Community organizers from two groups whose purpose is to better education, health, safety, and environmental quality have refused to stay in the state of West Virginia.
They have opened up a website exposing the futility of working there and have contacted other similar groups that have or plan to go to the state in the future, urging them to stay away.
"It's like time travel to the Middle Ages," said Mary "Honey" Robertson, 24, raised and educated in New York City. "My youthful idealism ended up in one of their filthy rivers that they don't seem to care is polluted." Robertson is a field organizer for "We Care," a Boston-based charitable organization.
"At first, I thought watching the snake handling in some of the churches was enchanting, the beauty of the mountains glorious, and I really admired the hard-working miners, but after a while, I became disgusted with most of the people," lamented Jane Farrow, 26, from Los Angeles, CA.
Her job was to sign up poor people to enroll in Medicaid, part of the expanded coverage now available in W. VA, under the affordable care act. Several millions of the poor in the state have been without health care. Many of them have to choose between food and prescription drugs because, obviously, they can't afford both.
"I went to a place called Mingo County where I led a Medicaid sign-up session in the meeting hall of the local Methodist Church. Most people would not enroll. They used biblical terms to describe Mr. Obama, whom they associated with ACA and Medicare. They called him the "anti-Christ," a traitor to America, and the 'Socialist Satan'," said Farrow of "Heal Care America."
"After the meeting, one woman told me that she would rather starve, and pay for her own prescriptions, than enroll in the program."
This reporter traveled to W. Virginia to see first hand what the organizers were talking about. In the churches the pastors do handle snakes, and some dwell on the Second Coming of Christ and tell their congregants not to worry about earthly problems because "the rapture." Is coming soon.
In several of the churches I visited, science, evolution, climate change dangers, abortion, and pornography are lumped together and called the work of the devil. West Virginia has one of the least educated populations in the United States.
In terms of the environment, in several parts of he state it is not unusual to find black water running from kitchen faucets. "Chemical Valley," is notorious for its cancer inducing polluted watersheds, rivers and streams.
Outside of Charleston, A chemical spill has left 300.000 residents without water for days and most still don't believe state authorities who say it's now safe to turn on the tap water.
Responsible for the spill was Freedom Industries, a supplier to the big coal companies in the state. The chemical they used to help cleanse coal has leached its way into the local tributaries.
Around almost all of the coal mines - the state is the 2nd largest producer of coal in the U.S. -are sludge lakes, many near sources of drinking water. Mountain top mining, where the crowns of mountains are blown off to get at the black gold causes destruction of the valleys below.
Owners of multi-million-dollar coal operations simply ignore or delay complying with mine safety standards. The state is known for its numerous mine explosions and numerous deaths.
W.Va.'s U.S. Senator "Chemical" Joe Manchin says coal, chemical, and oil companies are "under siege" by "environmental do-gooders and fanatical EPA regulators."
One of the major ways that the people cope with poverty, widespread unemployment, unsafe jobs, and environmental catastrophes is through the use of drugs. Addiction is rampant. It has the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation.
W. Virginia is number 3 in the U.S. in obesity.
It is probably the most racist state in the Union. The state with the highest racially charged Google search rate in the country is West Virginia. Voting patterns indicate that only the smallest percentage voters in all Appalachia would vote for a Black person for high office.
Finally, many people feel that a better educational system would be the solution to the State's seeming unsolvable problems.
But, as sociologist W.T. Adorno at Virginia Tech pointed out to me, "You get a real education here - and that's rare - you just leave the state. There's nothing to keep you here."
It was Professor Adorno who told me that "West Virginia will be saved from itself. It will be announced next week, but I'll tell you now." He said that one of his PhD grads, working on a super-secret project 'phoned him to tell about an incredible program.
"Liberal billionaires George Soros and Tom Steyer, working with others like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, have purchased over a million acres of formally unusable land in South Africa. It has been outfitted with wastewater conversion plants, eco-friendly schools, factories, homes, etc. Of course there are going to be a lot of drug and alcohol rehab centers there. There are job re-training centers, extensive recreational facilities.
"Some of the best educators in the world are coming in. Many will be non-whites. Science will be taught. I think racism and snake handling will become a thing of the past. Oh, and the community organizers that left W. Virginia will be coming back. It's like utopian planners have always envisioned."
Adorno told me that his former student said that any West Virginian who wanted to go to Africa would be given free passage one of the Marcus Garvey Ocean Liners.