More than four years ago, decked out in his trademark yellow cap and shirt, Larry Gibson famously waited his turn at a political rally in Beckley, West Virginia, and finally got the chance to ask then-presidential candidate Barack Obama whether he would defend the land and people of central Appalachia.
Few people in our country were so fearless in the face of political pressure, bankers, Big Coal backlash and even death threats; and fewer people had the inspiring impact of this determined mountaineer, who had spent the last two decades crisscrossing the country, leading protests and beseeching power brokers to defend his Appalachian mountains from reckless strip mining operations.
His message was simple and to the point: Love them or leave them, just don't destroy them.
Yesterday, working on his beloved Kayford Mountain homeplace—the symbolic sky island surrounded by nearly 8,000 acres of mountaintop removal devastation that has served as an important training ground for a generation of activists, educators and chroniclers—66-year-old Larry Gibson reportedly died from a heart attack, as committed as ever as one of the most indefatigable, cherished and courageous spokespeople in the movement to abolish mountaintop removal mining.
And still waiting for Washington, DC to end to one of the most egregious human rights and environmental crimes in the nation.
And still waiting for an uprising in the hills of Appalachia, and the halls of Congress and the White House to join him on the frontlines of social justice.
"I never wanted to become an activist, but I had to," Gibson told interviewer Taylor Lee Kirkland in 2009. "If I hadn't I would have been torn off this mountain a long time ago. There are thousands of people around the world who have heard me speak since I started this work, but honestly I wish to God no one knew my name. I wish I didn't have to leave my home and talk to people about mountaintop removal. Last year I traveled eight months out of the year talking to people about this stuff. But I know I have to bring this message to the world and I'm gonna fight for justice in every way I can. We have to have an uprising. This isn't an uprising that can be bought with money, but one that's coming from the hearts of honest and hardworking people."
As the news of Gibson's tragic loss spreads tonight, thousands of students, educators, activists, Washington wonks and policy analysts, and journalists and filmmakers from around the nation and world continue to release statements and post photos of how one mountaineer changed their lives in his pursuit for justice on Kayford Mountain, and his patience in greeting everyone at this homeplace.
"I spent the day with Larry on Thursday," acclaimed photographer Paul Corbit Brown emailed me. "To say he had an enormous impact on all of our lives wouldn't be enough. To say he was a hero wouldn't be enough. To say he changed our lives wouldn't be enough. To say has was deeply loved and will be missed wouldn't be enough. But let me tell you what was on his heart just days ago. He stressed that this fight was never about him or his mountain alone. It was, and is, about all of us and our shared future. It is about the thousands of young people that he called his kids. It is about those not yet born. It wasn't about Larry Gibson and a mountain. He wanted to be a voice for all people and the mountains and homes they love. He wanted to speak for Justice and to inspire those too frightened to speak. And even those who called Larry an enemy and wished to do him harm, he spoke of them, still, as "his People." Rest in Peace, Larry. It was only appropriate that you should be on your mountain when you left this world. You can rest assured that we who you left behind will not rest until we finish the work you so passionately and courageously began."
"Larry was one of the strongest, kindest, most dedicated peaceful warriors for justice I've ever known in my life," said Rory McIlmoil, a West Virginia-based coal and clean energy analyst. "And that no matter who you were, or which side you were on, Larry's smile, his laugh, and his compassion would remind you that we're all human and that we should care and fight for each other. I'm definitely going to miss Larry Gibson."
"The world is better for all Larry did to try to ensure a future hope for besieged and blasted generations of Appalachia," said Bob Kincaid, president of the Coal River Mountain Watch board. "At Kayford Mountain, he was among the first to show the world the ravages of Mountaintop Removal, making real and immediate and undeniable the coal industry's most dirty secret. Where I'm sure he is, I know the waters run clear and cool, and the air is no longer choked with dust, and Larry smiles in leisure well-earned."
"For those who love mountains, Larry was a god," wrote Rob Perks, with the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, DC. "There was no one like him, a man who literally put his life on the line to keep the coal industry from stealing our shared legacy. His spirit will live on in our continued fight to end The travesty of mountaintop removal."
"Larry's endlessly inspiring efforts and words are exemplary of a true hero," noted Chelsea Marie Ritter-Soronen, a St. Louis-based artist who took part in Mountain Justice and direct action protests in West Virginia. "Like many, I'll never forget the first time I heard him speak about mountaintop removal, it simply changed my life."
"I'm heartbroken to hear about the passing of Larry Gibson," said Scott Parkin, with Rainforest Action Network. "He was an uncompromising force, a relentless voice that spoke truth to power and put his body on the line. Every time I saw him speak, he moved the audience to tears and then to action. Once you learned about his story and his fight against mountaintop removal, you were hooked. You wanted to move to West Virginia and join him. He recently told a crowd in Charlotte, NC "They tell us we're collateral damage, well I ain't collateral damage. I am somebody. My name is Larry Gibson." Now we're all Larry Gibson."
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."
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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.
Anger, anxiety, overwhelm … climate change can evoke intense feelings.
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An extremely rare North Atlantic right whale calf was found dead off the North Carolina coast on Friday.
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