'A Small Group of Thoughtful, Committed Citizens’: Women’s Activism, Environmental Justice, and the Coal River Mountain Watch


Barry, Joyce M. 2008. “‘A Small Group of Thoughtful, Committed Citizens’: Women’s Activism, Environmental Justice, and the Coal River Mountain Watch.” Environmental Justice 1 (1): 25–33.

Author: Joyce M Barry


This article examines the environmental justice efforts of the Coal River Mountain Watch (CRMW) in Boone County, West Virginia. The CRMW is a grassroots group formed in 1998 to fight the effects of mountaintop removal coal mining in West Virginia. The membership of this organization is largely comprised of white, working-class women whose homes and community have been adversely impacted by this extractive industry. The CRMW serves as a watch dog of the coal industry oligarchy in the state, resisting the social and environmental injustices created by King coal and its abetting state political system. This article posits that around the country poor and working-class women respond collectively to threats on their homes and communities. However, the scale and impact of this social trend has yet to be adequately assessed by feminist and environmental justice scholars. There is a large body of important, ecofeminist scholarship examining women's connection to the natural world, mostly framed by the spiritual component of such connections. However, this scholarship frequently fails to consider the role of class and its relation to gender and the environment. Also, these analyses too often center women's individual responses to challenged environments, rarely focusing on women's collective actions. Environmental justice scholarship has done a tremendous job emphasizing the importance of class, social justice, and vulnerable communities' connection to the environment. However, the canon of environmental justice scholarship infrequently assesses the activism and importance of women in these grassroots movements. This is unfortunate considering that women make up 90% of the membership in environmental justice groups around the country. Using the Coal River Mountain Watch as a case study this article ultimately seeks to redress these shortcomings in existing scholarship, and highlight the efforts of this environmental justice organization.

Topics: Civil Society, Class, Economies, Economic Inequality, Poverty, Environment, Extractive Industries, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Gender Analysis, Livelihoods Regions: Americas, North America Countries: United States of America

Year: 2008

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