Utne Reader visionary
Julia “Judy” Bonds has suffered vulgar personal insults, been slapped in the face, and been arrested for speaking out against mountaintop removal, the coal mining practice that is literally flattening parts of Appalachia. A coal miner’s daughter and granddaughter, Bonds was first moved to action in 1997 when her 6-year-old grandson came across a creek full of dead fish killed by mining waste. Now the codirector of Coal River Mountain Watch, Bonds is a veteran activist and a matriarch to the anti–mountaintop removal movement.
On a typically busy day this fall, the group’s staff was expecting visits from a Greenwire reporter doing a story on mountaintop removal, an FBI agent investigating threats and intimidation against the organization, and a state mining official following up on the group’s suggestions on industry oversight. Bonds was also planning for an upcoming visit from the Chicago Eco-Justice Collaborative for a program called From the Holler to the Hood, which “connects the dots” between coal extraction in West Virginia and energy use in Chicago.
Bonds, who won the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2003, travels often to share her enthusiasm and expertise at conferences and workshops, and she is always cheered by new converts to the cause: “Every time a new citizen or a new college student speaks out about the abuses of coal and about the need for a transition to a clean, renewable energy future,” she says, “that gratifies me.”
Learn why Bonds was singled out for the 2003 Goldman Environmental Prize in her biography on the award’s website, and read Grist’s interview with Bonds shortly after the prize was announced. Read more recent interviews in Newsweek and Toward Freedom . To watch her on the front lines of the coal battle, check out the documentary film Burning the Future , in which she is arrested at a protest at Marsh Fork Elementary School, and the YouTube clip in which she is slapped by a coal advocate at an anti-mountaintop-removal rally. She also appears in the new documentary Coal Country , which premieres on the Planet Green cable channel November 14 and will be available on DVD November 10.
Read More: 50 Visionaries Who Are Changing the World .