“Forest or Woodchip?”
by James Elkins, Professor of Law, West Virginia University
With eastern forests showing signs of recovery and discussions of a Maine-to-Georgia forest reserve this is no time to be building massive, old-technology pulp mills and clearcutting second-growth forests to feed them. Yet, that is exactly the environmental onslaught that Parsons and Whittemore, Inc, a corporation based in Rye Brook, New York has in mind for Apple Grove, West Virginia and the forests of the Central Appalachians. GREEN ROLLING HIILLS, a documentary produced by Doug Hawes-Davis of the Missoula, Montana-based High Plains Films, provides an excellent classical case study of environmental injustice in the making. The rural economies of West Virginia communities are marginal to bankrupt, which make them all the more attractive to a jobs-producing industry, never-mind the environmental costs. Green Rolling Hills captures perfectly, through interviews with local residents, the voices of dependent and fatalistic workers. But it is not workers who have spearheaded the plans for the Apple Grove Pulp Mill, merely the usual array of West Virginia politicians, Governor Gaston Caperton foremost among them. Green Rolling Hills lays out a calculus of politics, economics and environmental concerns, all too familiar to environmentalists, students of Appalachia and other third world economies. It is strongly recommended viewing as continuing education for the aforementioned groups as well as mainstream America, seemingly hell-bent on the fantasy of perpetual industrial growth.