Mountain Mobilization Kicks off Summer of Solidarity
By Wren Awry
Listening to the talk in Washington is depressing these days for those concerned about the future of our planet. Democrats join Republicans in trying to roll back environmental regulation, any discussion of climate legislation is dead and everyone wants to expand domestic fossil fuel production. But all across America in the midst of a long, hot summer, ordinary citizens are telling a different story by confronting out-of-control energy extraction directly.
For instance, when Deirdre Lally isn’t busy fighting fracking or organizing communities, she teaches free health and nutrition classes in rural northeastern Pennsylvania. On Lally’s commute, she passes dozens of gas operation trucks and a number of active strip mines.
“While teaching children and seniors how to stay healthy, I look out the window of the classroom and I see nothing but strip mines surrounding the town,” Lally shared in a meeting between activists fighting mountaintop removal and fracking this past spring. “Poison is running into the streams and water tables and coal dust is in the air. How is a population to be healthy when extractive industries are taking over their towns?”
Lally was at Mountain Justice Spring Break, an annual training camp for anti-mountaintop removal activists. For the past several years, students, community members and activists have gathered together each spring to share skills and fight mountaintop removal, an extremely destructive form of strip mining that scrapes off the top of mountains to get to the coal seams below. Since the 1990s, a growing coalition of activists have engaged in organized resistance to mountaintop removal, using tactics as diverse as media campaigns, direct actions and lobbying.
In a region that stretches from New York to Ohio, a geologic formation called the Marcellus Shale has become a new hot spot of environmental injustice. There, gas companies are using a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which can crack the water table and lead to groundwater contamination, among other effects. In rural Pennsylvania, where Lally lives and works, gas companies are paying off landowners to frack on their property.
This year, Mountain Justice Spring Break was located in northern West Virginia, where fracking is currently wreaking havoc upon the landscape. The intention of the location was to bring activists fighting mountaintop removal in Appalachia and fracking in the Marcellus Shale region together to share skills, strategies and experiences. The camp was an early step towards a larger vision: to turn the dozens of fights against resource extraction across the country into a unified movement for land, water and health.
Beginning in late May, strategizing and discussion grew into a plethora of actions against coal, fracking and other extractive industries. These actions have included a lock down to a coal barge on a West Virginia river and two blockades of wastewater injection wells in Ohio. In central Pennsylvania, Earth First! activists at the Moshannon State Forest blockaded a road to a gas rig, leading to the first shut down of a fracking site in U.S. history. Much more is planned this summer. In August, Coal Export Action will set up camp at the state Capitol in Helena, Mt. to oppose the Otter Creek Mine and other proposed mining projects in Montana and Wyoming. The national anti-fracking movement is coming together to Stop The Frack Attack in Washington, D.C., while in north Texas, citizens are preparing to blockade the Keystone XL pipeline. Taken as a whole, the actions this summer have been nicknamed the National Uprising Against Extraction.
On July 25, southern West Virginia will again be the focus of this determined coalition of activists. Participants from across Appalachia and the country will travel to West Virginia and, in a mass act of civil resistance, shut down a strip mine. The Mountain Mobilization, as the event is being called, will be preceded by action-focused trainings. Participants will have the opportunity to build nonviolent direct action skills that they can use in the fight against strip mining or bring back to resource extraction struggles in their communities.
The mobilization is being organized by the RAMPS (Radical Action for Mountain People’s Survival) Campaign. Since its formation in early 2011, RAMPS has continued the fine Appalachian tradition of using direct action to stop strip mining. RAMPS helped organize last June’s March on Blair Mountain, a five-day walk to the site of the largest armed labor insurrection in U.S. history, which is slated to be mountaintop removal mined. Later that summer, RAMPS executed a tree sit on Coal River Mountain that, stretching to the 30-day mark, is now the longest lasting sit east of the Mississippi. This spring, they worked with a coalition of groups, including Greenpeace and Mountain Justice, to block a coal train in North Carolina.
The Mountain Mobilization represents an escalation for the RAMPS Campaign and the movement to end strip mining in Appalachia. As Tim DeChristopher pointed out, it is sustained mass action that transforms a human crisis into a political crisis which forces action from an unwilling government. This mobilization is a step towards more sustained, ongoing mass civil resistance on strip mines that the RAMPS Campaign, affiliated groups and allies hope to organize next spring.
To achieve this goal, RAMPS activists realized a bigger coalition was needed. In addition to joining with others fighting extraction, anti-strip mining activists have been building relationships with the Occupy movement and others focused on economic justice. The movement to end strip mining in Appalachia has tactical and ideological links with Occupy; it too focused on issues of economic inequality, which are at the root of strip mining and the struggle against it. Organizers from Occupy Wall Street came to the meeting at Mountain Justice Spring Break and many more are coming to the mobilization.
West Virginia and the other Appalachian states where mountaintop removal occurs—Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia—have a long history of economic and political domination by the coal industry. Absentee landholders own much of the mountainscape of southern West Virginia. The coal industry has a vast amount of control within the state government, paving the way for egregious environmental impacts at the expense of the state’s communities.
Coal companies have long blamed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and environmental groups for destroying the industry, but have recently admitted that diminishing resources are a key part of the decline. Arch Coal, one of the main players in the central Appalachian coal market, recently closed a strip mine in Webster County and laid off 122 workers. The Annual Energy Outlook 2012, produced by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, shows central Appalachian coal production declining up to 60 percent by the year 2020. Even West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who has toed the coal industry line over the past several decades, recently criticized industry leaders for their unwillingness to embrace changes. In Congress, Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Louise Slaughter of New York have introduced the Appalachian Communities Health Emergency Act. This bill would put a moratorium on mountaintop removal permits until health studies are conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services.
“King Coal is feeling the pressure like never before, and that means this is the most important time to ramp up resistance,” says Junior Walk, an organizer and lifelong southern West Virginian. “Now we decide if we let the coal industry strip it all before deserting Appalachia or if we send them packing while we still have mountains.”
And if the activists organizing the Mountain Mobilization, the participants attending it and their allies across the country keep the pressure on, it seems a lot more likely that Appalachia will still have its mountains.
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By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.
1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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Twenty-five years ago, a food called Tofurky made its debut on grocery store shelves. Since then, the tofu-based roast has become a beloved part of many vegetarians' holiday feasts.
By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
- Climate Crisis: What We Can Learn From Indigenous Traditions ... ›
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.