There are certain people whose voice and vision have an outsized influence, their work expanding in a ripple effect that catalyzes real social change. Larry Gibson, founder of Keeper of the Mountains, protector of Appalachia and fighter of coal mining, was one of those heroes.On Sunday, Larry Gibson died of a heart attack while working at his home on Kayford Mountain, West Virginia—land that had been in his family for generations and that he turned into a prime exhibit of the highly destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining. A piece of land he stubbornly refused to sell despite being offered millions by mining companies.
As Larry famously said, "I'm not collateral damage. I am not a victim. I am somebody. I am just as good as anyone. I deserve the same quality of air and health that everyone does that lives away from the coal fields."
Many, like me, first heard about the fight to stop mountaintop removal coal mining through Larry’s courageous protection of his family home.
One of the most important things we can do today to memorialize Larry’s legacy is to make a collective promise to keep fighting, to continue fending off King Coal, to protect our air, our mountains, our water, our climate and our communities. Today you can help by sharing Larry’s legacy, ensuring that one more person in your community is part of Larry’s ripple effect and is inspired to join the fight.
As writer Jeff Biggers eloquently put it, “Few people in our country were so fearless in the face of political pressure, bankers, Big Coal backlash and even death threats; and fewer people had the inspiring impact of this determined mountaineer, who had spent the last two decades crisscrossing the country, leading protests and beseeching power brokers to defend his Appalachian mountains from reckless strip mining operations.”
He will be so sincerely missed, but it is in our hands to ensure his legacy is not forgotten.