All of us will face a moment in our lives where we are challenged and called to step up. While wondering to yourself, “Why do I have to do this,” Paul Corbit Brown, human rights photographer and President of Keeper of the Mountains Foundation, encouraged Loyola students in a talk on Thursday, March 14 to remember Larry Gibson. Despite the many odds against him, Gibson was a superhero and one of the first leaders to stand up against mountain top removal. Overcoming diversity through his courage, Gibson recognized the one thing that meant the most to him, proclaiming, “My mother gave me birth, but this land gave me life.”
“We are the keepers of the Mountains. Love ‘em or leave ‘em – just don’t destroy ‘em”
– Larry Gibson
In its definition, mountain top removal sounds harmless and simple, but Brown painted a more accurate picture of the process and warns that West Virginia should serve as a cautionary tale in order to preserve the natural land scape that is still left. This is because, mountains are not just piles of rock, they are living and breathing entities that form unique and diverse ecosystems that exist nowhere else. As plants and animals live and work together, the mountains create their own weather patterns. Therefore, the removal of the top of a mountain is the assassination of an ecosystem, a living and breathing entity.
“We in the coalfields of Appalachia are suffering from a genocide…
I don’t use the word genocide lightly. I’ve been to Rwanda five
times, I’ve slept on the streets with kids who were orphaned by
genocide. I know what genocide looks like … The death of my people
doesn’t come quickly and at the end of a gun … It comes slowly and
from the simple act of drawing water from your kitchen sink. And we
have a government who’s complicit in it”
– Paul Corbit Brown
Photos of Mountain Top Removal Taken By Paul Corbit Brown
Aspiring to encourage change, Brown motivated the students in the audience to take action as the future leaders of our country saying, “We didn’t go the moon because it was easy, but rather because the journey was hard and America was made up of a nation of people that believed they could do anything.” This is the history and the determination that we need to bring back to America in order to create positive change. Rather than remaining separate we need to come together as a nation and stand together to protect what is important to us.
Now just as Brown ended his talk, I ask that you close your eyes, take a deep breath and imagine that you are on the top of a mountain. Feel the crisp air against your cheeks, imagine the whistles of the wind and the sounds of the animals, picture the vibrant colors of life, feel your feet soaking into the soil. Most of all remember that you make up a sacred thread in the fabric of life. All of nature has been created so that all of the rest of nature could work with it. This includes you, the mountains, our nation and everything else. So now it is time to come together, use West Virginia as a cautionary tale and learn from history in order to create a brighter future.
If interested in further exploring this topic, Loyola offers a spring break immersion program hosted by the Appalachian Institute at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia to give students the opportunity to think critically about energy issues, particularly coal mining.
“A truly profound experience filled with the perfect combination
of exploration, reflection, and a hint of elation while set in the
beautifully misunderstood mountains of Appalachia”
– Jordan Courtney ‘20, Spring Break Outreach
To learn more about Loyola’s immersion programs visit https://www.loyola.edu/join-us/immersions