Monday, November 24, 2008




Source: www.onearth.org

By Robert Redford

Dixie National Forest, Utah, a few miles from Bryce Canyon National Park

Part of the change Americans just voted for in overwhelming numbers was to move away from the failed energy philosophy of "drill, baby, drill" to a more farsighted strategy, emphasized by Barack Obama, based on clean, renewable energy and efficiency. Yet on the very day that we raised our voices for change, the Bush administration dragged us in the opposite direction.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) cynically chose November 4 to announce a last-minute plan to lease huge swaths of majestic wilderness in eastern Utah for oil and gas extraction one month before President-elect Obama takes office.

As its clock runs out, the Bush administration also is trying to open-up drilling all over the Rockies and Alaska, to green-light oil shale leasing, and to weaken the Endangered Species Act. Though sad, it's no surprise, coming as it does from the same crowd that designed a misguided national energy policy in secret meetings with the oil, gas and coal industries.

The BLM didn't just try to slip the audacious Utah lease maneuver past the American people on an historic election day, it actually hid the ball from its sister agency, the National Park Service, and then rejected the Service's request for more time to review the scheme.

Among the 360,000 acres to be auctioned for industrial development is pristine land near Canyonlands National Park, adjacent to Arches National Park and Dinosaur National Monument. This Christmas gift to the dirty fuel industry includes parts of Desolation Canyon, named in 1869 by the explorer John Wesley Powell, which has been proposed for national park status. In fact, the BLM itself described Desolation Canyon nine years ago as "a place where a visitor can experience true solitude -- where the forces of nature continue to shape the colorful, rugged landscape."

Words alone cannot do justice to the beauty of these places, but they do capture the absurdity of the Bush plan. Oil and gas drilling in Desolation Canyon? Industrial development along the meandering Green River? The thought makes one wince.

The Obama transition team already has signaled its opposition to the leases, and said that once in office the Obama administration will try to reverse them. Let's hope that's possible. Utah's eastern expanse is one of America's few remaining wilderness treasures. It's our land, it's our legacy, but will it still be here for our children and grandchildren? We made our wishes about that known loudly and clearly on election day.

We voted to take control of our own destiny by breaking our addiction to dirty fuels. We voted to re-power America with clean energy from wind, solar and geothermal power. We voted to use of our greatest resource, American ingenuity, to build economic, energy and climate security, and to preserve our natural heritage. Yes we did. And yes we can.

Robert Redford, an actor, director and environmental activist, is a Trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council and is the founder of Sundance, in Utah.


Related stories:

Burning the Future: Coal in America ~ movie trailer

About the Film

Read the rave review in Variety!

Runtime: 89 minutes, Dolby 5.1

Quick Facts:

36% of US global warming emissions comes from the approximately 501 coal-burning power plants that provide the nation with over half its electricity - more than all other sources combined.

Every eleven and one-half days, the explosive equivalent of the Hiroshima atomic bomb is unleashed upon the mountains of southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky - for coal.

Short Synopsis:

In Burning the Future: Coal in America, writer/director David Novack examines the explosive forces that have set in motion a groundswell of conflict between the coal industry and residents of West Virginia. Confronted by an emerging coal-based US energy policy, local activists watch the nation praise coal without regard to the devastation caused by its extraction. Faced with toxic ground water, the obliteration of 1.4 million acres of mountains, and a government that appeases industry, our heroes demonstrate a strength of purpose and character in their improbable fight to arouse the nation's help in protecting their mountains, saving their families, and preserving their way of life.


"This compelling and timely film burns through the 'clean coal' rhetoric of industry front groups, showing the harsh truth of the coal story and urging us all to curb our energy use and rely more on clean energy to power our society."

Bruce Nilles, Director, National Coal Campaign
Sierra Club

"Burning the Future is a powerful and stirring account of the cultural and ecological impacts of an industry on its last legs - a testimony from the front-lines of resistance to coal."

Rebecca Tarbotton, Global Campaign Director
Rainforest Action Network

"...This moving and disturbing story adds the human element to a sanitized political debate by telling the dirty truth about coal in America. Burning the Future just might help us move politicians to solve global warming and our country's energy needs through clean power now."

Pam Solo, Founder and President Civil Society Institute

"Think your electricity usage doesn't matter? Think again! Novak's film enlivens the phrase 'think globally, act locally' as you journey with West Virginia residents in their courageous efforts to save their beloved mountains, communities and ultimately life on earth as we know it."

Janet Keating, Co-Director Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition



* Mountain Justice

You Can End Mountaintop Removal

Mountaintop removal is a radical form of coal mining in which entire mountains are literally blown up -- and it is happening here in America on a scale that is almost unimaginable.

Mountaintop removal is devastating hundreds of square miles of Appalachia; polluting the headwaters of rivers that provide drinking water to millions of Americans; and destroying a distinctly American culture that has endured for generations.

But mountaintop removal can be stopped -- with the help of people like you.



* See Youtube video by clicking this text. Sunday, July 20, 2008 at National Coal Corporation's Zeb Mountain mine in Campbell County, Tennessee, four protesters were arrested in solidarity with United Mountain Defense, Three Rivers Earth First!, Mountain Justice, Christians for the Mountains and coal-impacted residents of Appalachia.

These brave individuals gave speeches of hope for solidarity amongst miners, activists and entire communities that are affected by the devastations of surface mining for coal. Holding hands and singing Amazing Grace along with more than 50 protesters behind them, they crossed the line onto National Coal's property. Once across the line police calmly handcuffed and arrested them.

Having already destroyed more than 1,300 acres of Zeb Mountain, Knoxville-based National Coal has set its sights on other peaks across the state. Among the places it wants to mine is land in Sundquist Wildlife Management Area, a public game preserve that drains into Nashville's drinking water supply.

One of those arrested yesterday was Eric Blevins of Grandview, Tenn. "I crossed an artificial line today because Appalachia is my homeland, and its life is being destroyed far faster than it can regenerate," he said. "I wanted to open people's minds to how insane it is that we allow corporations to own land without loving it and keeping life sustainable."

The march began with a prayer led by Christians for the Mountains and included political theater, giant puppets, speeches, and renditions of "Rocky Top," one of Tennessee's state songs. It was organized by United Mountain Defense, Mountain Justice and Three Rivers Earth First!

Text by kymtnjustice

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