According to the Urban Dictionary an Environmentalist is:
“A person who lives in a nice timber and stone house filled with wooden furniture, who advocates a total ban on cutting trees and mining. This person is inevitably a city-dweller, but acts as if he knows what is best for people in rural environments, especially those dependent on timber cutting or mining. This makes an environmentalist as popular as a turd in the punch bowl in rural places. An environmentalist uses liberal judges sitting in courts of law, rather than the legislative process, to shove his plans down everyone else’s throat.Recently, some environmentalists have recognized that they do not appeal to rank and file citizens of the USA. This is good news.
Compare an environmentalist with a conservationist, a person who wants to protect natural resources without trampling on everyone else’s property rights. Typical conservationists are hunters, fishermen, campers, and hikers.Environmentalists recommend turning grizzly bears loose in populated areas of Colorado. They do not advocate turning grizzly bears loose in populated areas of Massachusetts. “Not in MY back yard, they say.”
Judging from my experience being raised and having lived and worked in the “real” world, I’d say that a majority of folks would agree with this definition. I mean, my in-laws and several of the guys I used to work with hate the Sierra Club because they believe most of the people belonging to it fit the Urban Dictionary’s definition. It is a stereotype, and like any stereotype, sometimes it matches, and sometimes it don’t. Just like the vast majority of mountain people are not backwards, gun-toting live action counterparts to the movie Deliverance, the majority of environmentalists do not sit around drinking wine of the evenings, developing actions and policy while completely oblivious to the economics and personal impacts of their work.
If I haven’t lost you yet, please keep reading.
On the flip side of the coin, you have the coal, natural gas, and oil companies. Now if there ever was a stereotype that fit, here’s your example. If you believe for one minute that they give a damn for the regular people, just sit across from their lawyers in a workman’s compensation case or watch this video on ABC News about how they bribe doctors to deny black lung benefits to coal miners. They are smart, greedy, and will take everything you have and leave you with nothing but a mess.
Between the two, environmental organizations and coal companies, I know who the devil is. We just have to look at our history. It wasn’t environmentalist who hired mercenaries to shoot and kill our forefathers when they wanted a living wage and health benefits. I also know who has worked their asses off to help people in need during times of crisis, like when the water got poisoned by a coal company chemical supplier in Charleston, WV. If you didn’t know, hundreds of “environmentalists” began gathering and distributing water to people in need—some bringing water from hundreds of miles away.
Why do people hate the environmentalist so much? Everyone knows that many industries are doing some pretty underhanded things to make higher profits. People know that when it comes to keeping things clean and avoiding damage to people’s homes and water sources, most companies don’t give a damn for the “little” people. We all know companies are more worried about their bottom lines than anything else. They look to save money by doing things as fast and as cheap as possible while making a big act of looking like they care. When it comes right down to it, they are bound by law to do whatever it takes to keep their company profitable for their shareholders. To bad if there’s a few million dollars of coal or natural gas near your family’s source of water and it turns different colors and makes your kids sick.
I can tell you this from personal experience. My family had a spring above our house that was our source of water. My great grandfather dug into the hillside, poured a concrete catch box and ran the pipes down to his house. When we moved onto the farm in the early 80s, my dad put in a 1,000 gallon reservoir to store the water. Every morning it would be overflowing despite it supplying two households. That spring supplied clean, clear mountain water to four generations of my family before A&G Coal decided they wanted to strip the other side of the mountain to make some money. They drilled down into the mountain through the aquifer that supplied our spring, brought in trucks that pumped thousands of pounds of Ammonium Nitrate Fuel-Oil (ANFO) explosives into the blast holes (and the aquifer), set off the blasts, and our spring started belching out gobs of orange.What did we get in return? Not a damn thing. What did Jerry Wharton, owner of A&G get? Well, let’s just say he’s still able to maintain his mansion and private runway to the Lonesome Pine Airport, complete with hanger containing a private jet, a twin engine prop plane, a single engine vintage Cessna, and his helicopter.
This has happened to a lot of people all over Appalachia, and it’s wrong—damn wrong. You can’t put a price on someone’s source of clean water. I think we all know that the coal industry isn’t doing everything they can to make sure stuff like that doesn’t happen. Again, it’s all about profit. We know the natural gas industry isn’t doing us any favors either, or the oil industry, or the chemical industries, or the power companies, or the steel companies…you get the picture. They are there to make millions of dollars, to satisfy stockholders and pocket as much of the profits as they can so they can continue living their wealthy lifestyles. I doubt anyone would disagree that it’s ethically and morally wrong what they are getting by with.
So yes, it does get under my skin when outside companies comes in and screw up the land and people’s water to make a fortune while the people living nearby get virtually nothing in return. Being a traditional Appalachian, I also believe it’s my duty to help people, especially those who are getting the worst of things while coal companies get the best. Does that make me an environmentalist like the Urban Dictionary states? No. What that definition leaves out is that the vast majority of environmentalists are concerned about what is being left for their kids. They’ve done their research, they know the facts, and they are worried to death about their kid’s future health. If that’s a reason to hate someone, then you need to get your head out of your ass. That’s all there is to it.
I’d like to see more people standing up. We need to because it’s gotten out of hand. We can’t keep believing these companies when they tell us “everything is okay” or that they are doing us favors by giving us flat land and jobs. If they really wanted to do us a favor, they would pay to fix their messes, provide excellent pension plans, and stop paying doctors to misdiagnose black lung cases so they can get out of paying the benefits to coal miners.
We need something different than being forced to work jobs that make company owners richer while it destroys our health, our way of life, and leaves us in the poor house when they decide to close mines to save profits.
Many people sacrificed a lot to feed their families and in turn, they also supplied the nation with steel and cheap energy that has given millions of people comfort and convenience. I think those people are due a bit of compensation for their sacrifices. Call it entitlement if you want, but this nation has felt entitled to cheap energy that has come at the cost of our lungs, our backs, and our health. It makes me sick to think of how many people have enjoyed their cheap electricity, or gotten rich from it, while leaving us to be one of the poorest, most unhealthy areas of the nation.
I don’t want to hear people say there are no options, that coal is all we’ve got. There are a lot of options, including my favorite, creating jobs in various building trades to upgrade infrastructure and make it more efficient. If we can spend trillions of dollars paying defense contractors to supply wars overseas to gain more oil, we can spend at least a few billion paying people good wages to upgrade the infrastructure of Appalachia and the nation, and to fix the damage that’s already been done.
I admit most environmentalists have a funny way of trying to get the message across, and I have to just shake my head at some of them, just like I do some people back home who just won’t take a moment to educate themselves about an issue before they choose to spit venom. What we need—from both sides—is more understanding of one another. That’s what I’m here to do, and I’m going to keep doing it. I’m just going to speak my mind about the way companies take advantage of us, preach the need for job alternatives, and try to get people to realize they can to. We need everybody in this fight if we are ever going to give our children a chance at a healthier, happier future. That’s what I believe. How about you?