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SOARE film festival unveils dirty secrets of mining and how they affect you

With the support of other departments and organizations, a passionate group of APSU students is taking on the megabucks coal-mining industry.
And doing so means shining a light into some pretty dark and ugly corners.

For its inaugural effort, APSUs Student Organization to Advance Renewable Energy (SOARE) is hosting a film festival, Mountaintop: Removing the Land and People, which began last Thursday night and continues every Thursday night through Nov. 17.
With the support of other departments and organizations, a passionate group of APSU students is taking on the megabucks coal-mining industry.
And doing so means shining a light into some pretty dark and ugly corners.

For its inaugural effort, APSU's Student Organization to Advance Renewable Energy (SOARE) is hosting a film festival, “Mountaintop: Removing the Land and People,” which began last Thursday night and continues every Thursday night through Nov. 17.

Dr. Joseph Schiller, SOARE faculty adviser and associate professor of biology, says mountaintop-removal mining retrieves coal by blasting off the tops of the mountains and dumping the spoil into adjacent valleys, rapidly reducing the mountain range and its ecosystems to grassland plains and resulting in downstream pollution and flooding.

Speaking of the SOARE initiative, Schiller says there's much more to it than watching documentary films. Not only will it bring to Clarksville seven films that explore the damage that careless energy use causes to the environment and to the health of all people, the multi-week event includes discussions by environmental activists dedicated to fighting mountaintop-removal mining and other attacks on the environment in the name of securing energy.

On alternating Thursdays, SOARE will show films in Clement Auditorium or the Custom House Museum and Cultural Center, and high-profile experts from throughout the country will speak during intermissions. Receptions for the speakers will be held one hour before each screening at the Downtown Artists Co-op so the audience can talk with the experts in an informal setting. The Downtown Artists Co-op is located at 96 Franklin Street.

Mr. Peabody's Coal Train Done Hauled It Away
A centerpiece of the festival is “Mr. Peabody's Coal Train,” an installation exhibit by national-award-winning environmental artist/activist APSU Professor of Art Gregg Schlanger. His art installations have been exhibited widely, including in the Nashville International Airport as well as in several galleries and exhibits nationwide and in Europe.

Schlanger has received numerous awards, including sponsorship by the New York Foundation for the Arts, Israel-Tennessee Visual Artist Exchange Project Fellowship, USIA Arts America Grant and National Endowment for the Arts New Forms Regional Initiative Grant.

Schlanger's SOARE installation, “Mr. Peabody's Coal Train”a reference to John Prine's famous protest song, “Paradise”will be on display at the Downtown Artist Co-op Gallery from Oct. 20-Nov. 12, with an opening reception from 5-6 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 20.

The film festival kicked off Oct. 14 with two films, including “Kilowatt Ours,” by Jeff Barrie. The pre-screening reception featured conversations with Barrie, as well as with anti-mountaintop-removal activists Larry Gibson and Dave Cooper. During intermission, Barrie discussed his new project, the Southern Energy Conservation Initiative (SECI).

What's Next?
The next film presentation, slated for 6 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 20, in Clement Auditorium, will feature “To Save the Land and People,” by Anne Lewis, and “MuckedFlash Flooding in the West Virginia Coal Fields,” by independent filmmaker Robert Gates.

“To Save the Land and People” is a history of early grassroots efforts to stop strip mining in Eastern Kentucky, where “broad form” deeds were used by coal operators to destroy surface land without permission or compensation of the surface owner. The grassroots group finally prevailed in 1977 by winning passage of the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), which required coal companies to replant land they had stripped.

During the past decade, much of the coal-mining industry has circumvented SMCRA and other environmental legislation through mountaintop-removal mining. A new movement has begun to stop this equally destructive mode of mining.

“Mucked” chronicles the flood devastation in the West Virginia coalfields that occurred in 2001 and 2002. The filmmaker uses eyewitness accounts to build a case that mountaintop-removal mining is largely responsible for deadly flash floods.

The reception from 5-6 p.m., Oct. 20, in the Downtown Artists Co-op offers a chance to talk with Schlanger as well as Gena Lewis and Paloma Galindo from United Mountain Defense. During intermission, Galindo and Lewis will provide an overview of mountaintop-removing mining in Tennessee and the Tennessee Department of Conservation's mining regulations and how citizens can communicate concerns to officials.

Mark your calendar for more
On Oct. 27 and Nov. 3, films to be screened are “Sludge” by David Salyer, and “Coal Bucket Outlaw,” by Tom Hansell. Julia Bonds, coalfield resident and anti-mountaintop-removal activist, will address the audience. Dr. Stuart Bonnington, APSU professor of psychology, will perform traditional bluegrass music and songs from Southern Appalachia.
On Nov. 10, Ron and Sarah Whitehead will perform readings and songs that reflect their Appalachian roots and cultural heritage. The film, “The End of Suburbia” also will be shown.

The SOARE Film Festival concludes Nov. 17 with the screening of “Kilowatt Ours” and “The End of Suburbia.” Nick Algee from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) and Jeff Barrie will address the audience.
The SOARE film festival is free and open to the public. All donations will go to organizations struggling to end mountaintop-removal mining and promote energy conservation and renewable-energy use.

For more information, contact Schiller at (931) 221-7249 or schillerj@apsu.edu
Dennie B. Burke