Mark Utley is the leader of the Cincinnati band “Magnolia Mountain“, a self-proclaimed original American roots music group. The 8-member band combines genres of folk, country, bluegrass, blues, rockabilly, and rock and has produced two albums and is currently working on its third. The reason I am featuring them is because they recently produced a compilation album of Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana and Alabama musicians called “Music for the Mountains”. The album, released February 2011, was coupled with a live concert to raise funds to fight against mountaintop removal (MTR), with ALL proceeds split between anti-MTR organizations Ohio Citizen Action and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth.
Mountaintop removal is a form of coal mining in which entire mountains are blown up to get to coal reams. The coal is then sifted out of the debris, the mountains are left permanently flattened, and runoff waste water from the process (containing coal dust, silica, heavy metals, diesel and ammonium nitrate) pollutes drinking water sources and waterways, permanently destroying ecosystems and cultural lands. Mountaintop removal has become a favorite of coal companies, like Massey Energy, because it takes less time and employs less people, allowing their executives to reap even higher profits. The practice occurs in West Virginia, Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky. Some of the energy received in neighboring states is fueled by MTR (find out if your utility company uses MTR coal here).
More than 500 mountains and 2,000 miles of river have been permanently destroyed & polluted by MTR, all to produce only 5 to 7% of our nation’s coal. Utley says:
Polluted drinking waters have led to deaths of residents and a recent published study has found that people living in close proximity to MTR mines experience higher rates of birth defects. Despite such evidence, coal companies still deny their causal link. With little pressure from the Obama administration, MTR continues. Activism against MTR has thus largely remained a grassroots effort, with Appalachian residents and organizations such as Ohio Citizen Action, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Coal River Mountain Watch and Appalachian Voices taking the lead. The strategy is people power- and successful events like Music for the Mountains’ sold-out concert are creative ways of exposing the issue and gaining populous support. I appreciate artists like Mark Utley for their contributions to a cause outside their art form, getting people involved and spreading awareness about this horrific form of energy extraction.
To read more about mountaintop removal:
- Visit ilovemountains.org
- Read “Appalachia’s Cry for Help” in YES! Magazine
- Check out Music for the Mountains‘ facebook page
- See what Robert Kennedy Jr. says about MTR
- Watch “Mountaintop Removal: An American Tragedy“, narrated by Susan Sarandon
BUY YOUR CD HERE! (I’m going to get one too)