While so many environmental justice projects abound that deserve donations, including the besieged community groups fending off an outrageous coal mining boom and incoming fracking operations in my own native southern Illinois, the grassroots movement to create the Judy Bonds Center for the Coal River Mountain Watch provides a rare opportunity to support an important legacy project on the front lines of the mountaintop removal crisis.
The Judy Bonds Center: Just the sound of such a memorial building dedicated to the modern day abolitionist in the heart of coal country, as Coal River Mountain organizer Junior Walk recently noted, will send a powerful message to the reckless coal industry and "inspires an end to the destruction of her community." It will also serve as an enduring memorial for so many lost residents, miners and communities.
In the nearly four years since her passing, Bonds' beloved Appalachian mountain communities have continued to be ravaged by violation-ridden mountaintop removal operations, now linked to lung cancer, while black lung disease soars among coal miners.
Former Massey CEO Don Blankenship may now be facing charges in federal court, but the damages from his violation-ridden operations continue.
Never has Bonds' uncompromising call for the abolition of mountaintop removal operations--not the maintenance of failed regulatory approaches, which have resulted in a rap sheet of environmental crimes and a mounting health care crisis--been more timely, and more important to a transition for a viable future in central Appalachia.
The New York Times editorial board called on the federal government to "outlaw" the "old and evil practice of strip mining" in 1970. Since then, reckless coal mining in central Appalachia, as well as booming operations in the Illinois and western basins, have poisoned and depopulated historic mountain and farm communities, and effectively erased the physical record of important chapters of indigenous and Appalachian history from our national experience. Lindyville and Twilight, West Virginia, have joined the ranks of once vibrant American communities turned into bombed-out ghost towns. In a region rocked daily by millions of pounds of explosive detonations, residents deal with deadly fly rock, silica and coal dust showers, contaminated streams and wells, and coal accidents.
In its 1970 editorial, "The Great Soil Swindle," the Times declared: "This ravaging of farmland, pasture and woods in the single-minded pursuit of cheap coal is a desecration."
That desecration continues today.
Judy Bonds gave untold thousands of residents and activists a reason to believe in environmental justice.
A gift towards the creation of the Judy Bonds Center for her Coal River Mountain Watch will make sure such a legacy continues her call to "don't let up, fight harder and finish off" the outlaw ranks of Big Coal and end the egregious crime of mountaintop removal.