It turns out that paper pinwheels – even on a rainy day – are a great idea.
As they do each Valentine’s Day, members of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth rallied and marched on their state capital to call for an end to mountaintop removal and a just economic transition in Appalachia.
“We want what all people want,” KFTC Chair Steve Boyce told the crowd of 1,200 on the capitol steps in Frankfort, “clean air and water, safe and good jobs … a future full of hope and promise.”
The 30-year-old grassroots organization of 7,500 members holds I Love Mountains Day each year during the Kentucky General Assembly to urge lawmakers to pass a bill that would end the dumping of mountaintop removal mining waste in headwater streams. And for the last few years, they’ve included a message of New Power: new economic power, new energy power and new political power.
This year, participants brought thousands of homemade paper pinwheels to represent the 60,000 additional cases of cancer in Appalachia that recent studies have linked to mountaintop removal. The pinwheels also symbolized the hope that cleaner forms of energy offer the region.
In addition to the Stream Saver Bill, KFTC members lobbied for the Clean Energy Opportunity Act, which could create 28,000 net new jobs in Kentucky while slowing the increase in electric bills over the next ten years, according to a recent study commissioned by the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED).
Cody Montgomery, a young KFTC member living in the Eastern Kentucky coalfields, expressed his love for the mountains and his dismay that lawmakers fail to see the potential of the land and people to create a bright future beyond coal.
“I have witnessed with my own sweat the abundance that can be grown on less than a half acre of land. I’ve walked the ridges and hollers and held the potential of these hills in my own hands,” Montgomery said. “How so many behind these walls fail to see the same is a tragedy.”
Speakers also drew connections among communities around the world that are exploited by extractive fossil fuel industries. Melina Laboucan-Massimo of the Lubicon Cree First Nation in northern Alberta, Canada, described the impacts of 30 years of tar sands extraction on her community – polluted air and water and higher rates of emphysema, asthma and cancers.
“It is encouraging to be here today, to feel like you are standing with me, as I am standing with you,” she said.
Participants marched around the capitol and to the governor’s mansion, where they planted pinwheels on the governor’s lawn and in a “mountain” that symbolized the mountains of Eastern Kentucky.