Ending Mountaintop Removal Mining is AlterNet's Top Take Action Campaign of The Week

I -- Ending Mountaintop-Removal Mining is AlterNet's Top Take Action Campaign of The Week

Nearly 35 years ago, Ken Hechler, a West Virginia congressman, held the first congressional hearing on mountaintop-removal mining. When the house introduced an amendment to grant federal sanctioning for the practice, Hechler said:

"Mountaintop removal is the most devastating form of mining on steep slopes. Once we scalp off a mountain and the spoil runs down the mountainside and the acid runs into the water supply, there is no way to check it. This is not only esthetically bad, as anyone can tell who flies over the state of West Virginia or any place where the mountaintops are scraped off, but also it is devastating to those people who live below the mountain. Some of the worst effects of strip mining in Kentucky, West Virginia and other mountainous areas result from mountaintop removal."

Now 94, Hechler has not given up the fight to stop mountaintop-removal mining, a means of coal extraction that pollutes streams, damages property and releases toxic chemicals into the air. This Tuesday, he will join a handful of activists, climatologists and celebrities in a nonviolent march across Sundial, W.Va. The demonstration is designed to shed light on Massey Energy's history of exploitation.

Massey, which is worth around $2.6 billion, has a history of destroying ecosystems and causing immense damage to citizens' well-being. Last year alone, a Massey subsidiary in eastern Kentucky spilled 300 million gallons of sludge into waterways and aquifers, and the company doled out $20 million in penalties for dumping toxic mine waste into the region's rivers, lakes and ponds.

Citizens like Hechler hope to throw Appalachia's hidden wounds into the light of U.S. media. They are planning to draw attention to a bipartisan hearing on the effects of mountaintop-removal mining, sponsored by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., and taking place on June 25. The hearing is a first step in making sure that this type of mining -- a process that has already leveled 400,000 acres of West Virginia's forests -- is stopped.

Still, such actions are only the beginning. The Obama administration has done much to roll back mountaintop-removal mining's devastating advance, but the recovery process is still in its nascent stages. It's imperative that you join the fight -- voice your criticism of this dangerous, damaging process.

Join what Robert F. Kennedy Jr. recently called "the first broad congressional initiative aimed at reversing the Bush administration's eight-year effort to savage our national waterways and the popular laws that protect them." Write to your senators and tell them that no source of energy is worth the price we're currently paying. You can do it here.

Here's the rest of our top Take Action Campaigns for the week.

II -- Tell Iranian Authorities to Release Human Rights Defender Abdolfattah Soltani

Following Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's contested victory in the recent Iranian presidential election, a wave of violent, government-sponsored repression has swept across the country. Police have killed and wounded hundreds of peaceful protesters, and the government has launched an information war, censoring news outlets and imprisoning journalists, lawyers and other activists.

Among those captured is Abdolfattah Soltani, a human rights lawyer and member of the Center for the Defense of Human Rights. He was arrested on June 16 and has been held at an undisclosed location ever since. Many in Iran fear that prisoners like him are subject to a variety of tortures and ill treatments. It's time to tell the Iranian authorities that this behavior is not acceptable. Write now to urge the release of Soltani.

III -- Help the Red Cross Incorporate Geneva Education

With the United States' flagrant violations of international law laid bare in our nation's media, it's extremely important to educate future generations about the importance of world consensus.

To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, the American Red Cross has designed its first petition. The goal? Incorporate lessons about this framework of laws into curricula nationwide. As an organization designed to assuage suffering and injustices around the world, the Red Cross believes it is necessary to spread its message to a generation of future policymakers. You can become a part of this new wave of compassion here.

IV -- Urge Maryland's Attorney General to Recognize Out-of-State Same-Sex Marriages

Maryland, along with so many other states, stands at the forefront of the gay-rights issue. Within the next few weeks, the state's Attorney General Douglas Gansler will issue a decision on whether Maryland will recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages. Although it does not yet sanction such marriages in Maryland, the decision will have wide implications for future gay-rights issues in the state.

Let Gansler know how important his decision is. Urge him to do the right thing and recognize same-sex marriages in Maryland.

V -- Find a Sustainable Means of Food Production

America's food system is in crisis. Years of gruesome practices, energy inefficiency and environmental abuse have led us to a fork in the road. Will we be able to meet the challenge of creating a new, environmentally sustainable means of food production? Will we be able to incorporate the latest techniques of animal husbandry, soil conservation and renewable energy into a viable solution for a hungry America?

With your help, we can. Join Food Democracy Now, a "grassroots movement initiated by farmers, writers, chefs, eaters and policy advocates who recognize the profound sense of urgency in creating a new food system that is capable of meeting the changing needs of American society as it relates to food, health, animal welfare and the environment." Be one of nearly 100,000 Americans who want to etch a new path.

VI -- Free Laura Ling and Euna Lee

Two American journalists reporting from the China/North Korea border have been sentenced to 12 years in a labor prison for what North Korean authorities called a "grave crime they committed against the Korean nation."

Laura Ling and Euna Lee were working for California-based Current TV when they were arrested March 17 for an illegal border crossing. Earlier reports that indicated they were being tried for espionage were false, the New York Times has reported. The sentence, handed down by a North Korean court June 8, has drawn much criticism from the United States.

In addition to accomplished journalists, Ling and Lee are sisters, friends, mothers and daughters to many. Their sentence is outrageous and should not be tolerated. Join thousands of others who have signed a petition urging North Korea to release them.

VII -- Pledge Your Support for Women's Health Providers

With the slaying of Dr. George Tiller at the center of a new surge in right-wing hate crimes, the fight for women's reproductive rights remains extremely important. We must be strong in our support for those courageous enough to continue providing safe, legal abortion services. More than that, we must support these doctors, nurses and health care workers in their continuing fight to for what's right.

Please join Ms. Magazine's pledge to thank and support abortion providers. You can do it here.

VIII -- Join Obama's Fight For Reasonable Health Care

On May 28, President Barack Obama told volunteers from Organizing For America that a public health care option needed to happen sooner than later. If the necessary legislation isn't pushed through this summer, he warned, it will not happen at all during his presidency. Obama's comments are an indication that a remedy to our broken health care system is within reach.

But it's also up to us to make sure the issue gets all of the attention it deserves. Tell your senators and representatives that a public health option is absolutely necessary.

IX -- Tell China to Release Dhondup Wangchen and Golog Jigme

Just after completing a documentary about Tibet's response to the Beijing Olympics in March 2008, Tibetan filmmakers Dhondup Wangchen and Golog Jigme were taken into custody by Chinese police. Golog Jigme, who had been brutally tortured, was eventually released back to his monastery, only to be recaptured in March 2009. Dhondup was never released.

Make your voice heard: Tell the Chinese authorities that they must free these two filmmakers.

X -- Save California's State Parks

On July 1, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is planning to slice the state parks budget in half. Then, in 12 months, he's looking to eliminate funding for state parks altogether. This means that 220 state parks will shut down -- 80 percent of California's entire system.

The economic consequences of this move will be dire. In addition to sucking much-needed tourism revenues from local businesses, the decision will lay off thousands of state park employees, many of whom have put in years of service.

Join the Sierra Club in stopping this outrageous move. Tell the governor and state legislators you want to keep the parks open.


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