Hobet 21, West Virginia
The most striking thing to me was the quiet. Behind us we could hear birds and the rustle of wind through leaves. The mountains ahead of us were devoid of life—no birds, no composting leaves, and certainly no people. The people who remain in the wider area are being poisoned by polluted water, one of the reasons Dustin is willing to go through this over and over again with people like me. He’s hoping that if those of us outside of Appalachia know what is happening to his community, maybe we will care—and act.
Those who have been following this blog through the past year know that my commitment to activism around this issue has been growing. What I’ve been feeling lately (and this was increased by people I met at the Read the Spirit gathering) is the need to articulate how my activism and my spirituality relate. Visiting West Virginia reminded me of how many of my early spiritual experiences happened in nature, where I felt my deep interconnectedness with all of life and a force greater than myself, even if I didn’t know what to call it at the time.
Looking over the mountaintop removal pictures again today, I remember an interview I did a few years ago with the Catholic priest and activist Michael Doyle, who served in Camden for decades. He talked about the ideas of Teihard de Chardin, a priest and scientist, who was condemned by the church for his perspective. Michael Doyle said: “The very essence of our sacramental system is matter. Whether it is bread, or water, or oil. If you didn’t have the water, you couldn’t have a baptism. You could lead from there to the idea that matter is so sacred, if you really got that into your bones, how sacred matter is, then I couldn’t take a piece of matter and make it into a weapon that would kill you. I couldn’t do that.”
How would we treat the planet and its people differently if we really treated water (which makes up most of the human body) as sacred? It’s a question worth pondering. In the meantime, it’s clear to me that mountaintop removal is sacrilege.