Allen Johnson co-founded and heads the advocacy group, Christians for the Mountains, an organization that summons Christians to help protect the environment, paying particular attention to the southern Appalachian Mountains region.
Since this segment originally aired in October 2006, Christians for the Mountains has joined up with other denominations in making mountaintop removal mining an issue of urgency among the creation care leaders nationwide. In May 2007, Allen and Roman Catholic priest Father John Rausch hosted religious leaders for a two-day tour of mountaintop removal sites, and at the end of the tour, the two dozen religious leaders signed a joint statement against mountaintop removal practices.
For first-hand insight into the mountaintop removal fight here is a brief essay from Allen Johnson:
On August 22, The New York Times published an article that began, “The Bush administration is set to issue a regulation on Friday [August 24] that would enshrine the coal mining practice of mountaintop removal.”
Enshrine. An oddly appropriate word, I thought. A biblical word, even. A place where dwell the gods. Like the gods of money, comfort, and power.
For over 2 years I have been involved with a network organization, Christians For The Mountains, to engage Christians and their churches to take on the moral question of mountaintop removal. The massive scale of beheading coal-bearing mountains, obliterating headwater streams, and building multi-billion gallon toxic slurry impoundments begs biblical and theological activity.
It is now clear the coal industry and their regulatory and political sidekicks care only about the dollar. An honest debate on the ethics and morality of mountaintop removal has not occurred. Like wolves salivating their chops over a field of lambs, the coal industry and their lapdogs in government now look upon coal-to-liquid technology as a new source of meat to feast their jaws. “Coal will bring prosperity to the state,” they trumpet; yet after more than a century of economic and political domination by the coal industry, West Virginia has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, especially in the southern coalfields. So much for prosperity.
Ok, churches, let’s have it. Is “it right by God” to permanently destroy the mountains, valleys, forests, streams, rich diversity of animals and plants, and local culture, to provide a few jobs, a tidy corporate profit, and a cheap light bill? For a couple of generations at most? Through exploiting an economically desperate, vulnerable, defenseless population?
We think not. “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains” is from the 24th Psalm that launched Christians For The Mountains two years ago at a gathering in Charleston, West Virginia. Simply put, this answered for us a decisive question: “Is nature our property to do with as we like? Or do we as humans have responsibility that corresponds to our privilege of living and gaining our sustenance within God’s creation?”
The majority of U.S. citizens identify with Christian faith. Christians have influence. Are you listening? Do you care? We implore your biblical, theological, and ethical thought and consequent faithful action.
And we’d like to hear from non-Christians, too. Do you think we Christians are measuring up to our standard?