Mountain Justice Spring Break 2012 by Krista Shugart

 

                This past week was hands down one of the best weeks of my life. It is really hard for me to describe it, because it was an indescribable life changing experience. So, I organized this alternate spring and after getting funding from student senate, seven Green Mountain College students headed to Appalachia, VA on March 2nd. It was a 16 hour drive from Poultney, VT.

                We arrived at the Center  in which we were staying and Mountain Justice Spring Break was being hosted on Saturday March 3rd and met a group of students from University of North Carolina Ashville there! We became very close friends with the students from UNC Ashville, and they were very amazing and inspiring people and activists.

                There were about 60 people that attended MJSB (Mountain Justice Spring Break) overall, but not everyone stayed for the full 8 days. There were daily workshops for us to learn about MountainTop Removal and the horrible destructive process. Here are some workshops I attended:

Mountaintop removal 101

Local Hiking

Nonviolent Direct Action 101

Anti Oppression/Collective Liberation Workshop

Tour of Coal Camps

Media 101

Appalachian Ecology Hike

Messaging and Framing

Campaign Planning

Making Youtube videos

                Every single workshop was amazing and I took pages and pages of notes! If you want to know more about one specific workshop comment and I would be happy to write a blog about it in detail! 🙂

                We did two nonviolent direct actions on Friday and Saturday. One was in front of UBS in Tennessee, and one was in front of Bank of America in Virginia.

*Over the past two years Bank of America has invested more than $4.3 billion in coal.

*While Bank of America claims to support environmental responsibility; it continues to be the MAIN FINACIER of for the leading threat to global warming and public health-coal.

*Bank of America should not spend even one more dollar on coal!

Please boycott Bank of America’s ATMs and if you have an account with them, I would encourage you to move your money. (one of our chants was; Move your money! Save your mountains!) Because with YOUR money they are funding mountaintop removal. We had many panels of talking to people from the Appalachian community, where the MTR (mountain top removal) is happening and the effects on the community are so tragic. So so so so tragic. People are getting sick, the water is being polluted, the streams are full of waste, there are floods due to the fact that the mountains can’t absorb the water anymore because the mountain is now GONE. The young people in the communities are giving up hope. The list goes on and on.

“Mountaintop removal/valley fill is a mining practice where the tops of mountains are removed, exposing the seams of coal. Mountaintop removal can involve removing 500 feet or more of the summit to get at buried seams of coal. The earth from the mountaintop is then dumped in the neighboring valleys.”

There are 6 major processes of MTR that you can view on this website http://ilovemountains.org/resources.

The goal for Mountain Justice Spring Break is to educate, empower, and activate students to take action year round to stop mountaintop removal mining and create space to build sustainable and vibrant economies in its place. Students will attend daily workshops. One of the main ideas behind Mountain Justice Spring Break is that America’s dirty coal secrets have remained hidden for too long. Coming to MJSB allows students to see the injustices of coal first hand and then join the fight against them.

These goals were definitely met during the week. We went to a MTR site and when I saw it I felt immediately dizzy and felt exhausted as if I had to go to bed at the SECOND; it was if my body was just shutting down. I also thought that I was going to throw up after seeing it. I had a very physical reaction and it was VERY hard to see.

It was so powerful to be around people that feel strongly about environmental issues and human rights issues who are coming together to take ACTION.  I had a really hard time leaving Appalachia, I feel that there is so much work to still be done and I miss being around such wonderful and inspired college students. We have all exchanged contact information and have been keeping in contact through facebook. Mountain Justice Spring Break changed my life.

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