Data trailer pt. 2
I was a little bit salty coming back to West Virginia this summer and living in a city. Last summer I lived in a house in the country with a bunch of hippies and liked that a lot better. My August sublease is just about up, and I was tired of the hot concrete on the walk to the office so I’m back in “Baller Holler,” Raleigh County.
Ballin’ in the holler. The American flag rides shotgun. I am almost on the road again.
This weekend I got a little lost on my way to Virginia to see the Schewel clan.
Reconnecting to I-81 I found myself winding through beautiful old forests. Much of it along the road was thick Rhododendron maxima bushes. They were so large I imagined them ready to be replanted in some oversized version of the suburbs, fot for landscaping for giants.
View Lost in SW va in a larger map
Since returning from California I have spent almost every single day out in my friend Cathy’s trailer working on my current project for the West Virginia Center for Budget and Policy. My boss asked me not to write about it on Twitter or Tumblr until all of our results are set and written up. We’re looking at land ownership patterns in the Coal Fields.
Cathy is doing the heavy programming for this project, and I find I work a lot better sitting out in her trailer than sitting in my living room or office in Charleston. It’s pretty nice. I found this carpenter bee in the dog’s water bowl. I think she was trying to get water originally and may have gotten too soggy or something. I gave her a ride out on my finger.
I’m listening to Madvillain as I post this. I remember why I stopped listening to hip hop around the time this album dropped. You can’t get it much better than this.
"Today is the shadow of tomorrow. Today is the present future of yesterday. Yesterday is the shadow of today. The darkness of the past is yesterday. The light of the past is yesterday. The days of the past are all numbered and summed. And once upon a time there was a yesterday … at least by tomorrow there will be, anyway." - Madlib (Madvillain - from the track "Shadows of Tomorrow.")
Which side are you on?
Dustin and others are now coming out of jail. After a peaceful and somber walk-on at the Hobet Mine 20 RAMPS activists were arrested, and two were beaten by police. All were held under bail of $25,000 each for the basic misdemeanors of trespassing and obstruction of justice.
Beyond that, the coordination between the WV state troopers and the coal miners was explicitly meant to endanger activists, and amplify threats of physical violence. The video below condenses a very high tension day into about eight minutes. Resistance to the coal companies has lasted since they first arrived over a hundred years ago, and this particular campaign has lasted since 2009. Something has changed this time - the police never beat protestors before. Dustin is going to be alright, and from New York City to Anaheim police violence only hardens the resolve of activists to continue to pursue civil disobedience.
Now, back to my research! But first, if you’re reading this take a minute to consider what you’re seeing here in these videos and in the movement against corporate control of our government, and against the extraction of fossil fuels that is going to continue to warp the global climate and the international economy along with it. Desperately entrenched local interests continue to be exploited in order to grease the wheels of global capitalism. We all benefit from this! And it is too big to stop by simply writing genteel and erudite appeals to politicians and our corporate overlords. I need to finish this research, but I am planning for the next time I will put my body in the way of this engine of collective destruction. These hippies are the ones on top of things right now. That is why, even if you do environmental policy research like me, or do some other form of policy-based advocacy work you need to do more. Especially if you are able-bodied like me. I hope you won’t just wave flags or call politicians who are already bought and sold. Instead, find a way to use what Gandhi called the “soul truth,” with the spirit that Mario Savio vocalized in his address to a crowd at Berkeley in 1964, to remind the people with political power what this is about: your body, your health, your environment and our shared future. Now, listen to the song again …
"We did the token picket line … Mr. Charlie didn’t see us, and he might as well be blind. When you deal with men of ice, you can’t deal in ways so nice." Amen.
Coal River Road, Raleigh County
This is one of the times, like the project I did over the school year mapping properties in Detroit, where the results of the research are too politicized to even begin to comment on before every last wrinkle is ironed out. In fact, I’ll never personally present any of the results of this research, although all of the data will be up on the web somewhere. And I’m not sure I would have taken the job if the results of a study in West Virginia was presented by this carpet bagger. I’m the data guy and that’s just how I like it. So, here are just some pictures taken from Route 3 in Raleigh County. Thanks to the fact that it’s legal to drive with someone in the back of your truck in West Virginia transit becomes easier. This guy is pretty hardcore, riding in driving rain. I lived up that way last summer when I worked with Coal River Mountain Watch, and my friend and colleague Cathy works and lives up that way now. I spent a day or two up there working with her starting to learn Perl.
It was rainy up in the mountains last week.
Everyday on the way to the office last summer we drove past Upper Big Branch Mine, Brushy Fork Impoundment and Marsh Fork Elementary and other sections of coal processing infrastructure that cross the landscape throughout the coal fields.