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Who Doesn’t Love Mountains? (I Love Mountains Day Preview)

By Beth Newberry

Tomorrow, Tuesday, Feb. 14, is “I Love Mountains Day,” at the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., a community organizing event and lobbying day sponsored by Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC). KFTC is a statewide citizens’ group working for social change on a grassroots level. One of the group’s area of focus includes educating individuals—in Kentucky and beyond—about Mountain Top Removal (MTR) coal mining and motivating and organizing citizens to speak out about environmental degradation caused by that form of strip mining. Started several years ago, I Love Mountains Day is a statewide event—which even draws allies from other environmental organizations and engaged citizens from neighboring states—is part rally, march, inspirational event and public witness to lawmakers and elected leaders.

“It’s important as a lobbying event—citizen lobbyists are more important than ever,” says Lora Smith, one of last year’s featured speakers, a current KFTC member and former staff member. It’s “a component to bring people into government. It really is a community event and something people looking forward to every year. KFTC does a good job [making] that urban rural connection in events and with speakers.”

Kentucky in mid-February is often cold, windy, dreary and grey-skied. It’s not the setting for natural inspiration, but the groups of students, poets, local chapters of KFTC members and first-time activists bring an energy and warmth to a chilly day. “There is real power in showing up,” says Smith, a native of Corbin, Ky. now living in Greensboro, N.C. “Showing up for community and being engaged in [our] system of government … it’s a powerful experience, especially for people who [may not] consider themselves activists.”

Lora Smith, center, speaks to the rally with Silas House and Jason Howard.

Last year’s event took place days after Kentucky Rising, a multi-day sit-in in Gov. Bashear’s office by coalfield citizens, writers, and notably, poet Wendell Berry. The citizens were asking for an audience with the governor to discuss policies and legislation related to clean water and mountain top removal, and while Bashear ignored the request, the peaceful resistance was a focal point of 2011’s I Love Mountains Day, where Berry was a featured speaker.

This year’s featured speaker will be Melina Laboucan-Massimo, an activist and member of the Lubicon Cree community, which has been decimated by tar sands extraction, who worked on the campaign to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. Bridging environmental issues and connecting communities, the speakers and attendees at the event connect in solidarity for clean water and air.

Watch this video preview of this year’s event:

Photos provided by Laura Heller and Natalie Baxter.

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