Standing next to a display that showed pictures of West Virginia mountains scarred by mountaintop removal coal mining, Austin Hall with Appalachian Voices of Boone bemoaned, “That is wrong on such a gut level.”
But with the new Barack Obama administration in place, things may be looking up for environmentalists, said Hall, who was manning a booth at an environmental fair at Western Carolina University last week. The fair featured an array of advocates promoting their causes whether it was green-built homes, doing away with coal-fired power plants or recycling.
During George Bush’s presidency mountaintop removal “exponentially grew” while Obama is “ardent” about ending the process that has leveled one million acres of mountains in Central Appalachia, said Hall.
Other environmentalists at the fair also hope their causes continue to gain momentum.
Manning the booths
Avram Friedman, executive director of the Canary Coalition of Sylva, used the fair as an opportunity to speak out against coal-fired power plants. There are already 14 coal-fired power plants in the state, and a new one proposed by Duke in Rutherford County should be stopped, he said.
His grassroots organization promotes clean air and is attempting to get the N.C. Division of Air Quality to rescind a permit to build the plant. Duke claims the plant is needed because of the growing energy demand, he said.
“They are using $2.5 billion in ratepayer money to commit us to burning coal for the next 50 years,” Friedman said. By ratepayers, Friedman means that every Duke customer in the state is shouldering the cost of building the new polluting plant.
The legislature should impose measures to reduce energy consumption such as creating a sliding scale for power bills that charges more as more energy is used, Friedman said.
“This will give households and businesses an incentive to invest in energy consumption, so we don’t have to build polluting power plants,” he said.
Nitrous oxide from coal plants causes childhood asthma, sulfur dioxide creates a haze over the mountains and mercury can cause neurological damage in children like autism, Friedman said.
He also said the state’s power grid needs to be “decentralized,”adding that 60 percent of the power from the grid is lost. He advocates putting solar panels on people’s roofs.
The Watershed Association of the Tuckasegee River also had a booth at the fair to broadcast its message against water pollution. The organization believes that some developers are violating the county’s sediment control ordinance that seeks to protect streams from muddy runoff.
When developers cut down trees and bulldoze sites for homes, silt and dirt can run into steams and ultimately into the Tuckasegee River.
“We just want people to follow the rules and not cause more damage,” said Myrtle Schrader, a member of WATR. “One person’s footprint can be huge and affect the quality of life for everyone.”
One person particularly interested in his ecological footprint is Lenni Humphries with the WCU Environmental Science Program, who was filling out a online questionnaire during the fair at myfootprint.org while manning a booth. His booth featured a display on how idling a vehicle uses more energy than cutting the engine and then restarting it.
His display also showed how things should be reused before they are recycled because recycling takes energy, too. He showed how eggshells, lint and tea bags can be used for compost and how used tea bags can act like baking soda to make the refrigerator smell fresher.
Cell phones can be given to battered women’s shelters for 911 use and to troops overseas, he said.
Another way things can be recycled is by wearing them, said Emily Lauro, a WCU senior and fashion minor who was at the fair signing people up for her recycle fashion and art show.
Necklaces made out of bottle caps, a wrapping paper kimono and a mask were some the recycled fashion items on display.
The contest features two categories — 2D and 3D art and recycled and restyled fashion. Recycled fashion can mean buying a couple of items at the thrift stores and using portions of them to make a new garment.
Other than making your clothes environmentally conscious you can also make your home that way, according to Candice Black, outreach coordinator for the WNC Green Building Council, which seeks to educate on environmentally friendly building practices.