By: Dan Schreiber
Blog cross-posted from QuitCoal.org
Annalyse: We’re 2/3 Goat, a metrobilly band based out of New York City. Like most artists in NYC, we’re all from different places. I’m the Lead Singer/Mandolinist, and I come from the small town of Inez, KY, deep in the hills of central Appalachia. But the rich, craggy valleys of my homeland are getting shallower as we speak.
Mountaintop Removal coal mining is ravaging the region I call home. Thirty percent of the surface area of my home county has already been leveled by strip mining and mountaintop removal. Mountaintop Removal (MTR) is a violent process of coal mining in which the tops of mountains are blown off to gather the seam of coal within (sometimes the seam can be as shallow as 2 feet), and the leftover material is placed into hollows, deemed “hollow fills” or “valley fills.” Over 500 mountaintops have already been blown off, and over 1500 miles of freshwater streams have already been buried. More and more flooding now occurs due to this, in areas where it never before was a problem. And worst of all, the water supplies of citizens are ruined by heavy metals in the runoff from these MTR sites as well as from coal slurry impoundment releases. The highest cancer rates per capita in the nation, according to the CDC, are found right in the heart of Central Appalachia, right in these communities where MTR takes place.
I grew up around this stuff; I saw mountains being leveled by the side of the highway. Due to a slurry impoundment break in 2000, most in my community don’t drink the water that comes out of the faucet. The majority of citizens buy bottled water to drink; it is the highest selling item in the supermarket, in a county where unemployment and poverty rates are higher than most places. I’ve seen how the coal industry can wreak havoc on a community firsthand. Once I moved away to NYC to pursue my artistic dreams, I began yearning for home more and more. It really sunk in how much of my home was disappearing through MTR. My parents are activists against it. Human rights and environmental & social justice were always a topic of conversation in my house growing up. I was drawn to join the fight against mountaintop removal in full force, and to write a song to inspire others to do so too.
I set out to write a call-to-action song to try and get people fired up about stopping mountaintop removal. I wanted something people could relate to on a lyrical as well as a musical level. I started writing some words, but couldn’t quite find the catchy, driving groove that I wanted. This is where Ryan and I always come together well. I’m always focused on the details, and he’s always looking at the “big picture,” as he calls it.
Ryan (other Lead Singer & Guitarist): I had been working on a new song for a while but I only had the chord changes and structure. I couldn’t figure out what to make the song about, and Annalyse came to me and said, “I want to write something that inspires people to stand up and take control of this MTR situation.” Now I am not from KY or WV, but as my relationship with Annalyse grew, my knowledge and familiarity of MTR grew as well. Her family was the first to inform me of the atrocities that were happening in Appalachia, a place I thought was some of the most beautiful land I have ever seen.
I am from the Jersey Shore (insert laughter) and I had never heard of Mountaintop Removal. I barely knew anything about underground mining. As I learned more, I immediately wanted to join the McCoys and the rest of Appalachia and stand up to the companies that were profiting off of the death and destruction of some the oldest land and cultures in our country. I knew that most Americans were like me, and if they could just have a chance to see and hear about what was happening, then they too would want to become part of the solution. You see, we all blindly contribute to the problem, from running the electricity in our house to having retirement funds that are vested in coal companies that do MTR. We are all very much involved in this destruction, but none of us are aware that we are doing it. I also learned from many years of Anti-War protesting in the early 2000’s that you can’t change peoples’ minds by screaming at them in the streets. Sometimes you have to just to show that you are strong and willing to take a stand.
But the best way in my mind to educate someone is to lead them to their own decisions. I wanted to write a song that was thought-provoking and made people ask, “What in the world is this song about, what is it they are so passionate about?” Then through our website, or live at shows, we could inform people on where to go to learn about what is happening. I knew that after listeners educated themselves and learned about it, they couldn’t turn their backs to it and would inevitably join the fight. The music video is just another extension of this same idea: We wanted people to watch it and say, “Wow, what are they showing here, what are they protesting here?” Sadly, leadership in our country has failed us in many ways, and certain people we are supposed to look up to and certain people who have the ability to help are now just in it for themselves. We need to rise up as a country, as a culture of informed and educated people in a democracy. We have the opportunity to be the change that the world needs, but we just have to care enough to look a little deeper and think a little more about what we’re doing in our everyday choices.
Annalyse: It can be a scary thing to look around you for the first time, breathe fully, and face the destruction and corruption of corporate greed, no matter what issue you’re talking about. The number and scale of problems and atrocities that occur in this world can be overwhelming. But in the end, it’s liberating and empowering if you do so. You take it one step at a time, one day at a time, and you do what you can. That was our goal with this video. We were just trying to “serve” in the best way we know how. And if everyone does that, that is totally enough. It’s more than enough.