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Young citizens gather to end coal use, fuel abuse

Last weekend I attended a statewide conference of young citizens who gathered to address the threats of climate change. Power Shift Ohio included excellent speakers such as Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, educational workshops and panels. Most importantly, it allowed students to build solidarity in developing an action plan for Ohio’s energy future. Many people there had never even been involved in an environmental movement before, but they decided to act now, and that is monumental.

It is important because it demonstrates that young citizens know that another 10 or 20 years of a fossil fuel economy is not an option for their future. With wealthy automobile dealers in the Republican camp, such as Rob Portman, seeking election in the 2010 Ohio Senate race alongside Democrats such as Lee Fisher who say “we should keep an open mind about coal,” there is an immense disconnect between what the youth wants and what politicians are willing to do. The passion that is being amassed is rooted in knowledge.

Ohio State’s Mohan Kishen Wali, renowned plant and soils ecologist, has declared vehemently in his lectures, “There are scores of information out there on the state of the environment. It is criminal that we are still debating whether or not we should do something!”

In his lecture, he discussed the gross violation of public health and the environment that comes of coal mining.

The conference culminated with a demonstration against the controversial practice of mountain top removal, where millions of pounds of dynamite are used to demolish mountains in order to harvest their coal seams. In the process, local valleys are filled with tons of uprooted earth and streams are infiltrated with toxic chemicals. More than 500 mountains and 1.2 million acres of hardwood forest in the carbon sink of Appalachia have been destroyed. Recently Massey Energy, the coal mining company that OSU’s President E. Gordon Gee served on the board of for nine years, began to blast the last remaining mountain in the West Virginian Appalachia: Coal River Mountain.

Are persons defending this egregious practice familiar with the everyday reality of ammonium nitrate in local drinking water? Most politicians who are backed by the coal lobby will never know the rain of silica dust and heavy metals on garden beds and playgrounds. Gall bladders and kidneys aside, coal mining will kill the prospect for clean energy in the region. Coal River Mountain has been declared a primary site for harvesting wind energy in the Southeast, with a potential to provide 700 jobs, $1.7 million every year in tax revenues, and enough energy for 150 homes.

Coal mining must be stopped. We can fuel the flame against dirty energy by reducing OSU’s dependence on coal and voicing our demand for a sustainable, viable energy future.

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