Taking a Stand: Personal Statements from Barge Activists Ricki Draper, Nathan Joseph, and Jacob Mack-Boll

RICKI DRAPER
I am incredibly proud to stand today with the century-long Appalachian resistance against the devastating effects of the coal industry.

One of my favorite teachers once said, “If hard work would fix Appalachia, it would already be fixed”. I have come to realize that if compelling research on health effects of mining would stop mountaintop removal mining, it would already be illegal. I’ve discovered that if intentional participation in public hearings for mining permits would change the process of issuing permits, it would already be changed. If engaging with local and national government representatives and demonstrating widespread concern for mountaintop removal would change legislation, mountaintop removal would be illegal. If the degradation of watersheds and communities of place in Appalachia would change the hearts of coal barons and judges influenced by the industry, the fight against mountaintop removal would be over and won.

The people who live in and love Appalachia have done all of these things and continue to do so, and I stand with them today.  But mountaintop removal is still destroying Appalachian mountains; and together, we must do everything we can to stop the destruction.

I have broken the law because the legal system is broken. I have broken the law because mountaintop removal is destroying our health, our mountains, and our futures. I have broken the law because the destruction of our landbase, which is our endowment, is legal.

NATHAN JOSEPH
My name is Nathan Joseph ad I am from New Orleans, Louisiana. Louisiana is one of many states and countries outside of the coalfields of Appalachia that uses mountaintop removal coal as a part of its state energy portfolio. The export of mountaintop removal coal to other regions of the world takes away the livelihoods of those who toil to support their families or suffer adverse health effects. Like Louisiana’s chemical alley, the exploitative energy extraction industry present in Appalachia has led to extremely high cancer rates in the region. Coal companies here have a long history of exploitation and abuse of their employees and the land in search of larger profit margins. In addition, the destruction of one of the most biodiverse regions of North America is leaving a giant scar upon the land and pushing a number of species, like the Eastern Hemlock, Red Wolf, and Virginia Big Eared Bat, to the level of critical endangerment. If “business as usual” does not stop SOON, there will not be an Appalachia left for our children or our children’s children.

JACOB MACK-BOLL
My name is Jacob Mack-Boll and I want, with my whole core, for an end to be put to mountaintop removal. This is what brought me here today – seeing the total destruction of the mountains and culture, devastation of community and health, and crisis of watersheds and ecosystems. Being from Pennsylvania I don’t want to claim that I have been directly affected by mountaintop removal. What I recognize is the connection that I have as a consumer, tied so directly to this drain of Appalachia’s resources, and the power that I have to help stop the exploitation and destruction of people and places that I care about. The line of “this far and no farther” has been crossed already, and I have to demand, in every way that I can, that mountaintop removal be abolished.