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Power Beyond Extraction: A Buried History
October 24, 2019, 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm
6–6:30 p.m. Live performance of old miners’ movement songs from Appalachia by Joe Uehlein.
6:30–8:30 p.m. Panel discussion
The history of Appalachia is tightly bound to the history of coal, and the material and sentimental attachments to this history presents a predicament for the environmental movement. On one hand, the history of coal is a history of exploitation of both land and labor. On the other, it is the history of the struggle of workers to organize for dignified work, fair pay, and safe working conditions. How should the environmental movement relate to workers whose livelihoods are tied to fossil fuel extraction? One answer has emerged with the concept of a just transition, which holds that in the transition to clean energy, no worker will be left behind. What can be learned from the buried history of labor militancy borne inside the mine? By approaching the history of coal as a history of labor, this panel asks how the long struggle for work with dignity can inform a just transition.
Shaun Slifer, Creative Director, West Virginia Mine Wars Museum
Kipp Dawson, former coal miner, union member, teacher
Joe Uehlein, Founding President, Labor Network for Sustainability
Veronica Coptis, Executive Director, Center for Coalfield Justice
This event is presented as part of “Power Beyond Extraction”, a programming series hosted at Pittsburgh-area museums on the occasion of the Shale Insight Conference, an annual convening of oil/gas industry executives. The event series is curated and organized by The Natural History Museum, a traveling, pop-up museum founded by the art collective Not An Alternative in 2014. An ongoing art intervention, The Natural History Museum has a mission to unleash the power of museums as agents of change.
The event will begin with labor leader and professional musician Joe Uehlein playing a selection of coal mining songs that “speak to the dangers of working underground, the reverence miners have for the mountains they love and call their home, and how miners live a painful contradiction where the economy that supports their families also destroys the earth. The music will be engaging, with plenty of upbeat and fight back themes.”