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‘SOARE' takes third whack at mountaintop-removal mining; they need your help

Knocking Down Mountaintops written by Rita Price in the Oct. 9, 2005, edition of The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, recounts the tale of what transformed Larry Gibson into one of the loudest voices in the anti-mountaintop-removal movement.

Born in West Virginia, Gibson was a coal miner until 29 years ago when he moved to Ohio to work in the automobile industry. Like many mountain-transplants, he made regular treks back home to Kayford Mountain Ridge in Dorothy, W.Va.
“Knocking Down Mountaintops” written by Rita Price in the Oct. 9, 2005, edition of The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, recounts the tale of what transformed Larry Gibson into one of the loudest voices in the anti-mountaintop-removal movement.

Born in West Virginia, Gibson was a coal miner until 29 years ago when he moved to Ohio to work in the automobile industry. Like many mountain-transplants, he made regular treks back “home” to Kayford Mountain Ridge in Dorothy, W.Va.

Why? Although he worked in Ohio, his heart was in the mountains, and he missed the majestic views from the ridge. It never occurred to him to take pictures for posterity.

“'Why should I,'” Price quotes Gibson as saying. “'Mountains are forever.' By the time he learned otherwise, it was too late…Coal companies don't need much time to decapitate 400-million-year-old mountains,” Price writes.

On Thursday, Oct. 13, Gibson spoke during the inaugural film festival sponsored in large part by a group of Austin Peay State University students, calling themselves SOARE (Student Organization to Advance Renewable Energy).
Speaking of that first screening and talk by Gibson, Dr. Joseph Schiller, SOARE faculty adviser and associate professor of biology, said, “People were visibly shaken. I don't think there was a dry eye in the auditorium.”

The audience for the Oct. 22 screening and discussions again was movednot only by the films, but also by Professor of Art Gregg Schlanger's provocative exhibit, “Mr. Peabody's Coal Train,” which remains on display in the Downtown Artists Co-op, 96 Franklin Street.

SOARE's next screening begins at 6 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 27, in the Customs House and Museum. It will be preceded by a 5 p.m. reception at the Downtown Artists Co-op Gallery for Schlanger and directors, Robert Salyer and Herb Smith.

Salyer produced “Sludge,” the first film of the evening, which sheds light on the problem of coal sludge ponds. It is a documentary about the Inez, Ky., sludge-reservoir failurea disaster that released 20 times more pollution than the Exxon Valdez accident.

The Inez sludge-reservoir failure was described by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as the worst environmental disaster in history in the southeastern United States, butunlike the Valdez accidentit went pretty much unnoticed by the media, and there was no public outrage as there was with the Valdez.

After “Sludge,” Smith will discuss the evening's second film, “Thoughts in the Presence of Fear”his visual interpretation of Wendell Berry's essay of the same name.

“Berry's essay calls us to question, in the post-911 era, our near quasi-religious faith in the ‘free market,'” Schiller says. “He points out that this free-market ‘God' now demands society's ‘sacrificing to it their farmers, farmlands and communities, their forests, wetlands and prairies, their ecosystems and watersheds.' In Southern Appalachia, we now are called upon to sacrifice our mountains and their forests, streams, wildlife and people to provide ‘cheap' coal to the ‘free market.'”

The evening's third film, “Coal Bucket Outlaw,” created by Tom Hansell, explores a day in the life of a Kentucky coal truck driver. This documentary provides an unblinking look at where our energy comes from and reveals the price paid for our national addiction to fossil fuels.

The SOARE film festival, “Mountaintop: Removing the Land and People,” concludes Nov. 17. All events are free and open to the public. Any donations will go to organizations struggling to end mountaintop-removal mining in Appalachia and promote energy conservation.

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