Carl Galie Wins Art for Conservation Grant
Carl Galie, a professional photographer from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, won the first annual Art for Conservation Grant, a $2500 printing services grant sponsored jointly by Art for Conservation and Fine Print Imaging.
While the competition for the grant was filled with truly outstanding projects, Carl’s “Lost on the Road to Oblivion, The Vanishing Beauty of Coal Country” project reveals and environmental concern that that goes largely unnoticed by the public: the destruction of the Appalachian Mountain ecosystem.
The best way to tell Carl Galie's story is to do it in his own words:
““Lost on the Road to Oblivion, The Vanishing Beauty of Coal Country” is a home coming for me and my search for truth. Torn between my coal mining family roots and saving the mountains I love, I find myself struggling between the need for jobs and the protection of an ecosystem that is being destroyed in the name of corporate profits.
For more than twenty years the systematic destruction of the Appalachian Mountains by the coal industry has been taking place without the majority of the people in this country having any idea of the magnitude of the destruction. To date almost 500 mountains and over 2,000 miles of streams have been lost to this mining practice. “Lost on the Road…” is an attempt to educate the public about mountaintop removal by showing the effects this mining practice is having on our nation’s oldest mountains and the potential impact on watersheds beyond the coalfields. It is also intended to gain support for the Clean Water Protection Act (HR 1310) and the Appalachian Restoration Act (S 696). “Lost on the Road…” will show how the mining industry is destroying the future of many Appalachian communities by placing profits over public and miner safety.
I prefer a more non-confrontational form of environmental activism, and for that reason I choose to focus on the beauty of coal country rather than just devastation. I prefer to focus on what will be lost, rather than what has been lost. I intend to do this by showing ecosystems already permitted for mining and scheduled for demolition. Using this approach I hope to make people realize that the time to begin planning for a future beyond coal is now. My hope is that this project will be a wake-up call for those still living in coal country to realize that coal is not a renewable energy source and one day it will be mined out and the coal companies will move on like Carpetbaggers in the night.
In February 2009 I was approached by members of the Floyd County KY chapter of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth to do a book project on mountaintop removal. It didn’t take me very long to realize that another book on the subject of MTR would not achieve the desired results of stopping this mining practice. Books are only read by those who care about the subject especially in rural Appalachia. I decided that if I was going to get the truth out about MTR to the audience I wanted to reach and gain support for the Clean Water Protection Act and The Appalachian Restoration Act the best way to educate the public would be by producing a fine art exhibit of prints rather than producing another book on the subject.
I am currently in talks with a number of University galleries in North Carolina about the possibility of having the exhibit in their galleries. I have chosen North Carolina for the first stop for this exhibition because it has the dubious distinction of being the number one user of MTR coal in the country.
You don’t have to go very far to see news about some environmental tragedy and or disaster. From the problems caused by climate change to the Gulf oil spill we are reminded daily by the media or some environmental organization about the issues affecting some of this planet’s most endangered locations. So what makes mountaintop removal more important than any of these other problems? From my point of view the biggest tragedy is that this has been allowed to go on for over two decades by our government without an end to this destructive mining practice in sight. It seems that most people are not aware of the true scale of mountaintop removal.
So why has this been allowed to happen? I think Maria Gunnoe, an Appalachian resident turned activist said it best in a meeting that I was invited to attend with the Interior department’s director of surface mining Joe Pizarchik. She said that this destruction would never be allowed to happen if coal was found in Greenbrier County or the Canaan Valley of WV. The only reason it has been allowed to happen is because it only affects a bunch of poor hillbillies with not political power who are not living in some exotic location that gets all the media attention.
Another reason this destruction has gone on for so long is that the coal industry has so much power. There has not been a politician in coal country that has ever won an election if they had an anti coal platform. This is best illustrated by the recent statements made by Senator Byrd of WV about the coal industry. At age 92 he can finally say what is on his mind and in his heart because it looks like he will not be running for reelection.
While “Lost on the Road to Oblivion, The Vanishing Beauty of Coal Country” is not as glamorous as saving Denali or the Tongass National Forest, it is every bit as important. This project is not about saving a wilderness area from possible future destruction. Mountaintop removal is happening in real time and has been allowed to go on far to long. Oblivion is defined as, the state of being unaware of what is happening around one, the state of being forgotten, destruction or extinction. It is time that the poor of Appalachia have a voice before the definition of oblivion becomes a matter of fact."
To learn more about Carl’s award winning project, check out the link below.
Carl's Website: http://www.carlgaliephotography.com