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.