Why Mountaintop Removal (from February 2010)

Why Mountain Top Removal?

We, the seventh and eighth graders of the Manhattan Country School, believe that anyone can be an activist if they care deeply enough. Activism means fighting for your beliefs and against social injustice throughout the world. Through our Activism Project, we apply what the Manhattan Country School has taught us about standing up for civil rights and environmental justice.

Each year, the 7th and 8th graders are given the opportunity to propose issues that we could work on. We research and discuss these topics and then vote to decide which to devote our energies to.

This year, the 7th and 8th graders have decided to focus our activism on the issue of mountain top removal coal mining. Mountain Top Removal (MTR) is a process employed in the Appalachian region, including Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky. The process involves blasting off the tops of mountains to gain access to the coal that is buried inside of them. When the top of a mountain is blasted off, the surrounding communities experience changed landscapes, polluted water, decreased property values and increases in asthma and cancer rates. The people of Appalachia are among the poorest in the United States, and are being taken advantage of by the coal companies. The 5th floor has decided that MTR is a civil rights issue that needs to be addressed.

Our project begins with education and fundraising at home and will culminate with a trip to West Virginia for a week of programming. The program will have four main components: community service projects, such as work in the community greenhouse with the Coal River Mountain Watch or flood cleanup with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition; community and cultural connections, including museums, picnics and potlucks, cooking projects and sing-alongs; outdoor activities and “mountain appreciation,” including hikes and other recreational activities; and finally, a full day activism/lobbying “Teach-In” with community activists. Throughout our week in West Virginia, we will explore the complexities of this issue, focusing not only on the effects of the mountain top removal process, but also the economic challenges facing these communities and the community tensions which arise during discussions of mining, employment and the environment.

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