Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mason Students Risk Freedom to End Mountaintop Removal

For the past three days members of Mason’s Environmental Action Group attended Appalachia Rising, an event designed to galvanize people in the fight against mountaintop removal. According to the event’s organizers it was “an unprecedented gathering of Appalachian people and their allies in the movement to abolish all forms of surface mining”. The weekend featured workshops, speakers, and live music all focused on ending the environmental and human health catastrophe that is mountaintop removal coal mining
The event culminated on Monday with a rally, march around downtown D.C., and a protest at the White House with more than 2000 people, including a contingent from the EAG. In order to bring attention to the issue, over 100 people intentionally got arrested for non-violent, civil disobedience, including three Mason students.
Holly Smucker, a first-year music education major was one of those that got arrested. According to Smucker, “Mountaintop Removal is an awful practice that is not only destroying the mountains, but polluting the water and killing the citizens of Appalachia. Our message yesterday to the EPA and to Obama needed to be voiced loud and clear: we weren’t going to move until they abolished mountaintop removal. In fact, if they hadn’t arrested us we might have still been out there square dancing and chanting.”
Allison Rutledge attended all three days of Appalachia Rising but did not get arrested on Monday. That said, she is equally passionate about the issue, “Mountaintop removal is an extremely destructive and devastating practice. It not only destroys mountains but entire communities as well. There are people out there who don't have clean drinking water because of it. More than 500 mountains have already been obliterated and over 2000 miles of streams have been buried forever. This has to be stopped and it’s why I to continue the fight.”
See photos from the protest below.
Check out more coverage of the rally and protest:
Washington Post
WYMT Television
Learn more about mountaintop removal and what you can do to help:
Join the EAG in their efforts to end mountaintop removal and other environmental initiatives:

All photos copyright Lauren Peery.
Holly Smucker

Jason Von Kundra

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Appalachia Rising: A Movement to Abolish Mountaintop Removal

This piece appeared in the September 20th issue of Broadside in the GMU Environmental Action Group's weekly column, the Mason Ecosphere.

From September 25th through the 27th members of the Environmental Action Group (EAG) will be participating in Appalachia Rising, a mass mobilization in Washington D.C. to end mountaintop removal (MTR), a devastating form of coal production. Unlike traditional mining that extracts coal from underground, mountaintop removal does exactly what its na

me implies- the tops of mountains are blown off in order to reach the seams of coal underneath. The resulting debris is then pushed into the adjacent valleys, completely burying the streams and rivers located there. The result are enormous areas throughout Appalachia that are almost completely devoid of life. Not only is mountaintop removal an environmental catastrophe, it's also a violation of human rights because it destroys the homelands of coalfield residents and damages their health and lifespans through toxic substances that contaminate their air and water. To date more than 500 mountains in Appalachia have been destroyed, over 2000 miles of streams and rivers have been buried, and an estimated area in excess of 1 million acres has been lies in ruin. The goal of Appalachia Rising is to demand a permanent end to mountaintop removal and a just transition to a clean energy economy in Appalachia.

Mountaintop Removal Site near Appalachia, Virginia. Five EAG members visited this site in Spring 2010. Photo by Christi Kruse

Appalachia Rising will consist of two major parts. The first part will focus on providing participants with the skills they need to be effective allies in the fight against MTR. On Saturday, informational workshops will be offered on mountaintop removal and other issues related to coal. Topics include coal ash disposal, stopping new coal-fired power plants, coal and climate change, and the human health impacts of mountaintop removal. On Sunday, skills-based workshops will focus on training participants on how to organize to end MTR. For both of these days events will take place at George Washington University starting at 9:00 a.m. The second part of Appalachia Rising will focus on mass mobilization to end mountaintop removal. The plan is to pressure government leaders to eradicate this violation of human rights by holding a rally at Freedom Plaza and then marching to the White House to bring the issue to the attention of President Obama.

Thousands of concerned people are expected to be participating in these events, and we would like for Mason students to join us. You can register to be a part of Appalachia Rising at http://appalachiarising.org/. If you are interested in joining a large group of Mason students that will be participating in Appalachia Rising, please email the Environmental Action Group at gmueag@gmail.com. We hope that you will join us in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet thousands of other environmental and human rights organizers while contributing to the end of one of the most environmentally destructive practices in the the history of this country. We can bring an end to mountaintop removal but we need your help- please join us.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

An Exciting Semester with the EAG

This piece appeared in the September 7th issue of Broadside in the GMU Environmental Action Group's weekly column, the Mason Ecosphere.

Mason Ecosphere
Jason Von Kundra

From everyone here in the GMU Environmental Action Group (EAG), we welcome you to campus. The EAG is honored to continue writing our weekly column, the Mason Ecosphere in Broadside this semester.

In addition to having more of our usual hikes, movie nights, and famous dance parties, this fall the EAG is running three big campaigns: ending mountaintop removal coal mining, advocating for more sustainable foods on campus, and passing the Patriot Green Fund.

The EAG has worked on ending mountaintop removal for the past two years and will continue to work on the issue until this social and environmental devastation stops. Mountaintop removal is a form of surface mining where coal companies clear-cut forests on mountains, blow up the mountaintops with explosives, and dump the waste containing heavy metals in valleys and streams. This practice is destroying mountains, watersheds, and communities throughout Appalachia. The EAG is organizing a screening of the documentary film Coal Country and a panel of experts on mountaintop removal. Then the EAG will be taking action with thousands of other concerned citizens involved in the struggle by participating in Appalachia Rising, a mass mobilization in the District of Colombia on September 25th through the 27th where people will call for an end to this destructive practice.

Sustainable foods is also an important issue which connects to every student that eats on campus. The EAG is starting a new campaign this semester in which students will advocate for more local, organic, vegetarian, and vegan food options. We are also looking at the entire environmental impact of our dining service including packaging, shipping, and the disposal of food.

Finally, the EAG is campaigning to pass policy through the administration that will provide funding for a green endowment, sustainable capital improvements, and research funding for student projects related to sustainability. The Patriot Green Fund, a proposal currently being considered by the university is expected to be presented to the Board of Visitors in the spring. If passed, students will soon see solar panels and wind turbines on campus that will help Mason to reach its goal of climate neutrality. President Alan Merten committed George Mason to climate neutrality by signing the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2007.

To join the EAG or get more information, check out our website at gmu.edu/org/environment and make sure to join the Facebook group. We meet every Wednesday at 7:30pm in the Johnson Center Meeting Room A.