Central Appalachian Women’s Tribunal on Climate Justice

Tribunal Verdict is in – Coal companies: GUILTY!

Today we had the Central Appalachian women’s tribunal on gender and climate change. It was an incredible event and experience. The stories and testimonies of the women of the Appalachian mountains being affected by coal mining and mountain top removal were extraordinary. The persistence and dogged cruelty and crimes of the coal industry haven’t deterred these women, their families, their activism, despite death threats — these coming in different forms such as explosions near homes to remove coal from the mountain, coal dust making lung cancer very likely, poisoned water in wells, streams and pipes, or just blatant threats to the most outspoken activists.
There is a real raping of Mother Earth in the Central Appalachian mountains. Mountain top removal (MTP), what has been done in this area for the past 15+ years. Basically, instead of digging deep into the mountain they are taking the coal from the top of the mountain which is much cheaper to do. They proceed to shave the top of the mountain, removing all of the trees, all of the vegetation, dead bodies (in the case of cemetaries) and breaking up the mountain slice by slice to remove the coal. The coal industry then fills another empty side of a mountain top with the useless mountain rock.
On the car drive from New York to Charleston (about 10+hours total) we drove through mountains for the last couple of hours. The mountains in this early Spring time were many shades of vibrant green. New leaves shown a brilliant green against a deeper, richer growth. The forests were teeming with a green! What mountain top removal does is leave a desert of lifeless dirt at the top of the mountain! All these beautiful trees are cut and removed. It is truly an amazing site to see (check out Burning the Future: Coal in America, the 2007 doumentary. The devastation blows you away.
I haven’t fully digested it all but felt compelled to write all you, in particular the organizers of the past tribunals and hearings—15 in 2011, 2 in 2010, 7 in 2009, 2 in 2008 and the 3 in 2007 which kick-started this for the FTF. This first tribunal on gender and climate change in the United States was a splendid follow-up to all of those. It was well worth the effort. The women living on the mountains are amazing. What they’ve been through, how they are fighting and struggling is simply inspiring and astounding. Whatever small way we can help the cause and connect to a larger global struggle is well worth it. Bringing the message to Rio+20 will be key — and by the way at the end of the tribunal I received a message from the official Rio+20 secretariat that our event request for the presentation of the tribunals at the Rio meeting had been accepted! The date is forthcoming but we will need to prepare further to present the findi ngs of the past 15 tribunals along with the Central Appalachia and the upcoming Chicago tribunal. This good news added to the celebrating knowing how important it is to get the message of the crimes of the coal companies out in the world! Thank you to so many for separate comments congratulating us and expressing your support! Your messages are appreciated!.

The Feminist Task Force, together with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC), the Civil Society Institute and our partners at the UN, the Loretto Community at the United Nations, present the first Women and Climate Justice Tribunal in the United States. The tribunal will be held May 10, 2012 in Charleston, West Virginia.The tribunal will feature the testimony of women throughout the Appalachian mountain region concerning the effects of mountaintop removal and other coal industry abuses on their lives, families, and communities.

featured photo credited to Vivian Stockman/OVEC & SouthWings

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