Directors’ Statement

After viewing the cancerous blight that mountain top removal (MTR) strip mining has and is creating throughout my beloved Appalachian Mountains, I felt compelled to make  Goodbye Gauley Mountain: An Ecosexual Love Story, to let as many people as possible know about this ongoing environmental devastation. For many years even I was not aware of the full scale of destruction that MTR strip mining wreaks because it is a secret that mining companies intentionally keep well-hidden and far from public view. MTR is mainly only visible from the air. I first saw it on a trip home to West Virginia to visit my family in 2008. The destruction I witnessed made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I was compelled to start doing research about why, how much, and what kind of destruction was taking place in the state where I was born and to the mountains that I love.

The more I found out about MTR and the mining industry, the angrier I became. My outrage compounded when I discovered that Gauley Mountain, whose shadow I had grown up in, was in the process being forever destroyed using explosives and heavy earth moving equipment. This, in addition to the other 500+ mountains that have been demolished, as well as the over 2,300 miles of streams which have been covered over by the “overburden” (soil, trees, rocks, plants and animals) blown-up by explosions, made it all too personal. Then I learned about the social damage MTR causes; increased cancer rates, birth defects, kids getting asthma while being forced to drink undrinkable water that literally rots their teeth, families being torn apart by the politics of MTR, stress from the threat of living down the hill from dangerous sludge pond impoundments, so many animals killed, and more. West Virginia is the richest state in the union when it comes to natural resources.  West Virginia is one of the the most poverty ridden states when it comes to per capita income. Coal profits are whisked out of the state by the multinational coal corporations and many of these corporations’ CEOs have never even been to the Mountain State.

While I was researching MTR, simultaneously, my partner, artist Annie Sprinkle and I were performing a series of performance art weddings to protest our lack of equal rights as a queer couple. After becoming legally married in Canada during our third wedding, we decided that we wanted to move beyond the issue of same sex marriages, each other and exclusively human-human relationships. That is when we decided to marry the earth for our fourth wedding. Our wedding to the Earth took place in the California redwoods, with four hundred guest witnesses and one hundred and fifty collaborators who helped create this wedding. After we made our vows, we found ourselves falling more deeply in love with our planet each day, and our romantic connections began to grow and grow. We began to experiment with the metaphorical shift from Earth as mother, to Earth as lover. Then we came to realize that we were ‘ecosexuals.’ The sensuality and eroticism of nature delighted us. We started to explore ecosexuality as an environmental activist strategy to inspire others to have more empathy with nature because we are nature. Since 2008 (when we married the Earth) we’ve had eleven environmentally focused weddings, during one of which we married the Appalachian Mountains at Ohio University. This lush and emotion filled wedding is featured in this film, Goodbye Gauley Mountain: An Ecosexual Love Story.

My hope for this film, is that in addition to it being a compelling story, it will inspire and raise awareness in groups of people not normally associated with the environmental movement, and especially in GLBTQI communities. (We’d like to see an E added for ecosexual!) There are relatively few films about environmental issues that feature out queers. Queers, gays, lesbians, and transgendered people can live without marriage, but they cannot live without clean air and water, and fertile soil to grow healthy food. This is why GLBTQI folks need to Wage Ecosex!!  and get involved in environmental activism.  Films have been a powerful source of inspiration for changing the way people see the world, and I hope this film will compel others to see that the Appalachian Mountains and the people, animals and plants living among them are worth fighting to preserve for the good of the whole planet. MTR is part of overarching global environmental crises brought on by capitalism to which we all need to pay close attention. Maybe this film will inspire others to get involved in environmental art, activism or other issues close to their hearts. And maybe in the process we can slow our crazy contemporary technologically driven lives down and perhaps begin to reverse some of the damage that is being done to our beautiful, sexy, beloved planet.

Beth Stephens