Written by Virginia Tech Event Coordinator Kara Dodson
In less than 3 years, environmental stewardship has become a main focus within the Virginia Tech University system and student body. We’ve got a “Climate Action Plan” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a new Office of Energy and Sustainability, and a dozen environmental student groups tackling recycling and dining issues on campus. BUT, the same school that’s proud to “invent the future” and serve the community (school slogan: “Ut Prosim”) burns 43 tons of coal per year at the on-campus steam plant. The 1970’s plant contributes to 50% of VT’s greenhouse gas emissions. Student residents living in Thomas Hall (100 feet from the coal plant) breathe in coal dust night and day throughout the year. The school has no Committee, long-term funding, or concrete plan for moving off of coal.
When Larry Gibson and Adam Hall visited VT on April 21st, they called out VT for its blatant eyesore-smokestack. Without hesitation they both linked the coal plant to Appalachia’s destruction, Blacksburg’s increased health risks, and VT’s tarnished “innovation” image. Both men are fervent speakers, preaching from the heart. The 60 “Hokies Love Mountains Rally” attendees were blown away by the heart-wrenching stories of Appalachian families suffering from health, financial, property, environmental, and cultural woes caused by the coal industry. Children diagnosed with brain tumors. Birds dropping from the sky. Fathers fighting sons from opposite sides of protests. Ghost towns in the wake of mines closing.
Adam Hall was especially effective in challenging VT students to “get off their asses” and do something about the coal plant. He’s a courageous young man, serving our country in Afghanistan, Iraq, and now in the US. As a 22 year-old he’s got more guts and seen more tragedies than any of the rallyers last Thursday. Walking away ashamed of Appalachia’s abuse, many of us decided that we can all dedicate time and energy to shut down the VT coal plant. We can all call out the VT Administration for its irresponsibility and defense of ancient technology (much like Larry and Adam did). Beyond Coal at VT, supported by the Sierra Club, has a new fire under its butt, stirred by Larry and Adam. Community by community we can all defeat coal and replace it with CLEAN, SAFE energy.