Skip to main content

"Children in eastern Kentucky draw creeks black.  They don’t know they're supposed to run clear."   -- Ashley Judd

She was a vision in white.  Just as you might expect from a Hollywood starlet, Ashley Judd emerged from the back of the car stylishly dressed and perfectly coifed.  A few fans awaiting her arrival approached for autographs and photos, for which she graciously complied.  Then it was up to the top floor for a brief "meet-and-greet" reception with a few honored guests before her luncheon speech at the National Press Club yesterday, which NRDC arranged.  With her Southern charm and natural grace, she dazzled the crowd with tales of her Appalachian heritage, her deep love of the land and people, and her extensive first-hand knowledge of the damage wrought by rapacious mining throughout the region she proudly calls home.

Ashley Judd

Ashley Judd wields the speaker's gavel at the National Press Club.  (Photo by Jesse Hamilton)

Fortunately, C-SPAN live-streamed Ashley'sremarkson its website.  It's well worth watching the entire speech.  But for now I'll just excerpt some of her comments:

"I am very proud to be a Kentuckian.  And, of the many things my Creator has seen fit to allow me to accomplish, being an eastern Kentuckian is the simple fact that brings me the most honor, the greatest sense of self.  I love and am proud of being a hillbilly."

Warm applause followed this eloquent introduction.  It made me think that if instead of the nation's capital we were sitting in a room located anywhere west of the Blue Ridge and east of the Mississippi the crowd would have absolutely erupted in cheers.  All of the Appalachians I've met have this in common -- they are fiercely proud of their mountain heritage, as well they should be.

Ashley traces her family to the mountains of this region, going back at least eight generations.  In researching her own geneology, she has come to realize that her own well-traveled life pales in comparison to "the wonderful adventure of journeying back through my family history in the Appalachian Mountains."  She added:

"There is no better home than Kentucky.  We have a deeply engrained mystical sense of place, a sense of belonging that defines us.  Although I currently make my home in rural middle Tennessee and in Scotland, Kentucky calls to me.  It is my Avalon."

In genuinely poetic fashion that appears to come easy for her, Ashley described the ache she feels for her mountain home as more than bittersweet nostalgia -- more akin to a "searing tear, a gaping wound" in the fabric of her life and in the lives of all Appalachians. 

"And it gets bigger with every Appalachian mountaintop that is blown up, every holler that is filled, every stream that is buried, every wild thing that is wantonly and recklessly killed, every ecosystem that is diminished, every job that is lost to mechanization, every family that is pitted one against the other by the state-sanctioned, federal government-supported coal industry-operated rape of Appalachia: mountaintop removal coal mining."

The Appalachian Mountains are the oldest in North America.  They may well be the oldest mountains in the entire world, as Ashley rightly pointed out.  Then she lowered the boom:

"I am here to tell you, mountaintop removal coal mining simply would not happen in any other mountain range in the United States.  It is utterly inconceivable that the Smokies would be blasted, the Rockies razed, the Sierra Nevadas flattened, that bombs the equivalent to Hiroshima would be detonated every single week for three decades.  The fact that the Appalachians are the Appalachians makes this environmental genocide possible and permissible."

This is happening not just because coal lies beneath those hallowed hills, but because those profiting from it are aided and abetted by political leaders whose vision is willfully blinded by the injustice that is shockingly obvious to everyone outside the region. 

"What used to be home for human, flora and fauna, and the potential economic boom for a classically exploited and distressed area, has become, in the coal company’s callous terminology, 'overburden'.

"The Smokey Mountains, as the crow flies, not so far away, generated a billion dollars in tourism revenue last year for the state of Kentucky.  Using shovels the size of buildings, the essential ingredients of deep time is pushed into the lauded and mythical hollers of Appalachia, indiscriminately burying all that is produced and lives there:  watershed, perennial and permanent streams, all plant and wildlife, contaminating the ground water in the process."

Ashley did a fabulous job covering all aspects of this controversial issue.  She concluded by imploring the press club members in the room to wake up to the plundering of Appalachia and to commit their journalistic integrity to stopping mountaintop removal immediately.

We are lucky to have someone unabashed about using her celebrity to shine a spotlight on what truly is a national shame.  Her message was clear:  The iconic Appalachians may be beloved by those who live there but they should be revered by all Americans.  These mountains form the backbone both for our country and our national heritage, in addition to the bountiful natural resources they provide.  We are all Appalachians.  And like Ashley, we must each of us do our part to bring an end to the madness that is mountaintop removalcoal mining.

Learn more about this issue and what you can do to help save America's oldest mountains.

Originally posted to rperks on Thu Jun 10, 2010 at 07:01 AM PDT.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site