*gratitude the UU College of Social Justice for their learning resources.
The objective of this unit is for the group to begin learning about and
question the injustices within the state of West Virginia.
Chalice Lighting –
We light this chalice for all who are here, and all who are not;
For all who have ever walked through our doors,
for those who may yet find this spiritual home,
and for those we can’t even yet imagine.
For each of us and for us all, may this flame burn warm and bright.
Blood on the Mountain [1 hour 33 minutes]
Synopsis (from bloodonthemountain.com): Blood on the Mountain is a searing investigation into the economic and environmental injustices that have resulted from industrial control in West Virginia. This new feature documentary details the struggles of a hard-working, misunderstood people, who have historically faced limited choices and have never benefited fairly from the rich, natural resources of their land. Blood On The Mountain delivers a striking portrait of a fractured population, exploited and besieged by corporate interests, and abandoned by the powers elected to represent them.
• What are some of your initial reactions after watching the movie?
• What specific scene/character/moment stands out to you?
• What general themes stand out from the movie?
• Prior to watching the movie did you ever think about where coal comes from?
• How did this movie change your perception of West Virginia?
• What injustices stand out to you? What are the causes of those injustices?
• In what ways have the people of West Virginia tried to fight for their rights?
• What questions do you still have?
THE VOICE OF THE LAND (from The Telling Takes Us Home)
The story of the land itself in Appalachia,
and its destruction at the hands of industry,
is a good starting point
because the poverty which the land suffers
is central to the story of our region.
Although some of the most severe
of the land’s wounds are hidden from sight
away from our cities
and the traffi c of our interstates,
once we see the truth of these wounds,
it is diffi cult to forget Earth’s anguish.
And whether we are aware of it or not,
the poverty of the land
is something all of us,
no matter who we are,
share in one way or another.
In many ways,
people in Appalachia are just as alienated
from the rest of creation
as other people throughout the world.
But some Appalachians
retain a reverence for the land
that lies at the heart of the region’s culture.
Geologists tell us that this land is home
to some of the oldest mountains on Earth.
Biologists tell us that these mountains are home
to some of the most diverse soil, plant,
and animal life on the planet.
Countless songs have been written
by Appalachian singers
which breathe images of mountains,
trees, fl owers, rivers, streams,
and animal life
into memorable melodies
that remind us of home.
Likewise, “At Home in the Web of Life”
poetically described the natural beauty
of God’s creation in Appalachia:
A People’s Pastoral from the Catholic Committee of Appalachia 11
To live in these mountains and forests,
and with their trees and plants and animals,
is truly to dwell in Earth’s community of life,
as one of God’s awesome cathedrals.
In this magnificent work of God’s creation,
• misty mountain haze is holy incense,
• tall tree trunks are temple pillars,
• sun-splashed leaves are stained glass,
• and song-birds are angelic choirs.15
especially those who live close to desecrated places,
have come to believe that Jesus’ commandment
to love and serve one’s neighbor
includes a special love for our neighbor, Earth.
When we really befriend the land,
we become attuned to Earth’s voice,
“The land will talk to us.
It will tell us things.”16
Though many of us have a deep sense
of the sacredness of the land,
logging and mining industries
entered these mountains after the Civil War,
and since then have threatened
including human communities,
as the region’s economy became dependent
on taking resources from Earth
on increasingly massive scales.
Although coal is less important today
in terms of jobs and economic livelihood,
coal still touches everything in Appalachia,
even if only in our minds,
or as a source of a proud heritage.
In the last twenty years,
the practice of strip mining has become
increasingly mechanized and severe,
and its most violent form
has been dubbed “mountaintop removal.”17
This form of mining utterly desecrates the land
and has become disturbingly widespread.
Mountaintop removal has become
well known to people
both inside and outside Appalachia.
As awareness grows,
increasing numbers of people have begun
to oppose it,
perhaps most especially
people outside of the region.
In many cases, the process begins
with clear-cutting and burning
Earth’s forests and rich topsoil.
Massive amounts of explosives
blow apart the peaks of mountains
to expose the coal seams inside.
The rubble that is produced,
called “overburden” by the industry,
is pushed into nearby valleys,
covering the headwaters of streams
and disturbing or destroying
diverse communities of wildlife.
The coal extracted from Earth’s body
is washed with toxic chemicals.
The waste from cleaning,
is stored in giant ponds,
often tucked out of sight,
but perilously close to human communities
who are at risk of inevitable leaks, spills, fl oods,
and other accidents.
12 The Telling Takes Us Home: Taking Our Place in the Stories that Shape Us
Mountaintop removal is an act
of radical violence that leaves
monstrous scars across Earth’s body
dead zones on our planet
which cannot be restored to their prior
life-giving condition in our lifetimes.
Many people who see these wounds up close
“This land is deader than dead can be,”
and “This is what the end of the world
looks like to me.”