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.]

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