Statement from Wendell Berry

Statement from Wendell Berry, February 12, 2011, 10:58 a.m.

It is now Feb. 12. By now we expected to be either in jail or bailed out. Instead, by Gov. Beshear’s invitation, we are staying in his reception room in the Capitol. We have had a good night’s sleep and are feeling fine. The governor and his staff, the custodians and security staff of this building, all have treated us with hospitality and perfect kindness. We have spoken much of this and of our gratitude.

A little to our surprise, the Governor spoke with us at some length yesterday, and listened evidently with care as our people bore witness to the abuses they live with every day. He conceded graciously to two of our requests: that he would visit the home places of some of our people to see for himself what they are telling him about. The conversation otherwise was a standoff. We are far from agreement on most of our agenda of grievances. But we feel that the conversation was useful because it made our differences utterly clear. The Governor conceded our right to our opinions, but he believes that our accusations against the coal industry and its allies in state government are matters merely of opinion and personal feeling, without standing in fact, in law, or in principle. He believes, moreover, that surface mining can be, and apparently that it is, carried on without damage to the land, the people, and the water supply.

We, of course, respectfully disagree. We are relieved this morning by an accumulation of evidence that the first goal of our protest has been achieved. State government’s official silence on the grave issues of surface mining has been broken. Those issues have now entered the public conversation as they never have before. Obviously, we are determined to stop the abuses of the coal industry, and to that end we are determined also to keep this conversation going. We look forward to continuing our discussion with the Governor, and with anybody else who may want to talk with us.

We wish to say further—and this is extremely important to us—that our protest is against methods of mining that are abusive. We do not oppose mining per se. Our purpose is to protect our land and water. And we most certainly bear no ill will against those who work in mines.