FIGHT MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL WITH GREAT MUSIC
originally published on thepeoplesmusic.us
Mountain top removal coal mining has been a simmering issue in the Appalachian Mountains for some time now, but over the past few months, musicians from the area and across the country have banded together to fight it with the Mountains’ greatest export—not coal, music.
Coal mining has always been an incendiary subject in the Appalachians. Hell, the largest armed insurgence since the Civil War was fought over miners’ rights in 1921 at Blair Mountain. A staggering 15,000 coal miners took up arms to battle hired thugs, goons, government agents, and even the US Army Air Corps’ bomber planes. It’s an understatement to say coal mining always has and always will be a hot button issue. But the issue today isn’t whether coal mining should be eliminated entirely, but merely the cessation mountain top removal.
In case you’re not familiar with it, mountain top removal goes like this: one of several large energy companies, owned and run by outsiders, cram a mountain top full of explosives and then blow the living hell out of it. Then they take bulldozers and push the rubble into giant sorting machines the pick out the coal. To date over 1.2 million acres and 500 mountains have been flattened.
The process wreaks havoc on the environment. For one thing, a mountain isn’t there anymore, and that alone is a big fucking deal, but the blasting also contaminates rivers and streams, which are depended on for miles, at the source, and sends toxic ash and dust over a staggeringly large area. Contaminating the water has a trickle down effect that basically screws all the animals, vegetation, and people in the region. The dust and ash is so thick and dangerous that schools have shut down due to inches of deadly residue, and houses in the area are rendered worthless, leaving families homeless.
When the topic of environmental repercussions of coal mining is brought up, most people’s first response is, what about the jobs? True, people need to work, and as humans, our survival instinct can be short sighted, looking only to the next paycheck to feed our families. There is an argument to be made that communities would die without the mines they have grown so dependent on (largely thanks to the billionaire outsider-run coal companies and wealthy politicians creating a system where they have no other choice or options for subsistence). However, that point is moot when it comes to mountain top removal, because by simply blowing up the whole mountain and bulldozing the remnants, big coal is employing only a fraction of the number of people they would in a traditional mine. That’s right, they’re screwing the earth and the workers.
The coal companies will try to tell you that their “reclamation process” puts things back good as new, but you don’t have to be a geologist to know that a pile of gravel covered with non-indigenous grass and saplings isn’t the same thing as a mountain that was there for millions of years. It’s more like a lumpy golf course.
It takes a lot to fight back against some the richest, most powerful, and politically corrupt energy companies, but if one thing can do it, it’s music. Kentuckians Yim Yames (that’s Jim James from My Morning Jacket) Ben Sollee, and Daniel Martin Moore, released their album Dear Companion earlier this year, and just announced a string of new tour dates. Proceeds from the album and shows will go to fight mountain top removal.
You can pick up a track off their album here or watch the video below.
Appalachian Voices Tour Dates
7/22 Lexington, KY Lexington Opera House
7/23 Knoxville, TN The Bijou Theater
7/25 Charleston, WV Mountain Stage
7/26 Marlinton, WV Pocahontas Opera House
7/27 Charlottesville, VA Jefferson Theater
7/29 Woodstock, NY Bearsville Theater
7/30 New York, NY Music Hall Of Williamsburg
7/31 Newport, RI Newport Folk Fest (Yim Yames Solo Performance)
8/01 Newport, RI Newport Folk Fest (Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore Performance)
Additionally, the compilation Still Moving Mountains features the Del McCoury Band, Kathy Mattea, Everett Lilly, and a whole bunch of others. The proceeds from this album go to benefit a community kitchen that feeds activists and families in the communities that are fighting to end mountain top removal.
Another great compilation, Coal Country Music features Justin Townes Earle, Tom T. Hall, John Prine, Gillian Welch, and more amazing musicians than I have time to list. All the tracks were donated and the proceeds go to supports Alliance for Appalachia. The soundtrack is a companion piece to a great documentary, which will tell you everything you need to know about mountain top removal.
Now go get involved and get yourself some great music that fights for a good cause.