Appalachian Mountaintop Patrol (AMP)
- Laura Chipley, 2015 support thanks to A Blade of Grass
- Coal River Valley, West Virginia, including:
- Boone County
- Raleigh County
- Kanawha Forest Region
- Pocahontas County
The below map shows the four mountaintops where data is being collected, circled in red:
- Coal River Mountain Watch
- Junior Walk
- Debbie Jarrell
- Robert Jarrell
- Peggy Bone
- Christians for the Mountains
- Allen Johnson
- Kanawha Forest Coalition
- Chad Cordell
- David Baghdadi
The Appalachian Mountaintop Patrol (AMP), which was launched in June 2015, is a collaborative, environmental watchdog and multimedia education initiative that works with environmental activists and other community members in the Coal River Valley and Kanawha forest regions of West Virginia to use documentary filmmaking, video surveillance, aerial photography and citizen science to chronicle and take action against the ongoing environmental contamination and the public health crisis caused by Mountaintop Removal and Hydrofracking in the area.
The Appalachian Mountaintop Patrol project is collaborating with activists to use documentary filmmaking and surveillance and sensor technology to advance environmental organizational initiatives, which include closely monitoring mining activities, working with the community at large to oppose new Mountaintop Removal and gas well permits, work with partner organizations to sue the coal and gas industry for flagrant violations, and to ultimately put a stop to existing operations in the region and prevent new ones.
Many members of local communities become involved because of personal investment in these activities. First hand experience of illness and health risks including contaminated drinking water, accelerated cases of cancer, respiratory disease, and birth defects is sadly not uncommon in this region. Additionally, many are participating in this debate because of labor struggles, since the mining industry is the main source of employment -- often, people don't have many other options to provide financially for their families. The complex and controversial conversations surrounding mountain top removal forces us to consider how citizen science of this kind can be inclusive of biological, social, and economic impacts.
Furthermore, AMP allows for new forms of technological literacy, which is additionally an avenue to push beyond media stereotypes of Appalachia. Not to mention, people get a thrill from operating a quadcopter! :)
- multiple organizations
- continuous engagement, with intention to keep a dynamic and continuous relationship to the people and the stories of the region being impacted.
This project is a collaboration between a non-fiction media-maker and seven (7) central West Virginia residents, hailing from four local environmental organizations: Coal River Mountain Watch, Christians for the Mountains, Kanawha Forest Coalition and Radical Actions For Mountain People’s Survival, also known as RAMPS. These environmental organizations are diverse in their structure and approach – some function as traditional non-profits who petition local and federal lawmakers, some work within the Christian and interfaith community, while others focus on more radical direct action campaigns. All these organizations are unified by the commitment to non-violence and to envisioning of stronger and more self-sufficient communities in Appalachia. Most of the participants have at one time been employed by the coal industry.
There is also a larger network of collaborators including industry workers who give anonymous interviews and other community members often overlooked in these debates like teenagers who live in the area.
Appalachia is a region flush with visiting documentary filmmakers and TV producers and while some are undertaking good and important work, there is also a constant stream of dehumanizing and disempowering images disseminated about this region in the mass media. This project is one that seeks to remain committed to the interests and needs of the communities involved. Storytelling is deeply rooted in the Appalachian tradition. The AMP project trains people to use video tell their own stories about how energy extraction affects their lives and the lives of their neighbors, about the social and economic challenges in their communities.
- drone videography -- to capture the extent of mountain top removal operations against the background of the Appalachian Mountains
- Interviews/oral histories -- to capture stories in video and audio (in cases where identities need protection)
- dustduino -- to measure the amount of dust produced by the explosions of mountaintop removal
- pH and conductivity is already being measured by the partner organizations to identify heavy metals in streams and in wells, due to wastewater injected into old mines during the "coal cleaning" process.
The first step in launching the AMP project was visiting the Coal River Valley region to meet with community members and activists and to film initial video documentation of contaminated sites. In June 2015 we held a planning meeting to finalize the list of participants, talk about how the project will work and decide the most important stories to pursue, who the audience is, how AMP can align with the initiatives already in place in organizations.
This is a multi-media project that will incorporate documentary filmaking, citizen science, video surveillance, and sensor journalism. The final project(s) will be in video format designed to reach federal legislative audiences.
- A 40-minute documentary will be submitted to festivals and screened for academic and activist audiences.
- Shorter 4-5 minute online videos will reach a diverse general audience through social media and streaming video sites.
- AMP videos, deer cam footage, GPS coordinates of suspected illegal operations and environmental data will be given to West Virginia citizen-run environmental protection organizations.
AMP is also producing short videos for community meetings to help community members visualize the impacts of MTR and to learn what they can do to oppose new permits. Local community screenings are also an attempt to spark more conversations in communities that are deeply divided over MTR.
Subtitles will be added to the 4-5 minute vignettes for guerilla-style outdoor projections in Charleston, WV, and New York City. Projections will fill empty billboards and other surfaces traditionally used for advertising. Public space projections will both expand the project’s viewership beyond that of an academic, artist, activist or online audience and, as coal and natural gas are heavily used in powering urban landscapes, will embed the story of energy extraction in Appalachia into the psychogeographic landscape of the city.
The AMP project has multiple goals: empowering local residents to tell the story of how MTR affects life in Appalachia in a way that combines compelling first-person accounts and scientific data with visceral imagery. Just as energy companies use PR to control the narrative, this project will attempt to use PR tactics to proliferate a very different message that will reach everyday citizens and lawmakers alike. Both of these goals speak to one ultimate aim: accountability and reform on the part of the energy industry.
West Virgina belongs to EPA Region 6: http://www2.epa.gov/aboutepa/epa-region-3-mid-atlantic. Also see http://publiclab.org/wiki/epa
Legislation first introduced in Congress in June 2012 entitled the Appalachian Community Health Emergency Act or "the ACHE act" http://acheact.org/ [H.R. 912] calls for a moratorium on new mountain top removal permits along with a federal study of public health impacts in the surrounding communities.
****Questions to ask later: Where are the regulatory bodies in this case? What are the channels through which this kind of citizen data is brought to local, state, and federal government? How do we reconcile the complex relationships between governing bodies, industry, and citizens? Examples of successes and failures (which are always successes!)