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The Last Great Ethical Question

The Democrats’ plans to double the logging on public forests in Oregon are meeting with resistance. Not many are challenging Big Timber’s tax treatment or unprocessed log exports or the inherent betrayal of what past Democrat administrations promised; but, at least it’s being challenged on ecological grounds and in the trees.

What’s not being mentioned is that back in 1993, the usual suspects told us that “Clinton saved the old growth” and called it “Our greatest victory.” Soon, in 1995, Clinton ignored the “victory” and signed on to industry’s  Salvage Rider which authorized the logging of 4.5 billion board feet  (130,000 acres) of the “saved” Ancient  Forests. The Salvage Rider suspended all applicable environmental laws and any legal challenges to the logging – exactly like the Democrats’ new logging plans and just like former-Rep. Les AuCoin (D-OR) succeeded in doing nine times in the past.

In 2000, seeking a way to burnish now-presidential candidate Al Gore’s eco-cred after, as vice-president, he he failed to stop the Salvage Rider, the Big Greens and pro-Dem Foundations came up with a genius scam called The Roadless Rule. This one claimed that “Clinton saved 58.5 million acres.” Of course, not a single acre received  inviolate protection. The Roadless Rule quickly replaced drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as the fund-raising threat-du-jour – the annual “ANWR is at risk from drilling – send us money” morphed into “The Roadless Rule is threatened – send us money.”

A quick perusing of both Sen. Wyden and Rep. DeFazio’s Bills show that the Late Successional Reserves (LSR = old growth  habitat) set aside under Clinton’s Option 9 “victory” are opened for logging and so are any Roadless Areas involved. Big Green has been deafeningly silent on this part of it – this flat-out betrayal.

Grassroots meetings are already scheduled on running challengers to Sen. Jeff Merkley , Rep. Peter DeFazio and Oregon Governor-for-life John Kitzhaber in next year’s Primary and General elections over their disingenuous logging schemes – their failure to have the spine to take on Big Timber’s preferential tax treatment or massive unprocessed log exports. Merkley already is attempting to distance himself, putting the onus squarely on his colleague; labeling it “Wyden’s Bill” when challenged on his sponsorship of it. (One of the many follow-ups I plan will be a greater look at this carbon sink-destroying /critical habitat-obliterating crime in this age of rampant carbon pollution and extinctions caused by habitat loss.)

Gitmo, West Virginia

The third issue I addressed in Activist Malpractice is the abomination of Mountaintop Removal coal extraction (MTR).

“First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is”…Resistance

Mike Roselle and Guin McGuiness took their State Capitol vigil/fast a step further and delivered to the West Virginia Governor’s mansion a sealed container of coal-blasting dust collected on the ground in a community near a MTR site. Roselle demanded that the Governor have it tested for toxins – the same demand that’s the basis of the Appalachian Community Health Emergency bill (ACHE) now introduced in the US Congress.

When Mike refused to remove the dust, he was arrested and charged with the State Repression catch-all Disorderly Conduct and thrown into the Charleston Regional Jail over a long, cold Thanksgiving weekend on an unheard-of $20,000 bail. He was held there, mostly in Solitary, with no heat, no mattress and a cold floor to sleep on. He also remained on his hunger strike and was even about to be force-fed, until it became clear that he wasn’t even a prisoner, but an innocent-until-proven-guilty detainee simply awaiting arraignment.

They tried mightily to break Roselle and failed. They couldn’t even diminish his legendary wit: “While shivering in the hole, a Baptist minister looked through the hole in the door and asked if there was anything I needed. I said I needed a copy of the Koran, English translation. He said he would see what he could do…”

Eventually, thousands of outraged calls to the Governor from around the world lit up and ultimately crashed the switchboard. The state relented and Mike was released Dec.3rd; the $20K bail reduced to nothing.

Roselle noted he was OK, was slowly breaking his 9-day fast, and went right back to work promoting the ACHE and an end to MTR, while Coal River Mountain Watch‘s Bob Kincaid noted that it was Day 669 since the ACHE was first introduced and it was also Day 669 of the Sierra Club, and the Big Green Beyond Coal Campaign’s failure to put any monetary or lobbying support towards the ACHE – THE only Bill that would end MTR!

ACHE-ing for Support

“It’s all Done with People.” — Wavy Gravy

Lastly, I got a report from Appalachian activist Bo Webb on just how the Appalachian Community Health Emergency (ACHE) bill came about, who supported/supports it and where things stand now. Bo first contacted scientists at West Virginia University about researching the rising health impacts of MTR. He and Dr. Michael Hendryx then began the first ever cancer research using human subjects in a MTR community. Christians for the Mountains provided 40 volunteers who went around door-to-door collecting information.  Coal River Mountain Watch (CRMW) provided logistical support. The results showed that Coal River Valley had double the cancer rate of the study’s control area which had no MTR.

In Bo’s words; “Our cancer research made it clear to myself and a few others that we needed to act with urgency.  I called on all the groups doing MTR work to come together to develop a comprehensive plan to end MTR.  I was rejected by SC and other non-profits except for Coal River Mountain Watch, Christians for the Mountains and Climate Ground Zero (CGZ.)  A campaign was launched by a few individuals within other groups to discredit my name and my plan to launch an all out effort in DC.  My good friend and colleague Bob Kincaid (Board Director at CRMW) spoke up loud and clear in my support.  He then too was ostracized by other groups.

Bob and I then realized we would go it alone.  We brought together a small group of individuals and launched the Appalachian Community Health Emergency campaign on Feb. 27, 2012 in Washington DC, using a small amount of funding I had left over from the cancer research and our own individual money.  Bob had previously made contact with Cong. Dennis Kucinich and we met with him during that first DC trip.  Kucinich asked us what we needed, we said a bill. He said write it and he would go over it and introduce it.  Bob and I then met with my good friend and DC mentor Joan Mulhern at Earthjustice.

The three of us sat in her office the next day and wrote the ACHE Act.  It went through Congressional legal counsel scrutiny for three months until we had it fine tuned to our liking and confidence.   It was then introduced by Dennis Kucinich on June 15, 2012.  The new Congress (the 113th) began its session this Jan. 3rd, 2013.  John Yarmuth introduced the bill Feb. 6 with no changes to our original.   We now have 44 co-sponsors on the bill with Yarmuth as we continue our work in DC.  We are basically operating on a shoestring, not knowing sometimes just how we will pay next month’s rent or how much longer the tires on our cars are going to last as we must travel to do this work.

Bob Kincaid has been with me all this time and seems to never receive the credit he deserves while others either not involved or not largely involved are written about as if they began the campaign.  That self importance and hi-jacking of other peoples work you write correctly about of some larger groups also exists in some others as well. So, yes, I am sensitive to it, as is Maria, Bob, and all of our ACHE members. Ever since I can remember there has been someone or some organization that is coming in to WV to “save us.”  One has even been so bold and arrogant as to call themselves “Appalachian Voices.”

Bob and I have put everything we have in this effort.  Maria Gunnoe has been speaking loud and clear about the ACHE Act and its importance since it was introduced, at the risk of losing favor with some of those she has worked with for years.  Maria is all in. We have been blessed for a year now with the addition and total dedication from Cary Beth Reed, another native West Virginian all in, total sacrifice for the end of this mess.  Another excellent addition is Karyn Strickler.  Vernon Haltom E.D. at CRMW has been instrumental is the development and growth of the ACHE Campaign since day one.  Allen Johnson of Christians for the Mountains has been with us since the beginning also.  These are the people who have helped to develop ACHE as it is today, and work unrelenting on ACHE without fanfare, without receiving due credit.  We greatly appreciate Mike’s efforts, he has spoken so positively about the ACHE Act and our work, and now he sits in jail for his effort to deliver MTR dust to the Governor.”

A link to Bo, Maria, Bob, Carey Beth, Vernon, Joan and allies’ work and updates on ACHE is at acheact.org   Please support and demand that the non-supporting green groups get on board ASAP.

“It’s ours. It’s out there, and we need it all. Now.”

We must resist all these destructive schemes. We must drastically Power Down and People Down.  We must preserve every bit of natural habitat. We have to use every tool in the box – protests, blockades, assist those suffering the huge impacts right now, do the political work necessary to challenge corporate governance, lower personal consumption, rein in the Empire…resist Big Green/Democrat-greenwashing.

Again, I don’t advocate we can kick our carbon addiction cold turkey – billions would die overnight. But we can use way less, more wisely – for heat, mostly and to fuel converting to other sources. If we didn’t have fossil fuels, it’s a certainty all trees would be gone by now; burned for fuel. If we hadn’t discovered how to use fossil fuels in the first place, whales would also be no more; they all would have been burned long ago in great-grandma’s oil lamp.

I’m for decentralized production and distribution of electricity – again less, more wisely used – and a lot of other energy savings stuff like smaller houses, more insulation, etc. Phantom power from our instant-on iDevices alone equates to five coal-fired power plants! Some decentralized small hydro is also relatively non-impactful. As the late, great Appalachian writer Joe Bageant said, we really need to go back to “a culture based on the human calorie.”

“In metaphysics, the notion that earth and all that’s on it is a mental construct is the
product of people who spend their lives inside rooms. It is an indoor philosophy” … Ed Abbey

Yes, it looks bleak; like I noted, just read the science. Fossil-fuel-based Industrial civilization indeed doesn’t have a prayer. Speaking of prayer, it’s going to take some serious Mojo if humans are to survive the Collapse. Venture into Nature; sit quietly and listen to Gaia.

The last great ethical question could well be; how many (more) innocent species do we take down with us?

MICHAEL DONNELLY is a longtime Gaian activist/ defender. He can be reached at pahtoo@aol.com

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MICHAEL DONNELLY has been an environmental activist since before that first Earth Day. He was in the thick of the Pacific Northwest Ancient Forest Campaign; garnering some collective victories and lamenting numerous defeats. He can be reached at pahtoo@aol.com

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