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…