Technology and resistance in a partial connectivity context

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Appalachia mtn top removal resistance and technology


  • Sometimes lowtech is best tech
  • much like the landscape the political consensus is very folded and


  • 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, lots of

hunters, use hunting jargon)

 - Light based signals
 - 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 to a random person about your protest plans they

might know the person who owns 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


  • Trying to stop it with many tactics from many direcitons
 - Courts, Legislations, Community organizing, Economics, Direct Action,
  • How do we runa 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 achived
  • An elementary school was built and shortly after that a strip mine

started on the mountain right above the school

  • The coal gets "washed" to remove the toxic chemicals and other

non-coal elements

  • The toxic wash or "slurry" is either pumped under ground which ruins

the drinking water or a valley 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 explode 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

  • 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
  • announced ahead of time they were going to get as many people as

possible on a strip mine and shut it down

  • Didn't saw when or what mine, police were confused
  • Created a distraction at one mine and then had 50 people shut down

another mine

  • West virginians that were there got beaten very badly by the state police

Q: Other interesting uses of technology

  • One of the tactics: the mines were violating mining an dpermit rules

all the time

  • State agency tasked with enforcing mining rules is grossly underfuned

and corrupt

  • They rely on outside reports
  • started using google sattelite images and comparing them with permit


 - 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 make the cost of mining too high
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 caller
 - "we were directly creating jobs in the security industry with our


 - 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
 - literal battle between blue collar coal miners and white collar/police
  • Strong anti-authoritarian streak in appalachia