‘The True Cost of Coal’ by The Beehive Design Collective comes to Toronto

Residents of Appalachia gather to brainstorm and map their skills, by the Beehive Design Collective

No place on earth should be a sacrifice zone for the profit or luxury of any other, and no people -anywhere- are disposable. 
-The Beehive Design Collective

This past sunny Saturday, we were lucky enough to catch a presentation made by The Beehive Design Collective about their new epic drawing called The True Cost of Coal. The Bees were hanging out at the Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto.

‘The True Cost of Coal’ tells many stories of the Appalachian mountains. From left to right, the story’s chapters unfold through incredibly detailed, intricately symbolic and nuanced scenes, acted out by the creatures of the mountains in a visual symphony of biodiversity. It is divided into five chapters, moving through different eras of these mountains’ stories. Furthest to the left, there are the ancient old growth forest, full of health and traditional ways of being and knowing.

This gives way to colonialism, with the arrival of settlers and the displacement of Indigenous Peoples. But this era also comes with resistance, as workers, Indigenous people, and others stand up to the rapidly escalating exploitation. In the centre of the poster, a mountain is torn to pieces by the mining, consumerism, and politics, and vibrant living communities are converted into a landfill of cheap junk.

One of the key themes of this chapter was rejecting greenwashing, and it was a bit funny to be in a place heavily sponsored by Walmart looking at a critical image that features Walmart itself in the centre of the nightmarish mining disaster scene.

But it doesn’t stop there.  Along the bottom, the healthy forests of the past are linked to the future by a row of healing plants, and from these grows a chapter of resistance to coal mining. Here, the stories of the ongoing and vibrant resistance throughout Appalachia push back against the destruction. This makes space for the final, and perhaps most inspiring chapter, featuring regeneration, bioremediation, reclamation, honouring native land rights, and a hopeful healing future for Appalachia.

Our favourite part of this new Beehive design is the thread of the story starring plants that can heal both the land and ourselves, as medicine. Stinging Nettle, Dandilions, Burdock, and Cattails tie the image together in a border of plants connecting the ancestoral old growth forest on the left edge with healing lands on the right. These plants work towards healing the land and the Bees show them to be directly connected to the diverse resistance movements that are vitally necessary for curbing the all too real, present-day nightmare in the poster’s centre. This connection is powerfully rendered and deeply compelling, and the KLR collective likes it a lot.

Thanks the Bees!

Have you seen this poster yet? What image stands out for you? Post discussion here or email us at knowingtheland@gmail.com. Oh, yes, please do!

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