Radical Action, Coal Miners, And Everything In Between

Written by Trevor Culhane, Media Co-Coordinator, Team Maine

When thinking about addressing climate change, there are a lot of things I could be doing to make an impact. Every time I see a successful protest, congressional bill, or community action, I often think to myself, “why aren’t I doing that.” Most recently this was in reaction to the RAMPS’ (Radical Action for Mountain People’s Survival) shut down of Appalachia’s largest mountaintop removal site on Sunday. 50 activists trespassed on the site, boarded mining equipment, and dropped banners protesting the site’s negative effects on the community’s health.

In reading about this, I wondered if I should have been there to help shut down the site, but I think my hesitation is not only because of the threat of a long jail sentence. During the protest, some of the coal miners chased the protesters in trucks, while another pepper sprayed three of the activists. The activists were trying to fight for the miners’ health and the health of their families, and yet they were met with anger and violence. I doubt this is due to a lack of effort on RAMPS’ part; one banner dropped by RAMPS read “Restore Our Mountains, Re-Employ our Miners”.

A sign at RAMPS’s protest

It was obvious that these two groups didn’t need to be in conflict with one another. Although the miners might not be inclined to join the protesters, but they didn’t need to mock and harm them. But RAMPS isn’t likely to be the group to reach these miners; their commitment to direct action against the miners’ place of employment is probably alienating. But another group, such as a group of concerned doctors or a religious group concerned about climate change, may be able to reach these miners in a way that the activists can’t.

Recognizing that need for people other than radical environmentalists to work against climate change, helps me to commit myself to Climate Summer. Someday I might chain myself to mining equipment to be imprisoned for what I believe in. I support those who do this, they show how terrible mountain top removal is and how committed they are to stopping it. The movement against climate change needs such radical environmentalists, yes, but also church-goers, students, politicians and cyclists. It is the collaboration of all these people that will make the greatest impact in fighting climate change, not any group alone.

One group may be more visible than another, more “committed”, but all of them have something that the movement needs. I’m glad that through Climate Summer I’m able to work to link them together, to work through commonalities not differences, so that maybe someday the miners will join the “tree-huggers” and we can all have a better future.

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