Retired miner, veteran, grandfather
Carl Shoupe is a veteran of both the Vietnam War and underground coal mining, so he's no stranger to old-fashioned hard work. These days, he's deeply troubled that hard-working Appalachian values are being exploited, with native Eastern Kentuckians like himself and his neighbors never to see any good come of the destruction of the mountains he loves. That's what brought Shoupe to speak to a crowd of over a thousand people on I Love Mountains Day at the state capital of Frankfort. He's part of a growing, grassroots movement to transition Kentucky toward cleaner energy and new jobs while preserving the ecosystem and public health.
After the rally, Shoupe took a few more minutes to talk about his passion for the mountains. He's an outspoken opponent of mountaintop removal mining, the modern method of getting coal for energy by blasting the tops of Appalachia's ancient landforms.
Shoupe explained, "Eastern Kentucky is such a beautiful place and it’s so sad that the environment is being destroyed. That’s what’s got me all upset. I've got eight grandchildren. And I want them to be able to stay in Eastern Kentucky and grow up and do the things that I did in the mountains. People that aren’t from Eastern Kentucky don’t understand the culture and the heritage: playing in the mountains, diving in the little streams, and drinking the clean water. And all of that is leaving us because of those damn bulldozers on steroids! That’s basically what’s happened. These poor guys, my neighbors, that’s all they got to do, it’s nothing against them, they got to work. I understand that. But what is it they’re working for?”
Shoupe has been involved with Kentuckians For The Commonwealth in finding solutions for a cleaner energy future. They support trying more sustainable sources, such as wind power, to produce at least a fraction, perhaps even 30%, of energy in the state. Sustainable energy also promises more jobs, while mining jobs have declined in recent years despite the increasingly destructive mining methods.
We asked Shoupe if the gathering of folks at the capitol building encouraged him at all. He answered, “I was encouraged…and I’m not gonna quit. I’m an old man, but I’m gonna keep continuing to try to convince these people, my neighbors, that we do have a future.”
You can hear more from Shoupe and other Appalachian voices in the highly acclaimed documentary style book Something's Rising by Silas House and Jason Howard.