OWU Students Learn, Rally in Nation’s Capital

Thousands march in solidarity against mountaintop removal

During the Appalachia Rising: Day of Action rally Monday in Washington, D.C., thousands of residents of Appalachia and their supporters—including a contingent of Ohio Wesleyan students—marched in a show of solidarity against mountaintop removal. (Photo by Matthew Jordan ’11)

Thirteen Ohio Wesleyan University students traveled to Washington, D.C., this past weekend to attend educational workshops and join the largest national protest calling for an end to mountaintop removal – a form of coal mining.

“Participation in this event was very powerful for me,” says Chris Marshall ’13 of Tulsa, Oklahoma. “We will use the information learned and cultural understanding of these social justice issues to help bring light on an important, often ignored problem in our country.” Marshall is a resident of the Tree House, and planning this trip was his house project, shared with Matthew Jordan ’11 of Washington, D.C.

Mountaintop removal is a form of strip mining in which coal companies use explosives to blast off the tops of mountains to reach coal seams. Millions of tons of rock, dirt, and vegetation often are dumped into surrounding valleys, burying miles of streams under piles of rubble.

In addition to altering the landscape, recent studies suggest that elevated levels of airborne hazardous dust created by the mining explosions have contributed to elevated mortality, with health problems including higher levels of kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and high blood pressure.

Georgetown University hosted educational workshops about mountaintop removal September 25-26. The presenting panels included residents of mining areas and former miners who told stories about adverse impacts to their health and their communities. Hearing about their first-hand experiences was emotionally powerful, says Jordan.

Thirteen OWU students were joined by alumna Lydia Spitalny ’08 during the Appalachia Rising: Day of Action rally Monday in Washington, D.C. Back row (from left): Alexa Schaefer ’13, Chris Marshall ’13, Sam Sonnega ’14, Emma Kropp ’12, Megan Fris ’13, Matt Bargar ’11, Matthew Jordan ’11, Gretchen Curry ’12, and Katie Kristensen ’11. Front row (from left): Greer Aeschbury ’11, Heather Werling ’11, Kristen Curtis ’12, Sylvie Hundley ’11, and Spitalny. (Photo by Matthew Jordan ’11)

“None of the OWU students who went on the trip was from the states most affected (West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee), Jordan says. “But this issue concerns all of us because much of our energy comes from coal, and more sustainable energy methods are needed.”

The United Methodist Church and five other faith denominations have joined forces to advocate for the cessation of mountaintop removal. Learn more about their resolutions.

Funding for the trip was provided by the Tree House and with donations from the SLU (Small Living Unit) Programming Board, the OWU Environmental Club, the University Chaplain’s Office and the economics department.

Learn more about Appalachia Rising.

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