The Sierra Club is taking extensive measures to increase its fight against climate change. The club is calling university campuses across the nation to action against coal-fired power plants. This topic is obviously extremely relevant to the state of West Virginia, and West Virginia University in particular. Morgantown is within a thirty-mile radius of seven different coal burning power plants, with two more in proposition. The university receives significant funding from pro-coal corporations and even operates an academy for training new miners and foremen. The "Friends of Coal" trade group recently sponsored one of WVU's football games against Marshall University. Coal has been intricately tied to this university since its beginnings.
Though in no way is coal extraction an environmentally friendly or sustainable practice, the industry is vital to the state of West Virginia. It is the number one money generating industry, and according to the West Virginia Coal Association
, it provides more than $7 billion a year to the state's economy. The coal industry also provides thousands of jobs to West Virginians. In many of the state's southern coalfields, it is the only industry available that provides wages large enough to sustain a family. The subject of eliminating coal burning power-plants is quite touchy, as it threatens the livelihoods of many rural Appalachians.
Recently, the WVU chapter of the Student Sierra Coalition set up booths in the student union urging students to attend "Appalachian Power Shift"
in Huntington, W. Va. Though I could not get off work to attend the event myself, I made sure to get plenty of information from kids who did go. Power Shift is a campaign, a rally of youth, that has met in various spots around the country in order to demand action from President Obama to create a strong energy and climate change plan by December.
The goal of the Power Shift campaign, is to push a plan will create millions of cleaner, green jobs, and end the dependence on dirty energy that is so prevalent, especially in Appalachia. The conference, which was held in West Virginia from October 23-25, was one of 11 that have been held around the country. Power Shift showcased Appalachian musicians, and speeches by leaders in the anti-strip mining cause. Students could even partake in workshops and training seminars to learn how to become leaders in this environmental movement.
What I find especially important about the Power Shift campaign, is that it not only teaches youth about the problems associated with coal mining and dirty energy, it also provides extensive information on how we can create more sustainable industries to employ the region. We cannot just banish coal from the region. If all the nation's coal-fired electric plants were suddenly shut down, the economic repercussions would be devastating. As the practice of mountaintop removal continues to exceed traditional forms of mining, however, many jobs are becoming obsolete. It is clear that we cannot just push for the immediate removal of coal dependent power plants. We also need to push for something to replace them, so we can provide a sustainable future for both our planet and the people who inhabit it.