Learning by Listening

The power of civility on display at Jackson’s Mill

By Michael M. Barrick

JACKSON’S MILL, W.Va. – On Tuesday, Nov. 11, about 200 residents of North Central West Virginia gathered here to learn about the impact of fracking (and, by extension the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline) upon people and the earth which sustains us. A grass roots group of citizens from Lewis, Upshur, Gilmer, Harrison, Doddridge, Wetzel and other counties organized the meeting. They heard from experts who have had their air and water polluted, their peace disturbed, and their roadways made dangerous.

While outstanding knowledge and supporting materials were provided, perhaps the most successful outcome of the meeting was that it was civil.

Incivility has become such a part of our culture – from the talking heads on Fox News and MSNBC to educational forums throughout Appalachia – that we simply are unable to learn. All we witness are people shouting at one another.

That did not happen in Jackson’s Mill. That is a credit not only to the organizers, but also the well-prepared presenters and the residents in attendance.

It didn’t hurt that the subject matter is captivating. Hundreds of pictures shown on screens through an overhead projector revealed the impact of fracking upon our land, air, water and roads. Among the presenters were Bill Hughes of Wetzel County, who has become an unwilling expert on the matter over the last decade; Jody Mohr of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition; Julie Archer of West Virginia Surface Owners’ Rights Association (SORO); and, Diane Pitcock of the West Virginia Host Farms program.

Hughes’ presentation included information on the production stages of fracking, and typical problems experienced by communities because of fracking, including traffic congestion and property damage, water pollution, and air pollution. Mohr spoke about watershed and neighborhood issues. Archer spoke about the rights of surface owners. Pitcock spoke about her program, in which landowners impacted by fracking allow researchers and reporters to witness – first-hand – fracking’s impact. Attendees – which came from every corner of West Virginia – asked vital questions.

So, much was learned.

Yet, as important as the information shared by the presenters was, the most important lesson that was learned is that we can get along with one another, even on such a contentious issue. That is of tremendous encouragement for those of us determined to put an end to the madness that puts profit before people and the good earth which sustains us.

© Appalachian Preservation Project, LLC, 2014.


  1. The meeting was well thought out and provided important information. Although,people need to know how to protect their health. For example the Tenorms in the air and water contain Radium 226 and Radon gas. Anyone living next to, using public or well water in the area of these wells needs to have a radon detector in their bathrooms. Radium 226 readily mixes with soil and water,has a half life of 1600 years and breaks down to radon gas. Our public water filtration system cannot filter out the Radium 226 which attaches to the walls of the distribution pipes. Radium 226 is absorbed by our bodies as if it were calcium and is stored in our bones, which effects every red blood cell manufactured by our bone marrow, which can lead to various forms of cancer throughout the body. Radon gas is a leading cause of lung cancer. A radon detector is the most effective, first alert method available to everyone. With your medical background, I’m sure you’re aware of the dangers of low dose radiation poisoning. Steve Garvin

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