Friday, April 1, 2011

Two Days in Gainesville

Written by Event Organizer and Gainesville, FL Volunteer Jason Fults

Last week, Larry visited Gainesville, FL to inform residents of the impacts of mountaintop removal (MTR) and our connections to the Appalachian coalfields.  Our growing community has become quite the consumer of Appalachian coal, with more than 60% of our city-owned utility's energy coming from coal.  Larry was invited to Gainesville as part of the Cinema Verde Environmental Film & Arts Festival, where Low Coal, which is a new film which features Larry, was screened.  Low Coal  endeavors to tell the stories of Appalachian residents whose lives have been impacted by the coal industry.

The film screening was the focal point of Larry's two-day visit, and welcomed more than forty attendees.  One of those attendees was our city's Mayor, Craig Lowe, and an article about Larry with a picture of him meeting the Mayor was printed on the front page of The Alligator the next day.

During his stay, Larry also gave a presentation at the University of FL, networked with local conservationists, spoke with the media, and met with administrators from Gainesville Regional Utilities.  GRU is a progressive, municipally-owned utility, and is investing heavily in biomass and started one of our nation's most ambitious solar incentive programs.  They were very receptive to Larry's visit and open to further discussions with concerned citizens.  Larry and company also “crashed” a county commission meeting where local conservation issues were being discussed to bring his visit and the reasons for it to their attention.  Throughout these activities, Larry gave a stirring argument for reducing our consumption of MTR coal and invited Gainesville residents to visit Kayford and see firsthand the destruction that MTR has caused.

Our next steps will include working with our Regional Utilities Committee and local politicians to review our coal procurement policies and discussing the possibility of forming a Gainesville delegation to visit the coalfields.  Undoubtedly, Larry made a lot of new friends here, and we hope that he'll be back to visit us again soon.  Next time however, we hope that his visit will be a celebration of our successful campaigning to build justice in the coalfields of Appalachia!