Environmental activists can easily come off as preachy, but Reverend Billy keeps it fresh with street theatre and the occasional dose of irony. Here's a glimpse into what's goes through his head as he protests mountaintop removal—from his new book, The End of the World. This excerpt originally appeared at Reality Sandwich.
There are about 80 of us, Savitri and myself and an eclectic mixed up group of Europeans, South Americans and Russians.
First, we gather in the courtyard of Barcelona's Museum of Contemporary Art. Amen? Savitri announces that the name of our action is "Naked Grief," and that we will have to learn how to cry energetically -- with tears all the better! -- in public. We'll do this in Deutsche Bank -- a bank that finances CO2 emissions. As we sob and moan, we will remove our clothing. Then we will rub ourselves with coal and cry even harder.
So -- we practice crying in that courtyard. Savitri coaches us in our exercises in public wailing. It is easy for a few seconds, but out-and-out crying, sobbing, retching, really sorrowing for ten minutes? It is hard to do. We have to start crying over and over again.
To help the people who are having trouble crying on purpose, we go down into the politics of this act. Deutsche Bank is among the banks that finance Mountaintop Removal (MTR). Do you want to cry? Imagine a mountain in Appalachia. The coal company inserts dynamite into deep holes, then lifts the whole ecosystem into the air to die. The cries of surprise and pain range across the mountain. Nests fall from trees, deer try to run but catapult dead through the air, the creatures on the forest floor are crushed, the mountain is uprooted and broken. Then bulldozers with wheels 40 feet high begin to push the dead "over-burden" into the neighboring valley, into the pristine mountain streams below, where the fish lay their eggs and the delicate frogs sing courtship songs. Where Mountain Laurel drops its petals and ferns grow from hundred year old beds of moss.
Do you want to cry? MTR is a highly profitable but deadly coal-mining practice. Long sequestered chemicals like selenium, arsenic, and mercury float down wind, cancer clusters along their flight path. Toxins seep into the water table... it goes on and on. Do you want to cry?
Yes, we cry, and with ever more feeling, until we are ready to walk to the bank. Savitri leads us in her tan trenchcoat. We walk through the narrow streets of the old city, full to bursting with mopeds and bikes and our throng. When we get to the Deutsche Bank I hold the door open and Savitri walks out of her coat, emerging all white skin and freckles and dark red hair. We are weeping. People disrobe to varying degrees. We are extremely naked, for a German bank.
The inconsolable wailing has a strange power. Among us are many Spanish folk who know all about cante jondo. They can hurl down the betrayal of the heart like no rightwing televangelist ever could. The bank managers walk down to the first floor to see what all the trouble is about.
Read the rest of this post at Reality Sandwich.