Visionary Activist Judy Bonds Took on King Coal

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Judy Bonds, the environmental activist who fought against destructive and toxic coal mining in her native Appalachia and was named an Utne visionary in 2009, has died of cancer.

It’s a huge loss for those who are fighting against mountaintop removal coal mining: Bonds was a brave and defiant front-line combatant in the coal wars, a morale-boosting speaker to fellow activists, and a mentor and teacher to many young environmentalists.

I interviewed Judy Bonds when we chose her as an Utne visionary, and she essentially summed up the reason for her fight in just a few words:

“Basically, I’m a coal miner’s daughter and granddaughter, and I’m an eighth generation resident here in the Coal River Valley. I lived in a little holler in Marfork, and Massey [Energy] moved into my holler and began to mine coal so irresponsibly that it just really smacked me in the face. I realized somebody’s got to do something.”

Bonds did something, all right. She became the codirector of Coal River Mountain Watch and helped raise the profile and tenor of the mountaintop removal debate, turning it an issue that many Americans are now aware of–even if we haven’t collectively figured out how to wean ourselves off dirty coal.

I hope that before Bonds passed, she heard the good news reported in the Washington Post that no new coal plants were built in 2010, with one banker calling coal “a dead man walkin'” in terms of attracting investment.

At Huffington Post, Jeff Biggers rounds up reactions to Judy Bonds’ death from all over the green activism world, and at Grist fellow activist and West Virginian Mary Anne Hitt pens a very personal reminiscence of Bonds’ inspirational qualities.

Judy, we’ll miss you.

Sources: Washington PostHuffington Post, Grist

Image courtesy of Coal River Mountain Watch.

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