To some, there is nothing more delightful than letting the wind blow through your hair or feeling waves pound against your chest. To Elizabeth Stephens and Annie Sprinkles, these forces of nature are a guilty pleasure.
Wednesday evening, a viewing of their documentary, "Goodbye Gauley Mountain: An Ecosexual Love Story" was held in the Gluck Theater of the Mountainlair. Guests gathered for the film’s screening and also participated in a discussion with Sprinkles and Stephens about the film and the issues associated with mountain top removal.
"It definitely exposed me to the whole idea," said West Virginia University alumna Elisha Rush. "The film, for me, was really impactful because it’s representing an issue that we don’t talk about much – and that’s the loss of our land, the loss of our culture, in a way, in West Virginia."
The new film, which is only available for limited screenings, documents Sprinkles’ and Stephen’s unconventional journey in activism. "Goodbye Gauley Mountain" follows Beth’s life growing up as a gay ecosexual in West Virginia and helps viewers better understand ecosexualism. More specifically, Stephens hopes her ecosexualism can make an impact in ending mountain top removal.
Spouses Stephens and Sprinkles, who currently reside in California, have deep ties to Appalachia. Stephens’ family has worked in the West Virginia mining industry for decades, which is where her awareness of the environment developed.
The documentary captured multiple active and former mountain top removal sites, exposing the devastation caused by this form of mining. On many occasions in the film, Stephens was left speechless and disgusted by the destruction caused by mining practices. It is her ecosexual roots that fuel her passion for protecting the earth.
"Goodbye Gauley Mountain" promotes ecosexuality as a way to non-violently and non-intrusively influence change. This mentality was a bit unusual for some audience members, who have never considered the two issues connected.
"The combination of the environmental perspective with also the West Virginia culture and basic environmentalism – it was a bit jarring," Rush said. "But it’s interesting. I definitely participate a lot with LGBT issues, so seeing it combined with environmental issues was a whole new thing."
For many audience members, this was the first time even hearing the term ecosexual.
"I have heard of a lot of crazy things, but I have never heard of this," Rush said.
In "Goodbye Gauley Mountain," Sprinkles mentions there are less than 1,000 people who identify as ecosexuals internationally, but that the statistic is predicted to grow.
Though the concept was virtually unknown before the film’s presentation, the idea for change was well received by audience members.
"I think different approaches are always a good idea for these issues because I feel like a lot of approaches to environmental issues are a little bit old at this point. We just keeping going through the same thing that’s not getting any attention. I think any new approach is worthy."
In addition to exposing the impact of mountain top removal, Stephens and Sprinkles solidified their love for the environment by marrying the Appalachian Mountains. The ceremony, which was captured on film, included vows to the earth, interpretive dancers and an originally written song.
Through "Goodbye Gauley Mountain: An Ecosexual Love Story," Stephens and Sprinkles prove there is so much more to the term "tree-hugger."