Technology and resistance in a partial connectivity context

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Appalachia mtn top removal resistance and technology

Takeaways

  • Sometimes lowtech is best tech
  • much like the landscape the political consensus is very folded and contradictory
  • Work within the communities don't try to push your agenda. LISTEN FIRST
  • involved 2008-2013
  • Before the Signal App
  • Mountainous, Folded Region
  • Lots of communication issues / line of sight is a problem
  • Spotty cell service
  • zero cell service in the HQ (only time they had cell service was when the power went out)
  • Text more usefull than voice
  • Radio communications were used and worked better but easy to eavesdrop
  • Lots of low tech solutions
  • speaking in codes, using code words (hiding in the noise, use jargon similar to others who use radios)
  • Get creative, look to how militaries and guerrillas have communicated before digital technology, such as visual media.
  • Listening posts (communicate over chains, multiple mmethods)
  • Tried to do GPG but GPG is super hard to use
  • poorly maintained infrastructure. Cell, power, and or internet may go out on a regular basis
  • Redundant comms systems help with this
  • Lots of divisiveness around coal mining in the area
    • it's the only economy for many places
    • Even if people don't like it they don't have much other choice if they want to keep a job
  • Small rural communities so be careful who you talk to
    • If you are talking near a random person about your protest plans they might know someone who works at or operates the mine
    • "loose lips sink ships"

Mountain top removal

  • Basically blow up the entire mountain to access the coal seam
  • The rubble gets pushed into the valleys and pollutes the creeks and streams
  • Trying to stop it with many tactics from many direcitons
  • Courts, Legislations, Community organizing, Economics, Direct Action,

How do we run a website and utilize social media for organizing when we might not have regular internet?

  • Appalachia is a land of contradictions
  • Suspicious of outsiders, but very friendly
  • Many places are extremely rural, but many places have a large number of internet users
  • Lots of culture clash
  • People from outside would come try to push solutions without listening to the people who live there or the people who have been doing work there for years

Question: What were some of the successes that you achieved?

  • An elementary school was built before a strip mine started on the mountain right above the school
  • The coal gets "washed" to separate it from non-combustible elements
  • The toxic wash or "slurry" is either pumped under ground into abandoned mines which ruins the drinking water or a valley (a hollow/holler) is dammed and the slurry is pumped into it.
  • In this case the dam was built right above the school, lots of kids were getting sick, one worker quit because he couldn't live with it
  • The dam was also not built right, shoddy and not well maintained. If the dam were to fail the kids in the school would have about 30 seconds to evacuate before the school was flooded with toxic slurry
  • Also coal dust from the mining process was getting into the school, going straight into childrens blood stream due to tiny size of particles
  • 10-year fight to close school or move the mine. Devisive. People in the strip mine say "You're telling me my work is hurting my kids? Go to hell"
  • Finally the school gets moved upstream of the dam
  • Another success. announced ahead of time they were going to get as many people as possible on a strip mine and shut it down
  • Didn't say when or what mine, police were confused
  • Created a distraction with public meetup at a park and then had 50-ish people shut down another mine
  • West virginians that were there got beaten badly by the state police


Q: Other interesting uses of technology

  • One of the tactics: the mines were violating mining and permit rules all the time
  • State agency tasked with enforcing mining rules is grossly underfuned and corrupt, but does have some good people in it
  • They rely on outside reports
  • sure enough you would find companies mining outside the permit boundaries which gets them shut down and costs a lot of money
  • doing this often enough can drive up the cost of mining

Q: How did you deal with political affiliations

  • Being seen as environmentalists, "treehuggers"
  • Was there a lot of cultural tribalism?
  • Joke: "Blue/Green alliance" enironmentalists and blue collar
  • "we were directly creating jobs in the security industry with our actions"
  • Security guards actually thanked them for creating so many jobs
  • one of the pieces of common ground we found was not liking the banking industry and bankers
  • Battle of blair mountain in 1921


  • literal battle between blue collar coal miners and white collar/police
  • Read "Storming Heaven" by Denise Giardina for more info on the social context. Other books exist from a purely historical perspective.


Strong independent and anti-authoritarian streak in appalachia