The phone rang in the Climate Ground Zero office. I picked it up and the voice on the other end was loud and gruff.
“Hello, this is Roland Micklem.” He was speaking very slowly.
“I want to come down and join your campaign against mountain top removal. I’m a 80 year old veteran and I have been active in the fight against climate change for twenty years,” he continued, “I’ve read about what you are doing and I believe this is the most important climate campaign going.”
“Sure, come on down,” I replied without any hesitation. Climate Ground Zero has been getting frequent calls like this since our campaign began in February, and we can always use another hand on deck. Our all volunteer staff occupies two recently restored coal miner cabins in Rock Creek, a small town on the banks of the Coal River in Raleigh County, West Virginia. Our job is to invite anyone down who wants to learn more about the cost of coal mining, see a mountaintop removal mine up close and talk with members of the community that have been fighting the good fight to end it forever.
Roland arrived in late June, just in time to get arrested with James Hansen, Ken Hechler, Darryl Hannah and others at a rally in front of Marsh Fork Elementary School. Since then he has been a full time member of the Climate Ground Zero staff, rising early each morning to chop wood, work in the garden and extract nails from old lumber to reuse. He quickly learned to use a computer and obtained a beat up old laptop on which he types daily, reporting on the campaign and writing articles for his local newspaper in upstate New York. A devout Christian, Roland attends church every Sunday. Most evenings, you can hear the sound of sweet music coming from the woods where he is sitting alone and playing his wooden flute.
He was arrested again in October for blocking the road, along with three others, in front of Massey Energy’s regional headquarters in Boone County, West Virginia.
In the five months that he has been here, Roland has done much more than volunteer his time. He is an inspiration to all of who live and work in Rock Creek, especially the younger activists. They have even created a Facebook group entitled “Roland Micklem Is My Hero.”
So when Roland said he was going to fast for the mountains, we knew that he was serious. After all, Roland is 81 years old and on several medications. This fast would involve great risk and sacrifice, and there were some who tried to talk him out of it. His response was always the same: “I have made my decision and I have spoken to my family. I feel this is the right thing for me to do.”
My concern for Roland’s health is equal to my respect and admiration for him. Because of this, I feel that I have no other choice than to support him. Many of us plan to accept Roland’s invitation to join him at Governor Manchin’s office and fast for a time in solidarity. If you are not up to fasting, you can still go by and visit with him.