First Egypt, Now Frankfort

This reposting is from Bill McKibben, founder and author of the must-read book Eaarth.

Frankfort, Kentucky, that is, the capitol of one of America’s most coal-dominated states. And tonight, the site of something really wonderful. For 72 hours, a small group of demonstrators have been holding a ‘sleepover’ in the governor’s office, refusing to leave until he agrees to take action to stop the absurd practice of ‘mountaintop removal’ coal-mining.

For those of you who haven’t visited the southern Appalachian mountains of the United States, the name is accurate–miners simply blast away the tops of mountains to get at the coal beneath, leaving them flattened stubs).

Many of the people sleeping in the governor’s office are residents of the mountainous coal country. But one of them comes from one of the state’s farming belts, near the Ohio River. He’s the great essayist, novelist, and poet Wendell Berry, in my opinion the finest writer at work in the English language, and surely the man who has done more than any other to spur the move towards local agriculture in the United States. You can read about the sit-in here ( and if you happen to be in the Kentucky area on Monday, people will be gathering at the Capitol for I Love Mountains day, and to salute the courageous crew inside.

Wendell reports that he took a copy of The Tempest with him to read. “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows” said Shakespeare in that great play–and so does the courageous stand for what’s right and proper in this world. We send our great thanks to everyone who’s taking part!

10 Responses to First Egypt, Now Frankfort

  1. And jsut to bring it up to date, the crew left the governor’s office about an hour ago to a cheering throng of a thousand out on the capitol steps. The governor agreed to go tour the most damaged sections of his state, which is more than he’s done in the past. Details here:

    Many thanks to all who were involved, and to Joe for spreading the word!

  2. Gord says:

    Good show folks!!

  3. Prokaryotes says:

    And remember Walter Huston “Howard”, in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, when insisting to take care of the mountain, after they digg out the precious minerals. Today he would be with you there on the streets and protest the devastation, which can bee seen with easy from orbit and beyond.

    He narrated in WW II style propaganda “Why We Fight”, and the tagline today would be something like this

    “…the survival of the civilization can only be completed with the utter defeat of the fossil machines worldwide”

    Because the fundamental laws dictate that we have to act and suck all the carbon back out of the atmosphere, or otherwise might face a runaway climate state, such as observed on Venus.

  4. Ted Gleichman says:

    Community organizing in action!

    Complete with:
    — a specific issue that resonates with multiple communities of interest
    — a strategy that begins with the end in mind
    — a mediagenic tactic
    — a logistical approach that is do-able by a small group
    — a framing of the questions that both leads to immediate progress in a small way (the governor agrees to visit) and provides a strong psychological and political boost to future action
    — a way to engage supporters in the broader community for ripple-effect mobilization.

    Kudos to all involved!

  5. Jeffrey Davis says:

    There’s an odd element here. As tobacco waned, it’s power increased until it eventually collapsed as a force here in Kentucky. Actual coal mining has been declining for years and yet I can’t remember a time when its influence has been more prominent or stupidly displayed.

  6. Jim Groom says:

    The destruction of mountain tops and forest to obtain coal should be a major point of interest to all thinking Americans. It’s not, which is truly a shame..on us all. I can say that if such a practice was happening in California all hell would be breaking loose. The NIMBY principle is at work and I believe this is the driver regarding this issue. The large population states that receive so much energy from mountain top removal have the out-of-sight out-of-mind question to deal with. My hat is off to the brave folks who are standing up to special interest in their state. I certainly hope the governor is not just giving them lip-service. We can hope.

  7. Could it be that we need to make democracy, real democracy happen?

    Perhaps what we need, maybe all we need, is an adequately functioning democracy, but first ordinary people will have to liberate ourselves from the pernicious, widely shared and consensually validated thinking of a tiny minority in the human community who extol the virtue of greedmongering as good, as an activity to be valued most highly.

    Even an enlightened dictator is not a person in whom I could place much faith. We need for duly elected, common people who are chosen by a society to accept the responsibilities and fulfill the duties of leadership by meaningfully embracing democratic principles and eschewing greed, by not “selling out” to greedmongers.

    It appears to me that the most arrogant, foolhardy and avaricious, self-proclaimed masters of the universe among us rule the world in our time, and rule it absolutely. This situation is bold evidence of a corruption of democracy, not an example of the reasonable exercise of democratic principles and practices. These circumstances are not only a colossal insult to human beings with feet of clay, but also are a clear and present danger to global biodiversity, Earth’s environs, its limited resources and to a good enough future for the children.

    Democracy requires representatives who reject the entreaties and bribes of greedmongers as well as embrace principles and practices that promote long-term well being of ordinary people and not only the short-term desires and fantasies of masters of the universe.

  8. Coal Burner says:

    What a joke! A dozen unemployable idiots embarrassing themselves. I checked the photos and they are lucky to have attracted 50 people. Get a job, get a clue and get a life.

  9. And after fearlessly acknowledging many problems and courageously fighting on so many fronts, we find ourselves in the unexpected position of not yet having mustered the nerve to openly discuss either the necessity for finding balance in relationship between humankind and the natural world we inhabit, thanks be to God, or the bold fact that a good enough future for coming generations to Earth is being stolen from them now here, before our eyes, thanks to the relentless, soon to become patently unsustainable pursuits of self-proclaimed masters of the universe among us.

  10. Chris Winter says:

    Frankfort, KY — 14 Feb., 1215 hours: “Fourteen protesters emerged from their four-day occupation of the Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear’s office in protest of mountaintop removal mining before an exuberant crowd of over 1,000 people on the steps of the state Capitol.”

    What about that crowd of over 1,000 people, Coal Burner?