KFTC members bring pinwheels and love to Frankfort
The pinwheels represented the 60,000 additional cases of cancer that studies have linked to mountaintop removal mining. The pinwheels also symbolized the hope of clean energy alternatives.
Cody Montgomery of Letcher County told the 1,200 people gathered on the capitol steps for I Love Mountains Day why it’s important to end mountaintop removal and begin an economic transition in Appalachia.
“I want my grandchildren to have a life in the foothills. But if the next 30 years are like the last 30, that’s not going to be possible.”
Montgomery and other speakers called out state and federal officials for failing to protect the future of mountain communities, where studies have linked higher rates of cancer, birth defects and other health impacts to mountaintop removal mining. They also lifted up the potential of new jobs in clean energy, sustainable agriculture and forestry to replace disappearing coal jobs.
“I have witnessed with my own sweat the abundance that can be grown on less than a half acre of land. I’ve walked the ridges and hollers and held the potential of these hills in my own hands,” Montgomery said. “How so many behind these walls fail to see the same is a tragedy.”
Doing nothing is not an option, he said. “We can’t sacrifice another stream or acre of forest. We can’t keep killing ourselves to make a living.”
Ada Smith of Whitesburg urged Governor Steve Beshear, Congressman Hal Rogers and U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell to “stop catering to the industry and open your eyes, ears and offices to the people.”
Speakers also drew connections between communities around the world that are exploited by extractive fossil fuel industries. Melina Laboucan-Massimo of the Lubicon Cree First Nation in northern Alberta, Canada, described the impacts of 30 years of tar sands extraction on her community, including polluted air and water and higher rates of emphysema, asthma and cancers.
“It is encouraging to be here today, to feel like you are standing with me as I am standing with you,” she said.
After the rally, participants marched around the capitol and to the governor’s mansion, where they planted pinwheels on the governor’s lawn and in a “mountain” that symbolized the mountains of Eastern Kentucky.
Hundreds of youth from Louisville, Cordia, Berea, Somerset, Lexington, Bowling Green, Danville and Richmond attended the rally, including more than 100 who spent the morning in the capitol annex learning about lobbying and meeting with legislators.
Here are some links to news coverage of the day:
And, for more information about the health impacts of mountaintop removal, our ally Appalachian Voices recently launched web pages that collect and map a number of studies on this topic. Visit www.iLoveMountains.org/the-human-cost