On this chilly and damp day, 20 Cardinals ventured to the Capitol steps in Frankfort to show their love for the Appalachian Mountains. They traveled together on a bus, sponsored by the UofL Student Government Association, to join hundreds of activists in the protest against mountaintop removal.

Mountaintop removal mining (MTR) is a form of surface mining that involves the mining of the summit or summit ridge of a mountain. Mountaintops are blasted with explosives to expose the underlying coal seams, while the excess rock and soil, laden with toxic mining byproducts, often are dumped into nearby valleys. Some studies show that mountaintop mining has serious environmental impacts, including loss of biodiversity, as well as adverse human health impacts resulting from contact with affected streams or exposure to airborne toxins and dust. ([1])([2])([3])

The protest rally focused on the health impacts of this form of coal mining, with several speakers testifying to experiences with MTR and its effects on the purity of water and air around mining sites near their homes in Letcher County. More than 1,000 pinwheels, symbolic of the cases of cancer that studies have linked to MTR and the hope for future clean energy alternatives, were distributed.([4]) Upon conclusion of the rally, the pinwheels were hand-delivered to the lawn of the governor’s mansion.

UofL was represented by students from Joy Hart’s environmental communication course and other courses; members of the recognized student organization GRASS (Group Recycling & Sustainable Solutions); UofL Sustainability Council; and others on campus to whom MTR is an important issue. When asked why they participated and what aspect of this issue is most important, participants said:

  • I came to support clean energy development for Kentucky. I wanted to see people power taking on the people in power. Kim Parish, MSSW program
  • I wanted to get involved on campus in my free time and joined GRASS. Today was the first big event with this group. I made the banner because I grew up in Eastern Kentucky and going to this makes me feel better about doing something to stop it. Patton Scott, geography major
  • This is where my heart should be, with the highest diversity concentration in the entire country. Water and streams are my issue because of the pictures of the reddish-brown streams. You can see the metals in the water. It’s heartbreaking. Logically, this is where I should be. Troy Tucker, biology major
  • Today represents the larger issue the entire planet is facing. Climate change affects everyone on the planet. Emily Smith, MSSW program
  • This is my first protest; it was really fun. Health problems are most concerning. It seems a lot of people don’t care about pollution. Devon Murphy, art major
  • A wonderful day to see this energy and activism from our students and the entire audience, young and older generations. Ying Kit Chan, art professor

These actions, by our fellow students and staff support UofL’s sustainability mission and vision to “create a campus community that leads by example and educates as much by what we do as by what we say.”

[1] yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf
[2] huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/27/
[3] blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/2011/05/10/
[4] kftc.org/blog