Most Americans are shocked to learn that nearly half of the electricity used in the
United States today is produced by coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel. COAL COUNTRY
reveals the truth about modern coal mining. The story is told by the people directly
involved, both working miners and activists who are battling the coal companies in
Appalachia. Tensions are high. It’s a “new civil war,” as families and communities
are deeply split over mountaintop removal mining (MTR). The tops of mountains are
blasted away, exposing seams of coal, while debris is pushed into valleys and streams.
Residents endure health problems, dirty water in their wells, dust and grime on their
floors. The miners are frightened that, without MTR, they’ll lose their jobs and won’t
be able to feed their families. What does this mean for America and the rest of the
world? The coal industry is spending millions to promote what it calls “clean coal.”
Is it achievable? At what cost?
Heartwood (heartland + hardwood) is a cooperative network of grassroots groups, individuals, and
local businesses working to protect and sustain healthy forests and vital human communities in
the nation’s heartland, from the foothills of the Appalachians to the river valleys of the Great
Plains, and from the Great Lakes to the Deep South.
Heartwood was formed in January 1991, by activists from Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, and
Missouri who recognized the benefits of coordinating and combining their separate efforts.
They also recognized that the forests they sought to protect were in fact living remnants of
the great forest that at one time extended from the foothills of the Appalachians to the river
valleys of the Great Plains, and from the Great Lakes to the Deep South. Working across
arbitrary political and administrative boundaries, Heartwood activists successfully used the
law and available human and financial resources to stop all logging on National forests in
Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania within ten years of the
organization’s formation – a feat few thought possible at the time.
What issues does Heartwood currently address?
Those forests are again at risk, and logging and other fragmenting activities have resumed.
Heartwood's Forest Watch program continues to provide national leadership in challenging the
privatization, commercialization, and exploitation of our nation’s public lands.
In addition, even though Heartwood initially focused its organizing efforts on halting logging
on the National forests, it quickly became evident that efforts to protect the forest must
address responsible and sustainable stewardship of privately held forestland, the need to
dramatically reduce the wasteful use of wood and paper products that drives the destruction
of the forest, the need to address global climate change, and the need to form common cause
with groups working on a variety of ecological sustainability and social justice issues.
Heartwood has become a respected national leader in those efforts while expanding its
geographic scope to include the East, Midwest, and South. For example, Heartwood’s
leadership is growing in the nascent movement against industrial biomass facilities,
including fighting incentives and subsidies to promote their expansion and the threat of
using public forests as a fuel source. They are also a member of the Alliance for Appalachia,
a network of grassroots groups working to end mountaintop removal coal mining.
How does Heartwood incorporate the creative arts with its activism?
Heartwood hosts two annual gatherings: the Heartwood Forest Council, which is held in a
different hardwood-forest state over Memorial Day weekend each year, and the Heartwood
Reunion, which is held at the Lazy Black Bear in Paoli, Indiana over Columbus Day weekend.
Each of these gatherings includes scheduled space for live music and other creative
performance to be shared with those in attendance. Inevitably, attendees also create
their own times and spaces to share and create music.
Last year Heartwood produced Coal Country Music, an impressive album to accompany the
documentary film Coal Country. The album includes donated tracks from an incredible array
of artists. The proceeds benefit the Alliance for Appalachia and its work against the
destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining.
What other projects is Heartwood working on at the moment?
Heartwood is currently working to plan and organize the 20th annual Heartwood Forest Council,
which will be held over Memorial Day weekend at Camp Ondessonk in southern Illinois, near
the Shawnee National Forest. The Heartwood Forest Council is the largest annual gathering
of citizens from across the Eastern, Midwestern, and Southern United States who care about
the health and well-being of our nation’s forests.
They chose Camp Ondessonk as the site for the 20th Forest Council because it was the site
of the first Forest Council in 1991. The 2010 Forest Council will focus on issues facing
the Heartwood region, particularly questions pertaining to energy policy. For example,
the Forest Council will host the first face-to-face gathering of the coalescing national
movement to stop the onslaught of new forest-consuming, industrial-scale biomass incinerators.
The Forest Council will also include discussions of other regional energy concerns, such as
coal mining and nuclear energy production. During the Forest Council, Heartwood will examine
the range of energy options available and engage in a coordinated regional discussion on a
green, renewable, and sustainable energy future.
In addition to the topical focus of the Forest Council, this year they will also celebrate
Heartwood’s twenty years of extraordinary frontline, grassroots success on a very limited
budget. They will highlight the depth and breadth of the Heartwood network and will have
a strategic discussion on their plans for grassroots environmental work in the next twenty
Just as important as the substance of the Forest Council is the space it provides to build
long-term relationships based on trust and shared purpose and to deepen our connection to
the work we do through the sharing of inspiration and a common vision for the future.
The educational and informative components of the program will be interspersed with ample
social time, leisure, lively local music, dancing, and great meals conscientiously prepared
using fresh, local, and organic foods. The Forest Council is family friendly – kids of all
ages are encouraged to attend.
Information about this year’s Forest Council, including schedule and online registration:
How can an interested person become involved with Heartwood?
Attending the Forest Council would be a great way to start! If that’s not possible, please
Heartwood for current action alerts and read the latest issue of Heartwood’s biannual newsletter, the Heartbeat. You can join or donate to Heartwood online.
For additional information, please contact Heartwood’s coordinator, Amanda Moore.
NOTE FROM STARRY NIGHT PRODUCTIONS STAFF:
Please send this showcase link to your family and friends, post this link on your websites, on
your blogs, and include information about Heartwood in your newsletters. This is a worthy cause
that deserves and needs support.
Starry Night Productions is a huge fan of our friend Jason Wilber, a American folk/acoustic
guitarist. At the time of this posting Jason has five CDs: Lost in Your Hometown, Behind the Midway, King for a Day,
Live and Otherwise Volume 1, and Lazy Afternoon. He has played with John Prine, Hal Ketchum,
Greg Brown, Iris DeMent, Todd Snider, Greg Trooper, Carrie Newcomer, and Tim Grimm.
Jason and John Prine have produced two Grammy Award-nominated albums, Live On Tour and In Spite
of Ourselves (which spent 32 weeks on the Billboard Country Charts), as well as the 2006
Grammy-winning album Fair & Square. If you’ve never heard Jason’s music you are missing out!
Buy the Coal Country Music CD:
ONE HUNDRED PERCENT (100%) of the net proceeds go to the Alliance for Appalachia to STOP MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL.
Coal Country Music CD Tracks
CEDAR HILL REFUGEES WITH RALPH STANLEY
CEDAR HILLS REFUGEES/EFFIGY RECORDS
GILLIAN WELCH WEBSITE
CELESTE KRENZ WEBSITE
JASON AND THE SCORCHERS
JASON AND THE SCORCHERS WEBSITE
JOHN PRINE WEBSITE
KATHY MATTEA WEBSITE
JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE
JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE ON MYSPACE
JASON WILBER WEBSITE
SHIRLEY STEWART BURNS
SHIRLEY STEWART BURNS WEBSITE
NATALIE MERCHANT WEBSITE
TOM T. HALL
TOM T. HALL WEBSITE
BONNIE RAITT and JOHN PRINE
BONNIE RAITT WEBSITE
JOHN PRINE WEBSITE
Writer, Producer, and Director:
COAL COUNTRY Feature Film.
JEAN RITCHIE ON AMAZON
THE KLEZMATICS WEBSITE
SCHUYLER FISK ON MYSPACE
PUBLIC OUTCRY ON MYSPACE
WILLIE NELSON WEBSITE