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this land

by Joshua Marcus

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22,000 tons of chemicals buried at the Love Canal And that’s not accounting for the city or the army and all that they hid down Then the company sold the land for only a dollar down And a few lines of warning to the folks at the school board, warning them to not break ground And when the ground was broke the chemicals seeped right out And when it rained and poured in their back yards, the barrels floated out Still the children were sent to school in the middle of that very mound And it flooded the basements, then the milk of the mothers, and the people gave a shout That something must be done, we gave over our trust, look what it’s gotten us So now it’s up to us to bring forth justice, we cannot be silenced, we will not back down The families and the folks of the homeowner’s association firmly stood their ground And informed the press, still the city neglected to move the families out So they took their own direct action and poured colored food dye down In the sewers that led to navigable waters got the federal coast guard out In ’78 the state agreed to move some people out But they stayed in solidarity with the remaining majority for justice to be handed down And right before the election the President declared Love Canal Was a state of emergency, to move all 900 families, it’s how Superfund came about And though the feds stepped in the people didn’t win back their health, their homes Their chromosomes were damaged One out of two babies were born with birth defects There were 421 chemicals found in the air, the water and the ground And in the last 30 years we’ve seen how Superfund has played out The idea of the government watching over industry is just not working out So it’s up to you and me to call the culprits out Still after 30 years some of those residents are still fighting to stop another Love Canal
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I looked for the mountain There was no hill on it, no peak on it, no lookout off it Yeah I looked for that mountain but the coal is all I’ve found I looked on the mountain For the trees and forests, the forest creatures, the streams and the hollers Yeah I looked for the mountain but dust and rubble is all I found First they bulldoze the forests and scatter the fauna With dynamite blasting they fill all the valleys And burn down the cabins of those who oppose this A coal fire rules this town I stood on a lookout with a man of sixty Who grew up on the mountain that is now a memory, and we stared at its ghost In four years they brought it down And so he stands in protest with many a people Losing their homes, losing their clean water But at the risk of losing money the coal companies would rather kill them out That 900 acres of dead land is humongous for my eyes to take in But it’s really nothing compared to the 6,000 that’s next in the destruction Or the millions of acres that have been destroyed by now You can’t blame the workers for wanting their jobs In a place with no industry how can you feed your own And so the citizens proposed a wind farm Yet their politicians passed on this beautiful windfall, they’d rather blast it off And so I looked on the mountain There was no peak on it, no windmills on it, no life upon it Yeah I looked for that mountain but greed’s senseless destruction was all I found
5.
For more information on the Lone Tree Council visit: http://lonetreecouncil.com For more comprehensive information, op-eds, and news archives about this situation visit the Tittabawassee River Watch site: http://www.trwnews.net
6.
If you don’t know what’s been put into the Saginaw River And you can’t tell what’s gone into the Midland ground And the people that put it there don’t want to tell you how poisonous it is And the people you put in charge don’t care to make them do right by you Yet the state says you can’t eat the fish or you’re 4,000 times as likely to ingest a carcinogen But according to the press, there’s nobody fishing and the company says there is no threat The state department has admitted the danger is beyond debate The EPA knows all about the hazards that dioxin creates And yet Dow hid the facts and dangers from the folks they contaminate And neither of the governing bodies have made the company pay just restitution And you can’t tell if your safe, cause the state says screening comes out of your pocket and not the company’s And you can’t sell your place, that’s even if you owned it, and if you rent you have almost no say How is a city’s biggest corporate sponsor also the city’s biggest polluter? Dow company’s recent toxic spill is the most severe in this country’s history It’s over a thousand times higher then the federal government’s action level The state’s declared that 22 miles of the floodplain’s now a hazardous wasteland Yet their court won’t rule a judgment on the case of the 2,000 folks That’s been tied up since the beginning of the decade And you can’t afford to complain if you fear they’ll take your job and they control the city you live in And you can’t tell if your safe, cause the state says screening comes out of your pocket and not the company’s But according to the press, there’s nobody fishing and the company says there is no threat
7.
For more information on the work of Citizens Against Toxic Exposure visit: http://cate.ws
8.
If in the center of your town are homes and schools and churches Yet in the middle sits a mound of contaminated earth It’s a pile as massive as a mountain that’s been poisoning for years With all the knowledge that we hold now, I’m thinking why’s this happening, how’s this the best effort That state or country can do It took 20 years just to move some dirt around Then it just sat there cause the money ran out Here’s a despicable familiar story of institutional racism A treatment company dumped drums of toxins and feared no repercussions Folks of color live closest to this mess how race plays out in this country How the government is not equipped or interested to help its people and I’m frightened where the real answer lies This is a definite pattern No isolated coincidence here This is happening in some city close to you no matter where you live And there are citizens against this toxic exposure Who hoped they would be safer when the government took control Who want back their community, not an industrial park in Pensacola And after years of fighting, some are still no better off Some folks weren’t chosen for relocation Or weren’t compensated enough to afford new homes This all had something to do with the color of their skin, in this modern day and age When men in moon suits came and dredged up the soil only arms-lengths from children at play They sent the poison up into the air, let the wind carry away This special potion that results from wood treatment leached the poison into the water You know the company don’t pay a dime to check its neighbors health or to help the one’s that are dying You shouldn’t touch the soil You cannot grow your food, you can’t drink or fish No you shouldn’t even breathe it in Seventeen years since a retired school teacher led her neighbors to demand just aid While the government tried to pull a fast one cover up and fix it cheap They classified the site to circumvent the people’s rights, no ear for public input And when the limited funds ran out they put a five-year tarp on the pile where it sits now And that was fifteen years ago The new plan is to dig a big pit Fill it with concrete and just bury the pile But now the community stands divided because there are not enough resources to go around And even though they may all want justice for all it’s hard to give up yours without feeling you’ll be left out Its cruel the way short sited promises are dangled as the only support being doled out Just imagine you had built your life, someone you didn’t know destroyed it They got rich and you got sick or you got homeless and/or worse
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When I was eight years old I didn’t have to worry none About coal dust in my school Or being washed away One-quarter mile from the school to the impoundment A tenth of a mile from the plant that scrubs the coal 200 feet from where they train out from the silo With dynamite blasting in the strip mine right above A dam failed in ‘72 Killing 125 One failed 9 years ago 300 million gallon flood Just last Christmas time Another failed in Tennessee 50 times the size Of Exxon Valdez Billions of gallons in this leaking impoundment Just one-quarter mile uphill from the school Families have pleaded with the Governor to move the kids He must be in bed with coal cause he turns a deaf ear From the black waters above 3 billion gallons of toxic sludge That is leaking as I sing It will fail in time 16 people were arrested for protesting his refusal To relocate Marsh Fork School out of harms way So the families take collection, take the matters in their own hands Collecting pennies for the promise of their kids Ed Wiley marched 500 miles to Washington He won’t rest till his granddaughter’s school is moved He started the collection to ensure their future’s better Cause it seems Governor Manchin only cares about the coal
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Harry Holt’s daughter is not standing down Though his life has been taken by the poison in the well Sheila Holt’s the harbinger of new times ahead Where one’s color or finances don’t mean life or death She’d see you in the town You who checked the water Plenty of times to tell There was poison in the well She’d see you in your store She’d see you Mr. Mayor Plenty of years to tell There was poison in the well She’d see you in the town You folks who were told Wouldn’t you want to share There was poison in the well Harry Holt’s father bought the family farm Where the folks of color’d lived since slavery’d been o’er The county turned their only park into the county dump All the places this could be in this land of ours Harry Holt had lived his life in service of God and man He could not believe the deceit dealt to them He sung, “When I come down to the end of my journey I just want to take my rest,” but this is not what he meant Harry Died last summer 20 years since the first test On their poisoned water, should’ve been taken off right then But it wasn’t till twelve years later, after drinking from that well 29 times above safe guidelines for poisons in the well Sheila Holt has cancer from the poison in the well Like her aunt and father, uncle and cousins Most of their white neighbors are still in good health Put on city water after their first tests
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I look in the sky see the smoke When I drive past it on the road It’s not a place I’d ever gone But I send my trash to your home Oh invisible city you’re just twelve miles down the river And yet your problems don’t seem ours The air we share looks clear and safe when it reaches my home Yet so polluted you’re trapped in yours Besides the garbage from our homes It’s trucked from Jersey and New York 3,000 tons in flames each day As well as industrial waste Oh burning city you’re just twelve miles down the river Suffering on our behalf Your rates of poverty mortality and blood lead levels Are not what you should be known for And oh how you’ve had to organize And fight just for basic human rights, just to keep your windows open Your city’s fluoridated water A waste product of fertilizer No outside interests really aiding you Compared with interest in your stadium Oh poisoned city you’re just twelve miles down the river Your county and state sold you out But oh how many struggles you’ve organized yourself to overcome And keep the new polluters out And oh how you’ve had to fight I hadn’t known the things I took for granted could be taken away knowing lives are at stake

about

This Land:
An Environmental Justice Folk Recording Collaboration
Created by Joshua Marcus in partnership with community action groups and individuals in the eastern United States, from 2008 to 2009.
An Introduction to this Project:
I set out to produce this recording project as a learning tool, for myself and hopefully for listeners as well. I’ve been inspired by a long tradition of folk musicians like Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, who were able to create compelling songs documenting the struggles and heroes of their times and places. I’ve been educated and moved by their music and greatly enjoy singing along. However,
though many of the issues their songs address are still relevant, the communities and movements
have changed. With This Land, I decided to try to create a collection of folk songs in a similar spirit, focusing on people who are in the midst of today’s struggles. This project does not aim to be comprehensive. I chose these seven groups for a number of reasons, mostly because their work addressed a variety of issues and they were enthusiastic about being involved in the project. Through research, phone interviews, email, and on-site visits, I collaborated with representatives of each issue or group to decide what specific material to highlight as the basis for the songs. After composing a draft of each song, I sent it to be reviewed by the partnering group so they could suggest any lyrical changes they saw fit. I made revisions based on their feedback and then arranged and recorded the songs. I learned a huge amount in the process of creating this album, both about the relentless efforts of each of the groups or individuals with whom I had the opportunity to partner, and about the challenge of trying to create songs that were both musically interesting and accurate representations of the information they’d conveyed.
I am thankful to each of the participants for sharing their lives and experiences with me, as well
as all of the artists and friends who contributed to this CD and website. Please help spread the word about this project. All of the proceeds of the CD sales go back to the participating groups to help fund their actions and organizing. It is my hope that this recording will be shared with others, raising awareness and funds to support these grassroots efforts. Thanks for listening.
–Joshua Marcus

credits

released January 1, 2009

Here are the album credits:
Banjo, Guitar & Vocals – Joshua Marcus (additional musicians listed under each song heading)
Recording – Joshua Marcus, Jack Ohly
Mixing – Bill Moriarty
Mastering – MorningStar Studios
Art Design & Layout – Erik Ruin (www.justseeds.org) Distribution – Contraphonic Records & AK Press

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Joshua Marcus Providence, Rhode Island

joshua marcus loves cooking with and for friends, all things musical, making art with shapes, and getting out of one's brain. and the ocean. and genuineness.

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