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Mountain Hero Gets Help from Author Wendell Berry

Junior Walk is not a celebrity. He grew up in Whitesville, West Virginia, born into a family of coal miners and workers. When he was just a kid, the water in his family's home became contaminated with coal slurry. Though it was blood-red and smelled like sulfur, Junior, who was just a child at the time, thought that was normal. Surrounded by neighbors who all eventually dealt with the same contamination.

"I thought that's what water did," said Junior, "It just went bad."

When he grew up, the day finally came when Junior had to make a choice. Stay silent and see his family and his community continue to be poisoned, or speak out and get kicked out by his father and threatened by neighbors who were afraid to go against the coal companies.

Junior Walk did what every hero has done. He did the right thing.

If you do anything today, please read his personal story. It's incredibly moving and inspirational.

Wendell Berry is an American man of letters, a poet, a prolific writer, an academic, cultural,and economic critic, and a Kentucky farmer. He's been credited with birthing the ideas that gave way to the slow-food movement, and he's received numerous honors for his ideas and writings. Truly an iconic figure in American literary culture, Wendell also uses his voice to stand in defense of the mountains, waters and communities of Appalachia. We’re proud to have Wendell’s support backing up the huge efforts of brave citizens like Junior.

When we asked Wendell to participate in this campaign, he immediately jumped at the opportunity, explaining his connection to the destruction of mountaintop removal mining and his support of his friends who are even more directly affected.

"I live beside the Kentucky River in Henry County, Kentucky," said Wendell. "My connection to mountaintop removal mining is this river, and I know that surface mining in the mountains of Kentucky damages the river. I'm glad to stand with my friends and heroes from eastern Kentucky—Teri Blanton, Mickey McCoy and others—in defense of the mountains and in defense of this river."

Will you join Junior and Wendell and stand in defense of mountains and mountain people, too? We need you, and joining our photo petition will take you less than a minute!

Here's what it takes:

  • Go to
  • Upload any photo of yourself (as long as it's clean and appropriate for children!). It doesn't need to be an outdoor or mountain shot. You can use your Facebook profile photo, or any old photo of yourself. Alternatively, you can upload your favorite outdoor scenery shot if you'd prefer!
  • Write two short lines about why you want to save mountains, waters and communities
  • Let your friends know! Share your petition on Twitter and Facebook. Ask them to join you!

If you have extra time, read some of the stories of our Mountain Heroes and get inspired. Share those, too!

Tags:  Water

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