The world’s woes require younger, more energized leaders
LENOIR, N.C. – I am retiring from journalism.
This is a decision I’ve been pondering at least a year. I reached the tipping point after reading something I haven’t read in at least 20 years – Ecclesiastes. As I’ve already written, I don’t attend church. That doesn’t mean, however, that wisdom can’t be found in scripture. Actually, if appropriately named, Ecclesiastes would be The Book of Absurdity. I can hear it in Mass now. “A reading from the Book of Absurdity.” Why absurd? Because I consider it the most authentic book in the Bible. The author’s struggles and questions are our struggles and questions.
And, like the author, I realize more and more as I age that I don’t know much of anything new. That’s why it’s time. As the author observes, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: … a time to be silent and a time to speak …” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 7b).
It’s time to be silent. Perhaps in the future I will again be inclined to speak; if so, it will be in a different manner.
I have been speaking through journalism since 1980. Actually earlier, if you count getting expelled from high school in 1972 for printing a different newspaper than the one I showed the principal for approval. I was standing up for free speech! I happened to forget, I guess, that I was in a Catholic high school and free speech was a laughable notion.
When I haven’t been working in journalism full time, the jobs that I did have and the additional education I received for those jobs have informed and improved my writing.
So, for now, I’ve had my say. But this old hippie isn’t going to put down his peace sign. I am, however, eager to hear from the Young Turks – whether here in Lenoir or those recently elected to the U.S. House. The question is, how I can I help them achieve their dreams? They certainly deserve more than the backward slope we’re on.
I have confidence in them. I see how our 35-year-old daughter, 34-year-old son and their friends approach life. They’ve yet to sell out, the main failure of our generation. They are free thinkers. They work hard. Most of the ones I know have seen through the lies and traps of the “American Dream.” In short, while it’s in my nature to needle them to move them along, the truth is they are much more prepared and competent to deal with today’s world.
I am fortunate. I can’t complain about the writing opportunities and audiences I’ve had. Twenty years ago I had the good fortune to be hired by a national nonprofit watchdog ministry as their editor and lead writer. The catch – I first had to learn this new thing called the internet. So for four months I holed up in my home office and learned HTML coding, how to lay out on a web page, and many more new things. Amazingly, we managed to make our launch date – Labor Day, 1999.
I was fortunate – though reluctant – to move from print newspapers to two online magazines. I quickly learned to love the transition once I understood its potential. We had true news websites, not blogs. We had nationally known authors and tens of thousands of readers. We collaborated with national news organizations in exposing the dirty deeds of so-called Christian leaders. This, not surprisingly, lead to unemployment in 2006 because independent thinking is not rewarded within Christian circles. In short, our donations dried up because we were attacking sacred cows.
Shortly thereafter, the blogosphere exploded. I have deluded myself into thinking that what I learned as a journalist would transfer to blogs. Also, the internet is now overwhelmed with so much of nothing and idiocy, that the room has just become too crowded for me. And, I’m spent.
I deeply appreciate every person that has read my articles and essays. I am equally thankful to my sources, many of whom have risked much to share their stories of shenanigans by the fossil fuel industry in West Virginia and Virginia or skullduggery by GOP election officials right here in Lenoir. These sources have fought the good fight. They continue to despite attacks upon their character and integrity by the roque gas, coal and oil companies and a political party that has cast its lot with Donald Trump.
So, it’s not easy deciding to stop writing about these topics. However, a very wise priest, now 93, reminded me a few years ago, “You’re not the savior of the world. There is only so much you can do. The most important thing to do is love.”
I know myself well enough to know I must step away from journalism if I am going to be able to make the transition my old friend is nudging me towards. My M.O. is predictable – attack. I’ve allowed writing to become a tool to wage verbal warfare on people. In today’s climate, such a method only escalates the anger, division and incivility. It is ineffective. I must learn new ways. Not easy for an old dog.
In short, I’m being selfish. A person who wants to be mentally healthy can’t live like this. So, I’ve got some rearranging to do in my attic. I suspect that will take a while. I’ve neglected it for a long time.
© Michael M. Barrick, 2019.
Angry are the Peace-makers.
You have eyes to see;
You have ears to hear;
You have a mind at work.
If you do not understand;
If you are puzzled
By the anger of the peace-makers.
Then you do not comprehend
The Sacred or the Righteous.
You are the Problem.
© Michael M. Barrick, 2018.
Rejecting Immigrants is rejecting Christ
LENOIR, N.C. – The shameful display of evil being perpetrated by the U.S. government on immigrants seeking asylum in the United States is the direct – DIRECT – result of the unholy alliance between evangelical “Christian” conservatives and the Trump administration.
In short, our treatment of immigrants is the result of a hijacking of the faith by false religious leaders. Otherwise, they would not be harming the poor and vulnerable, they would be helping them. Judging from their fruits, evangelicals are many things, but Christian isn’t one of them.
We don’t need to spend much time on this. Let’s recap by comparing a few scripture verses with what is happening on the ground at San Diego.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). Our soldiers have attacked immigrants with tear gas. So, we’ve tear-gassed Jesus.
“Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt” (Exodus 22:21). Ouch. True here too. We also were all once foreigners.
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). So, here we can reach only one of two conclusions. Either evangelical Christians in the United States would have no problem with being tear-gassed for simply seeking freedom from tyranny, or they are just simply liars. I’m going with the latter.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27). There are many literal orphans and widows, but each immigrant is an orphan in the sense that they are refugees. An opportunity to demonstrate pure faith is missed. Why? The second command in the verse is being ignored. Evangelicals have allowed themselves to be completely polluted by the world as they seek political power.
“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11). Evangelicals have lost their moral authority because they deny their own faith. We then, must have nothing to do with their sinister deeds, but instead demonstrate the proper response through our own actions. Let us help these fellow humans who are simply looking for a safe life.
Perhaps we could start by encouraging the establishment of a modern Underground Railroad of sanctuary homes right here in Lenoir – the buckle of the Bible Belt! We would then be offering a living Sunday School lesson that is aligned with scripture, not opposed to it. Most importantly, we would be helping people, not harming them.
You know, like Jesus wants.
© Michael M. Barrick, 2018. All scripture verses from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. ‘You are Loved’ photo by Rod Long on Unsplash
Mining site on Coal River Mountain has pattern of violations
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) ordered Alpha Natural Resources subsidiary Republic Energy to show cause why a mountaintop removal coal mine permit on Coal River Mountain in Raleigh County should not be suspended or revoked. The order was issued on Aug. 1. Republic has 30 days to request a hearing or a consent order; otherwise, the permit will be suspended or revoked or its bond forfeited.
Republic has received seven notices of violation at its 802-acre Middle Ridge permit since July 25, 2016. Three or more of the same type of violation within a year demonstrate a pattern of violations and initiate the “show cause” procedure.
Alpha subsidiaries operate over ten square miles of active, approved or pending mountaintop removal sites and coal waste slurry impoundments on Coal River Mountain. Local citizens group Coal River Mountain Watch has opposed the operations because of the documented public health impacts of mountaintop removal, including significantly elevated rates of cancer, heart disease, birth defects and other deadly illnesses. Mountaintop removal also causes long-term pollution of mountain streams and the loss of access to the mountain for traditional activities including hiking, hunting, and gathering ginseng, berries, mushrooms, ramps and other forest resources. Increased runoff from the deforested sites and altered topography can also contribute to flooding.
Four of the seven notices of violation on Republic’s Middle Ridge permit were for sediment control violations related to improperly constructed ditches and sediment ditch failure. Citizen complaints generated two of the sediment control citations.
“This isn’t rocket science. It’s a ditch. If Alpha can’t even properly maintain a ditch, why should we expect them to comply with any of the other regulations and permit conditions meant to protect water quality and nearby residents and property owners,” asked Vernon Haltom, executive director of Coal River Mountain Watch.
Local residents with Coal River Mountain Watch plan to continue pushing for the permanent revocation of the Middle Ridge permit, protection for Coal River Mountain and surrounding communities, and a strong, sustainable economy for southern West Virginia.
“The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection needs to start living up to their name and their mission of promoting a healthy environment in West Virginia,” Haltom said. “Instead, they continue to grant mountaintop removal permits knowing full well that these operations will cause long-term water pollution, serious harm to the health of people in our communities, and damage to the long-term viability of our economy.”
Coal River Mountain Watch of Naoma, W.Va., has a mission to stop the destruction of our communities and environment by mountaintop removal mining, to improve the quality of life in our area, and to help rebuild sustainable communities. The website ishttp://crmw.net.
Show cause order: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B87Y5QG4Eg0Xa211WUJEV2YxRWc
Republic Energy permits on Coal River Mountain: https://apps.dep.wv.gov/WebApp/_dep/search/Permits/RP_PermitQuery_new.cfm?office=OMR
“Our way of life” requires
a war machine says the president.
He is not the first to say so;
“The Donald” is just more blunt.
Despite the feigned consternation
of the chattering class, this is our history.
A continent conquered through genocide,
the slaughter completed when Chief Sitting Bull was shot down.
An economy sustained by slavery,
its history screams of man’s inhumanity to his own.
Tolerated far too long,
it could be ended only by Civil War carnage.
Industry was built on the backs of laborers
as crony capitalism profited all but the workers.
War was waged on miners in the West Virginia hills
while children in Southern textile mills labored to the bone.
An empire was built
from Cuba to the Philippines.
Puppet dictators were established here and yonder,
while we fought undeclared wars in Southeast Asia.
We have been at war
since our children were – children.
Our granddaughter has yet to live
in a world in which we don’t wage war.
We justify it easily,
even though the boxes we call home
are filled with boxes of stuff.
It is, after all, Our Way of Life.
All “dire threats” to it
will be destroyed.
If in doing so we obliterate ourselves –
it is Our Way of Life.
© Michael M. Barrick, 2017
The cabin is nestled into
the steep, wooded ridge of the forest.
The slope ends abruptly, steps away.
the night creatures peer in.
Yet, we venture out.
The campfire reassures;
around it, our faces are cast orange
by its fading embers.
First the bats swoop in –
treetop level, scooping bugs –
mosquitoes we hope.
The rustling of leaves up the ridge
under the dark canopy
remains a mystery.
The coyotes scream a frightful warning
to the deer from ridge to ridge.
The outcome inevitable and unmistakable to the ear.
The owls hoot and screech;
Such a hullabaloo is rarely heard.
It is night in southern Appalachia.
The creatures declare:
Here, you are merely a visitor.
© Michael M. Barrick, 2012 – 2017. Photo credit: Ray Hennessy
Dangers of fracking, benefits of Clean Energy in West Virginia are covered in the 28-page newspaper, Renew West Virginia
By Michael M. Barrick
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – One of the most established and influential environmental and social justice organizations in West Virginia is printing and distributing 29,000 copies of its own newspaper – Renew West Virginia.
The Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC) stated in a news release, “The publication … examines the health and pollution impacts of the fracking boom in other areas of West Virginia, and details fracking-related projects proposed for the greater Huntington area. It also explores the nationwide growth of renewable energy and related jobs, with a focus on the renewable energy efforts underway in Cabell and Wayne counties.
It will be distributed to residents of Cabell, Wayne, Putnam, Jackson and Roane counties. It is being sent to those “ … who reside near some of the proposed pipelines and their associated compressors stations,” explained OVEC in the statement. It is also available online.
The proposed route for the Mountaineer XPress Pipeline, as provided by Columbia Gas Transmission online.
The newspaper has been published, said OVEC in its release, to answer the question, “What is our energy future?” The question is timely, argued the organization. It noted, “A total of nine large diameter pipelines are proposed to come through the Huntington area. Unlike the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline, which are largely completed already, the fracked-gas pipelines proposed for the Huntington area are not yet in construction, and some are still in the planning phases.”
It continued, “Columbia’s Leach XPress pipeline is planned to bore under the Ohio River near Camden Amusement Park, and Columbia’s Mountaineer XPress pipeline is currently in the public comment phase. There is also industry discussion now about fracking the very deep Rogersville Shale which underlies the Huntington area.”
As pipeline companies seek eminent domain rights, we need to remember that informed and organized people can demand their rights, protect their property, and contribute to a better energy future for our state and nation.” – OVEC Executive Director Natalie Thompson
There is a better way, argues OVEC in Renew West Virginia. OVEC Executive Director Natalie Thompson said, “All across the United States, a new energy for citizen action is emerging. We need to tap into that energy and work with others concerned about the severe climate impacts of these planned developments in our neighborhoods.” She continued, “As pipeline companies seek eminent domain rights, we need to remember that informed and organized people can demand their rights, protect their property, and contribute to a better energy future for our state and nation.”
Robin Blakeman, OVEC’s project coordinator, added, “We see the problems our neighbors in north central West Virginia have faced with the rise of deep shale fracking-related activities. We’ve published Renew West Virginia because we want to make certain that people know deep shale fracking-related activities are not the same as our grandfathers’ oil and gas industry.” She added, “Renewable is doable! We can choose to move West Virginia’s economy into the 21st century by embracing cleaner renewable energy.”
Indeed, the impact of fracking upon the state’s northern counties, as well as residents in Pennsylvania, New York and elsewhere are revealed in the newspaper. On page 3, under the headline, “Not Your Grandfather’s Oil and Gas Industry,” a new fracking well pad dwarfs an older well. With that startling contrast catching your attention, readers are informed, “To learn what this oil and gas rush would mean for our communities, we look to our northern neighbors. Explore these pages to learn more about what our region faces, about fracking-related activities, and about cleaner, healthier alternatives.”
A number of topics are covered, including the growth of renewable energy. There is also a section on the Rogersville Shale field – 12 to 14 thousand feet under about 12 counties in West Virginia and several more in Kentucky – which is in the sights of the gas industry. The Marcellus Shale, in contrast, is about 5,000 feet below the surface. The publication asserts, “If the Rogersville Shale is extensively developed, the Huntington/Wayne County area would be harmed by unprecedented deep fracking, with much of the oil and gas apparently slated for export overseas.”
Additionally, the publication points out that much of the gas being extracted from the West Virginia shale fields are earmarked for export, despite federal regulations designed to prevent that. It shows how a state court victory for citizens could thwart industry plans to export the gas they seek to extract. The ruling prevents gas companies from accessing private property. Hence, depending upon other factors, the ruling could severely limit construction, and hence production and, ultimately, export of the fracked gas. Consequently, the construction of pipelines and compressor stations, not to mention the many adverse impacts of fracking, could conceivably be severely restricted by West Virginians firmly standing for their rights.
In that decision from a case in Monroe County, the West Virginia Supreme Court upheld a ruling by Monroe County Judge Robert A. Irons ruling that landowners do have the right to prevent pipeline surveyors from coming on their property to survey for the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). This was a clear win in checking gas companies’ abuse of eminent domain. He ruled what MVP’s attempts to get on private property without permission based on the premise of eminent domain is illegal because it was “private taking for private use.” In other words, the pipeline is not for public benefit, affirmed the court, but for the profit of the energy companies building them.
Other issues explored include public health and environmental complaints in Pennsylvania; the impact upon water supplies from depletion of lakes to pollution through leaching; earthquakes occurring where none had before the fracking boom; public health impacts, ecological risks, and overall nuisances of fracking well pads; and, a review of the impact of nine proposed pipelines, many of which would run under or near the Ohio River.
Readers are also encouraged to know and defend their rights. “Folks in West Virginia living along the paths of these proposed pipelines are advised: If pipeline land men come looking for you, know your rights! OVEC can suggest knowledgeable and trustworthy lawyers.”
The dangers of compressor stations are illustrated vividly through the photo of a child who was part of a health study in New York. As noted in the caption, residents suffered from asthma, nosebleeds, headaches, and rashes. On the same page, readers learn. “The Pennsylvania Medical Society has called for a moratorium on new shale gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing.”
In-depth reporting is provided on the “typical steps” for a Marcellus Shale gas operation. Numerous photos tell their own stories. Radioactivity in fracking well waste is explored. The paper notes, “In December 2016, the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters reported on a study that found some well waste from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania contained radioactive material not previously reported, with the potential for leaching from landfills into the environment.” Over two pages, Renew West Virginia thoroughly reviews the science that proves fracking creates radioactive waste. Furthermore, they note that disposal of it is barely, if at all, regulated.
The newspaper also includes news of grassroots victories against pipelines; points out that the clean energy economy employs four million people in the United States; and, provides extensive analysis of solar energy.
OVEC will distribute copies of Renew West Virginia at an informational meeting at 6 p.m. on Wed., March 15 at the Main Cabell County Library, 455 9th Street (at the corner of 5th Ave. and 9th St. in downtown Huntington).
To contact OVEC or to learn more about Renew West Virginia, click here.
What is fracking?
Fracking is a slang word for hydraulic fracturing, the process of injecting a fluid consisting of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into shale. This fractures the rock, releasing natural gas, which is then extracted. In West Virginia, the Marcellus shale, a layer of rock 3,500 – 8,000 feet below the surface, is the object of fracking. The vertical depth of the formation is about 150 feet. Whether recovered or left behind, the frack fluid presents problems. The wastewater contains not only the chemicals added to the water, but also heaving minerals and radioactive materials recovered as part of the extraction process.
© Michael M. Barrick, 2017
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Too many questions remain for FERC to approve the Atlantic Coast Pipeline says monitoring coalition
By Rick Webb
MONTEREY, VA. – The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (CPMC) has submitted a report to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and the proposal to drill through the Blue Ridge Mountains under the Appalachian Trail, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the National Forest.
The information provided in the DEIS is insufficient to support evaluation of the proposed Blue Ridge drilling operation. The scale of excavation is not fully disclosed or considered, and the results of critical geophysical investigations have not been provided. Identification of geohazards and evaluation of mitigation measures have been deferred until later, precluding a meaningful opportunity for informed review of the project. The published DEIS fails to meet the information needs of the public or the governmental agencies that have responsibilities related to the ACP project.
FERC must release a revised DEIS to:
1) prove that boring through the Blue Ridge is a practicable option, by providing reliable and complete geophysical data
2) disclose the extent of land disturbance and water quality damage the proposal would create
3) include detailed, site-specific plans and pollution control measures for all alternatives for crossing the Blue Ridge.
Trump won; get over it and keep fighting for justice
By Michael M. Barrick
Oh my. It appears some college students (and professors) were so distraught over the election of Donald Trump as president that some of the nation’s supposedly most prestigious Ivy League institutions cancelled classes and exams the day following the election. You can read about it here.
According to the report, a Yale administrator told faculty “to be sensitive to students at this moment …” Hurry, somebody please pass the smelling salts. I hear a collective moan of, “I believe I have the vapors!”
Penn, too, cancelled classes, exams and heard from distraught students. I hope somebody in a position of authority told them to “get over it.” However, I haven’t read anywhere where anyone of authority came remotely close to challenging them to react and live as adults. Instead, the coddling began.
If the election of Donald Trump is enough to put “leaders” of universities and their students into a spiral of despondency, our adversaries – such as North Korea – will rightfully determine we are a hopelessly weak society. Indeed, one student said, “Putting exams after elections is irresponsible. If the University wants students to be involved in politics they shouldn’t force them to study instead.”
Please tell me I’m not alone in shaking my head in disbelief at that point-of-view. You have to study in college? Jesus Christ, whose idea was that? You still have to be part of society and vote? Oh no! The masters of multitasking can’t study, research and take an hour or so to go vote? Bless their hearts.
Perhaps some in academia need a refresher course of the example set by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who returned to Nazi Germany from the safety of the U.S., only to die in a concentration camp.
Instead, they are creating a Generation Whine that just wants to grab their electronic devices, curl up on the bed, and use social media to whine to one another. Never mind that social and digital media gives them the power to change the world. First, they must be aware of the world beyond their concerns. This reaction to Trump’s election shows they are not. This song by Chicago might help with that.
Or, consider a brief story. While working for six years right out of high school, I met my wife, Sarah. Then, I went to college while she worked. It was in my junior year of college that she became pregnant with our first child. Lindsay happened to arrive on the same day that a major paper was due to my history professor. A weekend came between Lindsay’s arrival and my return to campus. In short, my paper was about four days late, and the grade reflected it. I was upset and told the professor I thought he was being unfair to penalize me. His response: “You have to choose priorities. You want to make a life for your daughter? Then attend class and turn in your work. That’s how you graduate.”
He accepted no excuses. To this day, I admire him for it. You see, I knew that paper was due. I had it done. Though I commuted 35 miles one-way over a West Virginia mountain road every day, it was the professor’s argument that I could have sent the paper with a friend when it was due (this was before email). He was right. He did not expect me to miss my baby’s birth, but he was trying to teach me that sometimes in life, we have multiple, simultaneous responsibilities.
In other words, life is hard and quite complicated much of the time.
As a grandfather, father and retired teacher, I know some folks think I should be extending a little sympathy to our young college friends. Well, I simply can’t. It’s not good for them, as it is time they grow up.
I, too, had to put up with the hate hurled by Trump supporters as I campaigned and worked the polls during early voting. We saw first-hand just what kind of jerks support Donald Trump. We have seen the administration he’s putting together. It is too bad we don’t teach history anymore, or these college students really would be terrified.
And that is Trump’s hope: that he can terrorize everyone just as he did through the election. He is also hoping college-aged kids will become so disillusioned that they’ll not fight the forces within the Democratic Party that put their thumbs on the scale in their successful – but ultimately disastrous – attempt to hand the Democratic nomination to Hillary. He is counting on them to not look to third parties and improved ballot access.
I’m feeling old (no, 60 is not the “new 40”). I’m tired. I’m not well physically. But hell will freeze over before I give in to the forces of evil such as Donald Trump. That’s the lesson college kids need to learn. So, shame on those administrators, professors and students that felt the need to hit the pause button the day after the election. It was exactly opposite of what should have happened.
So, here’s my two cents worth to the students and others distraught about the election of Donald Trump. As the Eagles sang, “Get Over It.” And, then do something about it, like fight for justice, for what it’s worth.
© Michael M. Barrick, 2016
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