I don't know Chris Chanlett but I like his style. A self-described farmer and landscaper, he writes in the Charleston Gazette about his unique perspective in the "coal war" being waged in Appalachia. On one side is the industry, with its propaganda efforts exhibited by the front group Friends of Coal. On the other side are environmentalists -- like me -- and coalfield residents who are fed up with reckless mountaintop removal coal mining, which is ravaging their treasured landscapes, polluting the natural resources on which they rely, and destroying their quality of life.
Apparently, Chris attended last week's pro-mountain rally in Charleston, West Virginia. He expressed his opposition to mountaintop removal by holding up a sign parodying the pro-coal crowd of angry miners who gathered to cat-call during the speeches by Robert F. Kennedy and other activists and concerned citizens. His placard's message: Friend of Wood.
Clearly, Chris doesn't qualify as a typical "tree hugger." In fact, he admits that in his line of work he's cut down more trees than he's planted.
"I cut them down to make pasture for my cattle and simultaneously to harvest fuel for my home. I cut them down for posts for my fences and outbuildings. I cut them down to reopen the space for another generation of plants to enrich a landscape. And when I buy hemlock and pine for my buildings, like the barn I built this fall, I pay others to cut trees for my shelters...So that's the kind of Friend of Wood that I am."
Chris explains that he came to the rally last week as a "conservative," by which he means one who values "a society that conserves its soil and water" in order to sustain and replenish its natural resources for the benefit of all life. By contrast, he believes that "a society that lays waste to its countryside is headed for a fall."
Chris writes about witnessing the "clash of two visions" for Appalachia.
"Speakers against mountaintop removal spoke of public health and safety, long-term sustainable mining practices, and following the letter of the law. Counter demonstrators heaped scorn at those threatening their jobs and roared approval at empty coal trucks blasting their horns to overpower the microphones."
And he concludes with an eloquent call for politicians representing the region to provide some genuine moral leadership to save Coal River Mountain and the rest of Appalachia's precious peaks from the heedless onslaught of rapacious coal interests so that "the woods of that rich landscape can shelter, warm and comfort many generations rather than briefly serve the interests of a small group of people."
I agree completely with Chris. And I'm proud to also be a Friend of Wood.
Coal River Mountain, WV: Where the choice is between blasting it for mountaintop removal coal mining or preserving for use as a wind farm. (Photo by J. Henry Fair)