving of every wonderful opportunity life has to offer as mine. Many of them come from families who do not have the resources to leave if the plant is built. Those children are a huge motivator for me--and many others--to fight this coal plant.

Proponents of the plant often criticize the opposition and this motivation. They say it's easy for us to oppose it since we are privileged. We aren't the ones who desperately need jobs. Some of us don't live in this community. And there is an implication that we only profess to care about these children, but really it's about our own vested interests.

Sadly, there's some truth to those criticisms.

There is a lot of privilege to fighting this coal plant. There are a lot of vested interests (from those who live next door to those who share this planet). And there certainly is a lot of privilege to sitting in my warm, snug den blogging about this fight on my laptop.

But, I will tell you what, I care about every child in this community. I would go to bat for any one of them. I would put myself in harm's way to spare any one of them.

I'm guessing you would too.

And now we have a fantastic opportunity to put our money where our mouth is.

This is an opportunity to help a few children in a front-line community by directly helping them--apart from a coal plant fight.

This is an opportunity to give some really wonderful children the kind of Christmas you may have had, your children may have, and the kind they matter what their parents' resources.

Please, please, please join me in making a contribution to Surry County's Department of Social Services Project Joy!

This is a lovely program that provides "food, clothing, and gifts to children from the age of birth to 14 years of age, who are living at or below the State's poverty level."

Our local anti-coal plant group, the Coalition to Keep Surry Clean, will be fundraising to make a joint contribution, and are calling on generous folks like you to give generously.

Let's all be more than just just selfish, privileged critics, let's directly help some really great kids to have a magical Holiday Season!

Contact me at to find out how you can help!

I'll keep bugging you until you you might as well just do it now. :  )

EDIT: Visit the FB event page for details and info HERE

Friday, October 28, 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!

 * * * * * * *
Ocracoke 2011-007

Because drowning Chesapeake Bay blue crabs in more nitrogen means less drowning them in butter and Old Bay.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


"If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."
   ― Aboriginal activist group, Queensland, 1970s

Friday, October 21, 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 2011-12

Because these kids shouldn't have to breathe 12,000 pounds of soot on game day, to provide electricity to houses in other communities.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"Psst . . . Your pants are on fire"

pants on fire
Today is a court hearing regarding the coal plant.

Back in 2010 a few local citizens--aided by a local lawyer/blueberry farmer--brought suit against ODEC and the Town of Dendron.

The suit alleges that the public hearings that were held to approve the project were not advertised in accordance with Virginia law.

The suit has dragged on and on, with ODEC and Dendron filing motion after to motion to dismiss, add defendants, and more.

The last court hearing was way back in the spring. At that hearing, ODEC and Dendron alleged that the case was frivolous and that the local citizens were placing a financial hardship on them. They asked that the court order these locals (and the blueberry farmer lawyer) to reimburse them to cover their legal fees.

It's worth noting that the local citizens who have brought this suit are seeking one thing:

A new--properly advertised--public hearing.

That's it.

So, claiming financial hardship? Geez-o-pete. Just hold a new public hearing and be done with it already.

Anyway, at that last hearing the judge saw through this nonsense and denied ODEC and Dendron's request for reimbursement, ruled that the case was not frivolous, and declared that it was time to go to trial.

ODEC's official response?

"We are delighted that,
after a year of delay caused by the plaintiffs failing to file a proper suit,
refusing to add necessary parties,
and ignoring prior orders of the Court,
this matter will finally proceed to a conclusion on the merits."

And, yet, here they are...not going to trial "on the merits."

Here they are attempting another motion to dismiss the case. Another attempt to delay. Another roadblock to proceeding "to a conclusion on the merits."

Kinda makes you wonder why they don't want to go to trial. Or hold another public hearing.

In any event, doesn't seem like they were actually so "delighted," does it?

Well, here's to having this motion to dismiss denied, and being able to really move forward with a trial date.

I know I would be delighted by that.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I {heart} Surry!

You ever just have one of those perfect weekends? Where you realize how amazingly blessed you are to live where you live?  This past weekend was one of those for us.

Truly, sometimes I really feel like we live in Mayberry.

It started off by crossing the river to meet a woman in "town" for a playdate. She and her family have just moved here from California and are looking for a place to buy. She mentioned that she had seen a house online in Surry and wondered if I knew it. I didn't, but I did see that my friend, Anna, was the realtor and I was able to call and set them up to view the property.

I also let these folks know that they would be right next to a wonderful pick-your-own farm and that they might want to make an afternoon of taking the ferry over, seeing the house, and then stopping by the farm for the corn maze, homemade pumpkin ice cream, and some pumpkin picking.

It makes me so proud to share the people and resources of our community!

Saturday, we spent hours watching our children's baseball teams play their hearts out, visited another local farm to get all-natural meats, and attended the loveliest campaign BBQ one could imagine.

Norman Rockwell baseball

One of the gentleman running for local office here is a blueberry farmer (he's also a lawyer who is suing ODEC. Ha! How's that for small town?).

Anyway, Saturday night he hosted us at his farm with a delicious dinner, fellowship, live bluegrass music, and some terrific campaign speeches. I also met a neighbor of his who invited us to insisted that we stop by his farm and help ourselves to as many organic raspberries as we could carry.

Seriously, Mayberry can't hold a candle to this place!

One of the blessings that has come of out this coal plant fight is the realization of many residents that our lack of participation in the local political process has allowed us to be in the position where our elected officials disregard us and we are not holding them accountable for their choices. So some folks have stepped up and are ready to jump right out of that frying pan and into the fire. God Bless, 'em!

Norman Rockwell Town Hall 

And with campaign slogans like:

"Why the heck not?"


"I {heart} Surry"

I gotta say, I couldn't agree more.

I love this place.

I want to see these farmers succeed. I want to see the kind of small town community, politics, and commerce that once made this country great thrive again.  I want to see Mom & Pop stores on revitalized Main Streets.

Normal Rockwell Town

And I really, really want to stay here until my kids are grown--coaching their kids on the same fields, buying delicious local produce from folks they've known their whole lives, and thanking their lucky stars that all those years ago a stinking coal plant got shot down in favor of something so. much. better.

Thursday, October 13, 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!

 * * * * * * *
Boot wall

Because mucking around in wetlands should involve rubber boots and mud--not hazmat suits and toxic coal ash.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


"The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself."
                 ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Last Mountain Speech

Last week Appalachian Voices hosted a screening of The Last Mountain at the Naro Theater in Norfolk, Virginia. The movie is an incredible documentary about mountain top removal coal mining and coal generation. I was honored to say a few words after the film--tying our coal plant struggle to the larger issues of coal extraction, generation, and waste.

Below is a copy of my speech and the trailer for the The Last Mountain. I highly recommend the movie! You can find out if it is coming to a theater near you by visiting their website at

Good Evening!

Powerful movie, right?

I don't know about you all, but I want no part of what we just saw. I don't want to stand by while it continues, I don't want to perpetuate it, and I definitely don't want to cause it.

What some of us might not know is that our community is directly linked to the one in the film.

If you have heard of the coal plant proposed for Hampton Roads in Surry County, then you know we are directly linked to those communities.

If we allow the Surry Coal Plant to be built--if we stand by and do nothing--we are participating in destroying Appalachian mountains, Appalachian communities, and Appalachian people.

This would be the largest coal plant in the state of Virginia, and one of the biggest in the nation.

By allowing this coal plant to be built, we are also participating in destroying Hampton Roads communities and Hampton Roads people; with more Code Red Air days, more asthma attacks, more babies and children developing asthma, and more mercury in our water.

Norfolk, of course, is downwind of Surry County. You could be downwind from 12,000 pounds of soot a day. Twelve thousand pounds of the kind of soot that doctors from the American Heart Association say causes heart attacks and strokes, and to which they say,

"there are no safe levels of exposure."

You all could be downwind of 1,000 pounds of lead every year--for 50 to 60 years.

Forty five pounds of mercury every year--for 50 to 60 years.

Norfolk's drinking water comes from the Blackwater River.

What you may not know is that the coal ash landfills are proposed for the floodplains directly next to the Blackwater River.

This means that your community's drinking water is as at risk as the Appalachian community we just saw in the film.

You must understand that the coal ash is more potent than ever.

When they talk about "clean coal" and "state of the art" and "scrubbers on smokestakes" they are talking about pulling all those toxins and carcinogens out of the air and condensing them in the coal ash.

The exact same contaminants that Appalachia is contending with will be the exact same contaminants that we will be contending with.

So while we watched that movie and felt horror and pity and shock for those people and the conditions that they are living with, know that if we allow this coal plant to be built there is a very high liklihood that we will be the stars of the next movie. And there will be a nation of people sitting in theaters like this one watching us.

Those audiences will be feeling horror and pity and shock for our contaminated water and our contaminated air.

We are linked to the folks in Appalachia, for sure.

And we should care about them as fellow human beings.

And we should help them because it is the right thing to do.

But the bigger issue, to my mind, is how to not become them!

Please find out how you can join Appalachian Voices to fight mountain top removal coal mining and halt any further plans for the construction of the coal plant here in Surry in Hampton Roads!

Thank you!

[If you are so inclined to join Appalachian Voices--an amazing organization--you can do so HERE.]

Friday, October 7, 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!

 * * * * * * *
Eli Hair cut + misc. kid-4

Because every child should be able to go barefoot in the country--without worrying about toxins in the soil.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Gone Fishing . . .

Errr...more like "Gone Mothering," but you get the idea, right?

After a busy week and weekend full of speaking and traveling, it is time to spend this rainy autumn day snuggling with my babies in front of the fire, making some chicken soup, having a "messy party," playing cards, and whatever else they want to do.

See you on the flip side!
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