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Power politics

levelling appalachia

Keeping with the theme of environmental issues, mediastorm‘s latest multimedia feature is an exploration of the crisis posed by open-cast mining in the mountains of West Virginia, USA. Leveling Appalachia was put together for Yale Environment 360 and tells the chilling story of how flattening the hills in the quest for coal  is also permanently destroying ecosystems and threatening the safety of water supplies across the country.

They say: “During the last two decades, mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia has destroyed or severely damaged more than a million acres of forest and buried nearly 2,000 miles of streams…At a time when the Obama administration is reviewing mining permit applications throughout West Virginia and three other states, this video offers a first-hand look at mountaintop removal and what is at stake for Appalachia’s environment and its people.”

This is not a purely local issue. Society’s dependence on fossil fuels to produce electricity is – as we all know – exacerbating climate change, with devastating effects already.

Campaigners are not optimistic about the chances of a decent agreement at December’s UN climate change summit in Copenhagen. Civil society groups will, by the way, be closed out of all of the event and will hold a people’s summit nearby. Big business – including energy companies – will get an official ‘business day’ in which to make their case.

Predictably, the global balance of political power will also be replicated within the summit. While the EU, US and other powerful players will have huge teams of negotiators, most developing countries – the very ones which are already often bearing the brunt of climate change, with droughts, floods and other crises – will too often have pathetically small delegations putting their points across.

It’s all a bit depressing really. But a few days ago I spoke to Chris Childs, head of climate change for Friends of the Earth UK. What he said could apply to the people of Mud River, West Virginia, as much as it could to anyone who gives a monkeys about the state of the world we’re going to leave for future generations.

“The most dangerous thing that could happen is that people start thinking there’s no hope because the official discussions lead nowhere – and do nothing, carry on as normal,” he said. “We can all do something to influence politicians. Any social change – from the US civil rights movement to the Suffragettes, or the end of Apartheid, has always come from the grassroots. If we mobilise and act we can force our leaders to create change.”

CIARA LEEMING

2 responses to “Power politics”

  1. duckrabbit says:

    A great post, with a thoughful and inspiring end. Of course he’s right … BUT I think the change will only come when this stuff starts hitting us hard in the West. Otherwise self interest will rule … afterall there are so many things we could have done to alleviate suffering in the world, but we have chosen not to.

  2. totally. the UK is of course already feeling the effects in places like Hull which are seeing regular flooding. but those people’s suffering is far more bearable than what marginal communities living in the likes of Bangladesh, Mozambique and Madagascar are facing year after year. it’s a cruel irony that it’s always the poorest and least-equipped who seem to suffer most.

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