It's all about getting to know people. And at the Climate Cafe Multifaith we had a chance to learn about West Virginia and the effort there for people, communities, and the environment. One of the things that really struck me as we got to know each other is that West Virginia reminded me a lot of Oregon.
Yes, West Virginia is getting a lot more water than we are, regular flooding that effects thousands every year. Worse, when industrial waste and flooding get together, then the risks of contamination of rivers and streams only gets worse. In Oregon, I mostly pray for a little more rain, rain to fill the reservoirs, and rain to sustain the ferns and forests.
But West Virginians and Oregonians both share a love of the land, a love of camping, hunting, fishing, canoeing or kayaking, and even foraging for wild berries, roots, medicines, and mushrooms. I am not a forager, but an afternoon sitting under a shade tree while the water of a creek runs by is about heaven in my opinion.
The main difference--besides that flooding--is that in West Virginia they have a way of mining coal that is called mountaintop removal. There are mountains in West Virginia where the coal companies literally blow off the top of the mountain in order to get to the coal. This causes many problems, including that fine particulates in the air from mountaintop removal has been shown to cause real health problems. There are many people in West Virginia who have spent years in an effort to stop mountaintop removal and more fully assess its impacts on human health.
It seems to me that the more we learn about each other, the places we live, and the land we love, the more we can find ways to preserve the natural world. The challenge is to change the way things are being done, to care about people and their future, to care about ensuring a good, green world for all.
Read more about the conversation at Faiths4Future.org: Climate Justice in West Virginia—“the prettiest place in the world,” a conversation with Rev. Robin Blakeman of West Virginia Interfaith Power and Light and Allen Johnson, Christians For the Mountains.