Vocal Opposition in the Valley

It’s getting close to twilight on Easter night, and the birds keep calling me.

My two-hour nap has officially ended. The chatter has turned into a soothing and welcome wake-up call. Those cheeps and chirps remind me that it’s time to unpack my car after a quick trip to Charleston.

In three more hours, it will be the coyotes who cry out.

I get motivated to write after I travel. Since I last updated my blog, I was planning a move to Logan as a temporary resting place. But like an 11th hour reprieve or figurative hand to guide me, I was steered to take up shelter on a horse farm, just a few miles east of Athens.

I’ve been here since January and I love the quiet solitude just like the other remote places I’ve lived. As I stare out the back deck at the horses in the field, I continue to question how I got to be so dang lucky.

The bluegrass station is playing a rendition of this song, and since I am a Christian that celebrates Easter Sunday, I get to reflect on those old gospel songs about dogwood trees and rusty nails. These inspirations and incremental life changes simply reinforce the idea that God has yet another plan for me.

I am closer to the farmers I work with and the environmental degradation I have been fighting to change for the last four years. I guess this is the year when I am supposed to bump things up a notch.

It all started on New Year’s Day. My bang turned into a buzz kill after spending a wonderful Christmas Week out of town. There I am again, driving along Route 50, watching a caravan of six hulking brine trucks barreling past me at an odd time of day. Never mind the chemical plants and power stations that provide a dismal reminder. Southeast Ohio is now the frack industry’s dumping ground and I have written an article for Acres magazine about what it is doing to farmland. I am also doing my damnest to stay on top of the crafty moves that legislators are trying to impose upon the people of West Virginia and the Buckeye State.

I am afraid to drink the water from my faucet, just like when I Iived in West Virginia. My earlier trip through Charleston during a chemical spill in 2014 was just the tipping point. That’s when I became instantly hooked on Appalachia and wanting to make a difference.

A few weeks ago, I went and watched a movie about that 2014 spill called What Lies Upstream. This documentary details the pawn game between political lobbyists, West Virginia legislators and the Appalachian populace who live and die by the mines. I can’t believe the harm these folks continue to endure. There’s always a new way to stick it to the people that are so proud to call these hills home.

Given what the people of this region put up with, why do we still pay 10 to 20 cents more a gallon for gasoline when our backyards provide all the coal and natural gas so the coal barons and frack companies keep getting richer and richer?

I live near the same water district where perfluorooctanoic acid (otherwise known as C8) was being dumped into the Ohio River by DuPont for decades. They say the water is clean now, but what happens to the soil and creeks that have been impacted by all this abuse and aftermath?

If my life is harmed because of somebody else’s negligence, was this supposed to be God’s plan? Yes, I made a choice to live in these hills, but I also choose to voice my opposition with the people who are still fighting to be heard. There is so much outrage everywhere along the river, and it’s easy to join the conversation. Many of the company owners and billionaires that had a history of polluting our air, water and soil years ago still have the gall to ask local governments for more permits, variances and special favors.

You can shake your head and say, “I don’t care about the Ohio River or Ohio Hill Country because I don’t live there.” But isn’t it a wonderful place to visit? Don’t be fooled into thinking these types of environmental issues aren’t impacting the soil and water in your own backyard. Do the research. Join a local environmental group. People are here to tell you that our lives are changing in a big way, and what you don’t know can hurt you.