Mountain Mama Wins Environmental Nobel Prize

Congratulations to Maria Gunnoe for winning the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, which is considered the "Nobel prize" for grassroots environmentalists.  Maria, one of six activists from different continents to earn the $150,000 award, is a native West Virginian who has put her life on the line to stop mountaintop removal that is devastating Appalachia. 

She began fighting this most reckless type of coal mining after her home was damaged by flooding caused by upstream "valley filling" -- or the process of burying streams with rock, rubble and mining waste after companies blast the mountaintops to expose thin coal seams below.  Her house has been flooded seven times since 2000, yet she won't give up her land or her quest to topple mountaintop removal coal mining.

As Maria told her hometown paper, the Charleston Gazette, "I live on my family property and refuse to give up the only memories I have of my family before me. They want me out at all cost and I refuse to go, dead or alive."

Safe to say that Maria's life has been a living hell.  Not only has her property been damaged repeatedly by the effects of the mining that turned the mountain above her hollow into a bombed-out moonscape, but she and her family have been continually harassed and threatened for speaking out against the harm inflicted on coalfield communities by irresponsible mining.

Like a lot of folks born and raised in Appalachia, Maria -- literally a coal miner's daughter -- doesn't oppose all coal mining, just the strip mining on steroids that is steadily leveling her beloved Appalachians.  Maria doesn't necessarily even consider herself an environmentalist; her activism springs from her strong belief that Appalachia is God's country, not coal country.

God bless Maria Gunoe and her fellow citizens who are suffering at the hands of a rapacious coal industry that relies on a reckless mining practice that is wrecking not just the environment, but the quality of life for all those who make Appalachia their home.  Instead of suffering in silence or simply accepting her fate, Maria has taken the courageous course of challenging the coal industry.  For her selfless defiance, she certainly deserves the Goldman prize.  But her true reward will come when the rogue practice of mountaintop removal is outlawed once and for all.