After some much-needed sleep, I woke up inspired by what I saw and heard at the EPA hearing in Denver. Rarely do we have the opportunity to sit next to our opposition and wait patiently to testify in front of a panel of some of the most powerful people in this country. My voice was as important as the man in the $3,000 suit sitting next to me. I got the same amount of time, the same attention, and the same polite “thank you” after my allotted three minutes.
Of all the powerful, heartbreaking, inspiring, angry and hopeful stories I heard at the hearing, a couple stand out a week later:
A Montana rancher stood in front of the panel of EPA reps in his cowboy boots, dusty jeans and ten-gallon hat and talked about what was happening back on his ranch in Montana. He relies on his reservoir for his livelihood. It provides his land and his cattle with the necessary water for survival. His ranch isn’t far from an active coal plant. He asked an expert to test his water and found that it contained toxins 16 times the lethal limit for cows. Just another reminder that when the coal industry neglects to clean up their mess, people downstream undoubtedly suffer.
A caravan of people came up from the four corners area representing Dine and Hopi people living on and around Black Mesa. Strip mines, coal generating stations, and toxic sludge ponds literally surround their community. The long and short-term impacts of the coal industry are not just environmental. As one woman put it, you can see the effects of the coal industry in the people of that community. People are sick, the water is contaminated and, for the most part, nothing has been done.
By 8 pm, 10 hours into the hearing, people were exhausted, hungry, and 100% drained. Outside, the sun was setting and people were starting to trickle out one by one. At this point I had my head resting on the back of the chair, my eyes closed. I was ready to go home. A number was called and the room burst into a flurry of excitement. I looked up and a ten-year old boy was walking up to the podium. He talked about the next generation and the responsibility of adults to clean up their own messes. He urged the EPA to do the right thing and protect his generation and future generations from the hazards created from burning coal and allowing the toxic bi-products to go unregulated. Wow.
If you live in a city hosting an EPA hearing, attend. If you don’t, get your voice heard. Standing up and demanding a better world, looking opposition in the face, bringing people from all walks of life together in one room, this is what I love most about being an activist. Its almost enough to make you want to burst into a round of “the people….united….will never be defeated.”
Leave a comment
Greenpeace regional organizer for the Rocky Mountain and Southwest region
Your Personal Activist Network