Occupying the mountaintop–Tennessee's prayers for the planet

Evidence of mountaintop removal mining in Tennessee

While those of us following the Occupy movement online or on television may see it as a fairly conventional protest movement, complete with marching and chanting, a quick look at various encampments (or remnants thereof) around the country shows something quite different: alternative communities that value the input of all participants. Those communities themselves are the real protest: by living something quite different, even temporarily, Occupiers are able to highlight the absurdities of the current political structure.

While I don’t know if creation care organization Tennessee LEAF sees itself as a faith-based form of “occupation,” their just-completed 40 Days of Prayer for the Mountains may well have the effect of illustrating an alternative to crony politics. State legislators have tried to make Tennessee the first state to ban mountaintop removal mining practices, but have been scuttled by industry lobbyists in the past. Faith leaders associated with LEAF, all of whom come from a variety of denominational backgrounds, decided to get ready for this year’s legislative session with something different: a forty-day prayer event open to anyone who wanted to join in. Organized largely online, the event wrapped up last night with a prayer service in downtown Nashville.

While you may question the effectiveness of praying away legislation, the event has served to shed some light on the political players, and typical processes, surrounding this issue. The Nashville Tennessean notes that the 40 day prayer-fest caused enough of a stir to get a response out of Chuck Laine, the president of the Tennessee Mining Association. Laine told the paper “They are praying for West Virginia, not Tennessee, because we don’t do that… We don’t take the tops off of mountains and shove them into valleys.” I’m guessing that he still doesn’t support a ban on the practice, even if miners in the state “don’t do that.”

We’ll have to see how the ban fares in this year’s legislative session, but I’d guess that many more Tennesseans are now aware of the potential for mountaintop removal mining in the state than before the 40 days event. And that awareness strikes me as the hallmark of a successful occupation – whatever you choose to call it!

Got first-hand knowledge of the 40 Days, or of mining politics in Tennessee (or other parts of Appalachia)? Share your experiences and thoughts with us.


Image credit: christopherscottirwin at flickr via Tennessee LEAF Media resources