Hundreds of Bloomsburg University students flocked to the KUB Ballroom Thursday, February 17 to attend “Re-Energize BU,” a daylong event emphasized on raising awareness about health and environmental related issues. Unfortunately, due to an illness, the key-note speaker Larry Gibson, an internationally renowned environmental activist focused on the impacts of coal usage, was unable to attend his scheduled lectures but had student volunteers share their stories about ‘Mountain-top Removal Mining,’ and explain the importance of why we should re-energize BU.
Bloomsburg University students from the Sustainability and Social Justice Living and Learning Community, Glenn Smith, Eva Yven, Brandon Vinson, Eli Tome, President of H.O.P.E, Jaron Nielsen, the Director of H.O.P.E, Dr Vandivere along with Kim Teplitzky, from the Sierra Student Coalition, put together amazing PowerPoint presentations to advocate these important issues. They focused on the dangers of mountain-top removal mining by sharing Larry Gibson’s story as well as their own experiences of the effects of mountaintop coal removal and endeavored to convince students why they should move BU Beyond Coal to clean energy solutions.
The traditional form of mining underground has given way to mountaintop removal, which seems to be more efficient and requires fewer workers. The process of mountain-top removal mining is very damaging to both the economy and environment, and devastating to all organisms who occupy the area. Mountaintop removal uses explosives to slice off the mountaintops in order to extract the coal. The seams of coal are processed and the waste and toxins are then deposited into the valleys and streams. Environmental activists help raise awareness and people like Larry Gibson, who may have never pictured their selves becoming activists, bring attention to this disaster and try to fight it.
Larry Gibson has spent his entire life living on Kayford Mountain in West Virginia. The property he owns is considered to be “the only green spot amidst a desolate landscape.” Gibson has refused to vacate and sell his land to any coal company despite the fact that his land has rich beds of coal beneath it. Gibson continues to stand on his word but his refusal comes with devastating consequences.
Miners believe Gibson’s decision not to sell is an effort to keep them out of a job. The tension between the mining industry and the people against this type of mining continues to strike all over the Appalachian Region. Some miners argue that the topography itself invites this kind of mining and others believe miners are not just taking away resources but also the identity of the people who live there.
Miners have even taken action again Gibson, one of the many people who deeply cherish the hills, and have sent bullet holes through his house, killed both of his dogs and even ran his truck off the road. The stress of living in these hazardous conditions has even threatened Gibson’s marriage but he continues to stand his ground. Gibson responded, “If I stopped fighting for the land maybe we’d have a chance. But this is my heritage. How can I walk away from that?”
Larry Gibson continues to occupy his home on Kayford Mountain and for more than 20 years has allowed journalists and environmental activists visit to see the devastation from the mining process for themselves. The swath of green from his land set against the gray wasteland is something coal companies don’t want the public to witness. Gibson continues to record the list of vandalism and threats against him, travels all over the country to inform people about the crisis in the mountains and share his own story, in hopes to increase awareness of mountain-top removal mining.
As far as Bloomsburg is concerned, the individuals involved in the presentation believe it is our job to demand EPA action to help clean up our air and protect our public health. It is our duty that we educate and develop a new generation of clean energy leaders to protect ourselves and our future.
Sponsored by: Green Campus Initiative, Help Our Planet Earth, SOLVE