An excerpt from “Man without a Bio-Region” by Mike Roselle

A question….
What if I DO have a bio region?

It’s good to be home. A feeling washed over me the other evening and I could feel a bond forming with the ground beneath my feet. “We all knew you’d be back,” Ed says. It is a comment I’ve heard more than once. “It gets in your’ blood” is another. All I can think is that it must have already been in there somewhere, and well, it’s boiling now.

My grandmother was not proud to be a Hillbilly, never mentioned her childhood, and thought country people were crude. She was a hellraiser from Monticello, Kentucky who married a Revenuer and moved to Chattanooga after leaving my grandfather. I have no doubt that Jimmy had busted a few stills right here on this river. He would go undercover and dress and act like a hillbilly, even blacken his teeth, to find the stills and then blow them up with dynamite. He would usually keep some of the good stuff which he would tell me was his “cough medicine”. Moonshining was one of the few honest ways to make a living here.

Half of all the people born in these hills had to leave. This remarkable migration represents a larger percentage of the population than those caused by most contemporary civil wars and invasions. The children of these mountaineers will rarely see these mountains. Are these mountains still in their blood? What would it take to stir up those deep pools and get that blood flowing again? Even the thought that these mountains continue to be hauled away, after all of these years, by Mr. Peabody’s coal train, does not stir them?

What would?

It seems obvious to me that we can’t save the world. Not the world as we know it. Another world is emerging, one more terrifying than the last, which was plenty scary enough. Those bonds that now connect us to the rest of the world may not hold, and what will be important is a sense of place, a sense of community, and a sense that together we can hold out against the coming storm. We must protect our homes and bio-regions wherever we live.

I have mostly lived as a nomad, and for a nomad it is the sky where home is found. It is the same sky no matter where you roam, the ground is warmed by the same sun. Strange land under familiar stars! Farmers and clerks populate the valleys below but freedom is on the range and in the hills. Yet after this last year on the road I feel the need to settle down and get to work here. There is much to be done.

We will try to pass a bill in Congress this coming year. It is one thing I owe to this place. We are told that this is not possible. We are told we do not understand our nations capitol, only they do, they who have never passed any bills restricting, regulating or forbidding the blasting that goes on here every single day. They think because we live in a “holler” and pronounce Washington with an “r” that we must be ignorant.

As in Hillbilly.

Am I a Hillbilly? (Them’s fightin’ words!) I’m pretty sure that I’ve not earned it and never will. It is very hard to grow up and live here unless you mine for coal. If you do remain, you become part of the land.The bonds formed are not just to a place but to a community and a way of life that I am just beginning to understand. All of this is threatened, and this is not unique to Appalachia, but there is something bigger going on and I continue to believe that if we cannot bring the light of justice into these hills, we have little hope elsewhere.

Ahh..The question is how? The truth is we have no idea or we would have done it already. We’ve tried many things. Some work better than others. We make mistakes. The answer is to keep trying. Keep fighting for each other. The future holds many surprises and some of them may be good ones. We are currently making a movie about people who have not given up. There are more and more of them every day. These are the real volunteers, the front line warriors who labor every day to save their homes.

We here at Climate Ground Zero will continue to do what we have done since 2005. We are going to take a stand to stop the destruction of Appalachia for coal, the poisoning of the many communities here, and the death of our rivers. We operate a year round drop in center here in Rock Creek with housing and communication facilities. We offer tours, workshops and other opportunities to learn about the biggest environmental crime in the US.

As Maria Gunnoe told me in 2005, “You won’t believe it until you see it…” So ya’ll come on down for a spell and sit on my porch. It might change your life too…

CGZ Activist Sentenced to Maximum Fines in Jury Trial

MADISON, W. Va. – October 15, 2009 – In the second jury trial of the Climate Ground Zero campaign, Mat Louis-Rosenberg appeared before Boone County Magistrate Byrneside to plead a necessity defense on counts of trespassing and conspiracy.

On May 23, Louis-Rosenberg and seven others were arrested after locking themselves down to rock trucks on Kayford Mountain, halting work for four hours. Appearing before a jury, Louis-Rosenberg faced the risk of up to 18 months in jail.

Despite hearing evidence that Louis-Rosenberg was never asked to leave the site, the jury convicted Louis-Rosenberg on both charges and, while not incarcerated, he was sentenced to the maximum penalties of $1,500 plus court costs which brought the total to over $2,700. Six other activists that participated in the lockdown plead no contest and received maximum fines and court costs of $1844. After trial, Louis-Rosenberg returned to Rock Creek to appear on a panel at the Mountain Justice Fall Summit, a weekend of service and education focused around ending the devastation of mountaintop removal.

In a statement before his trial, Louis-Rosenberg explained why he wished to appear before a jury. “This campaign, just like the civil rights movement and many other struggles for change, is founded on a strategy of non-violent civil disobedience. And just like the civil rights movement, it draws its strength and its power from the willingness of ordinary people to take extraordinary risks and sacrifices because of the strength of their beliefs.

“My conscience demands that I stand up in that court room and explain to the people of Boone County why I did what I did. I will not contest the facts of what happened, but rather assert my belief that what I did was right, that I was stopping a far greater crime than I was committing. And if I go to jail because of it, I know that I go as many have gone before me, in defense of my friends, this land and my convictions.”


State Journal: Kitts Declares War


Coal Counties Endure New Generation of Mine Wars Posted Thursday, July 30, 2009 ; 06:00 AM
West Virginia’s southern coal fields are caught in a tug-of-war between jobs and the environment. Story by Mike Ruben

Excerpts from today’s story in the State Journal:

“We are in a war,”

O. Eugene Kitts,a senior vice president with the International Coal Group, commented during a recent appearance on “Decision Makers,” a statewide public affairs television program.

“I believe that mining is going to survive this attack,” he continued.

“I think when the public is informed and their political representatives are informed that this assault on surface mining is based on such a strenuous type of basis, that we will prevail in this battle.

We are in a war, and that war will continue….”

Coal Counties Endure New Generation of Mine Wars

Posted Thursday, July 30, 2009 ; 06:00 AM

West Virginia’s southern coal fields are caught in a tug-of-war between jobs and the environment.

Story by Mike Ruben

Mine wars now carry a different connotation around southern West Virginia in the new millennium.

“We’re under siege,” Mingo County coal executive James “Buck” Harless of International Industries recently said regarding the actions of the Obama administration. “There’s a mass movement against coal.”

Read the rest of the story here