85-Year-Old Vet Fasts for Environment

  • 85-year-old veteran Roland Micklem fasts in the West Virginia Capitol Building to express deep concern for the deteriorating Appalachia environment. Photo: Roxy Todd

July 11, 2014

This story originally aired on West Virginia Public Broadcasting on July 8, 2014.

Inside the West Virginia Capitol Building, Roland Micklem sits on a marble bench, holding in one hand a handmade wooden cane. In his other hand is a small poster, a kind of manifesto, which he wrote to explain his reasons for going on an extended fast, without consuming any food except water, coffee and juice.

Photo: Roxy ToddMicklem hopes that his quiet campaign will in some way inspire more awareness for the various causes of climate change, which he says include mountain top removal mining. Activists Vincent Eirene and Mike Roselle are joining the 85-year-old Army veteran in this fast.

Micklem grew up in Virginia in the 1930s. Over the years, he's watched as some of his favorite animals and birds slowly disappear from the landscape. He remembers first noticing these changes in the 1950s, and this is why he become an environmental activist.

But Micklem, an environmental writer and a retired science teacher, is quick to point out that the type of activism he believes in is non-violent, civil disobedience.

"It has to be conducted by people who have love in their hearts and absolutely no animosity toward the people who would oppose them," he said.

Micklem admits that his fast alone cannot help inspire the type of environmental change he would really like to see. He isn't asking for anything except the chance to express his opinion through this fast.

"I don’t like to call it 'protest'. But it is a witness and an expression of my genuine grief for the loss of creation. I’m quite willing to fast here until I can’t do it anymore...or until I die," he explained.

Volunteer Shenna Fortner is also assisting the activists during the first days of the fast. She brought her juicing machine to make them fresh juice.

At the end of each day as the Capitol Building closes, Fortner drives the three activists back to a hotel in Downtown Charleston, where they'll rest until morning when their fast will continue indefinitely. On Tuesday night, Micklem joined about 200 others at a community meeting to rally against a proposed mining operation near the Kanawha State Forest.