By Lisa Palmer
Due to my quest for real coffee (with a double shot of espresso), I arrived at the end of the breakfast plenary discussing the environmental justice movement in the south. But I heard Shirley Stewart Burns provide an insider's perspective on the subject. "When I was preparing for this talk, I could not think of one instance of environmental justice in Appalachia," she said. "It is all environmental injustice." Burns is the author of "Bringing Down the Mountains: The Impact of Mountaintop Removal on Southern West Virginia Communities."
Burns went on to question the effects of coal mining on wealth, or lack thereof. "How could the most minerally rich area be inhabited by the poorest people in America?" she asked. She also provided stories of how local activists are spreading the word globally and taking a stand for their local land. She spoke of people like Judy Bonds, an ex Pizza Hut waitress, now of Coal River Mountain Watch, who travels the world talking about the devastation of mountaintop removal. She talked of Larry Gibson, who walked 400 miles to Washington, D.C., to speak with politicians about the local effects of this kind of coal mining.
Burns also talked about new green energy proposals for coal mountains. A group commissioned an independent study of putting windmills on some of the remaining mountains in coal areas. "Other people in the U.S. are agains windmills. We want them," she said.
Did you attend the breakfast plenary, Environmental Justice and the Poor? Please comment on the presentations of speakers Robert Bullard, director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University, and Marley Shebala, senior reporter at Navajo Times.