Hannah Hunt often visits a website called www.ilovemountains.org
. The junior college student doesn't live near anywhere near the Appalachian Mountains — she walks to classes in Bloomington, Ind. The political science major has found a new campaign she's passionate for.
"I was always interested in environmental studies and the outdoors, so it made sense to start getting involved in environmental issues," she said.
Hunt is active with the Sierra Club and has found opportunities working as the Indiana University representative for the club's Beyond Coal campaign.
"It opens you up to a lot of connections to the environmental circle," she said.
Hunt has lived close enough to the Appalachian region to understand the recent negative environmental impacts from mountaintop removal.
"I'm a Midwesterner, I use coal all the time, and I'm close enough to tell that damage is being done," she said.
According to the website, mountaintop removal is a process in which the tops of mountains are removed to retrieve coal. It involves removing 500 feet of the peak to access the buried coal.
"These amazing environments are getting destroyed," said Hunt.
The mining technique was discovered in the 1970s. It's an alternative method that requires fewer workers and it completely recovers the effected coal seams.
However Hunt and many others see it much differently.
The 2003 final EPA report states that mountaintop removal has resulted in over 1,000 miles of stream pollution and seven percent deforestation of the Appalachian forests, and it has destroyed over 800 acres of mountains. Mountaintop removal only accounts for five percent of total coal production in the U.S.
"Coal companies are destroying the environment just to make a profit," she said.
Hunt mentioned that the issues in the East Coast are similar to the current oil spill in the Gulf Coast. The only difference is the lack of media surrounding the problems in Appalachia.
"The oil industry is getting hammered for destroying the habitat, while the coal companies are basically doing the same thing," she said.
Currently there is a campaign to spread the word about the ill effects of mountaintop removal. The I Love Mountains site
can educate anyone about the issue and how to take action.
The campaign is also finalizing its commercial scheduled to air nationwide, hopefully by the end of the summer.
"It's not just a matter of convincing people with one spot on national airwaves. It's about getting the word spread," said Hunt.
Narrated by actress Ashley Judd, the TV advertisement emphasizes the physical and emotional impact mountaintop removal has on the region and its people.
"We're trying to impact a general audience with the greatest amount of people possible. People will end up seeing the ad anyway if they're watching a TV show," said Hunt.
Besides seeing it on the tube, people can donate money or take action regardless of where they live.
"I'm a college student. I don't have the funds, but I still donate time and try to spread the real facts. Anyone could do this tomorrow and contact a local group. They're always looking for helpers, whether or not you have the money," she said.
Ultimately, Hunt hopes the nation finds alternative forms of energy besides coal mining. Until then she's trying to persuade fellow Hoosiers to get involved and take responsibility.
"Indiana is one of the biggest users of coal. We're the ones who are going to take most of the blame. We need to educate people and turn the argument around," she said.
So far on campus there are about 80 students involved. Hunt is continuing to recruit more students for support.
"Sometimes you have to shove it in their face and be superficial about it. Also, you just have to make the idea sound pretty cool," said Hunt.