MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
article today about two Oberlin College students who were arrested for blocking a road in efforts to stall strip mining expansion in southern Illinois:Truthout posted an inspiring
Police arrested two activists at a blockade set up on Rocky Branch Road in Harrisburg, Illinois, early on March 28, 2014, to stop Peabody Energy from continuing logging operations as part of the company's strip mine expansion.
Daniel Goering, 20, and Alice Fine, 19, laid down a tarp on the road to block the route to be used for logging that day. Along with other environmental activists and with the support of community residents directly impacted by Peabody's operations, the two tried to forestall and possibly prevent further strip mining and the proposed closure of Rocky Branch Road.
Peabody is the largest private coal company in the US and world and it "finished the year with a total liquidity of $2.1 billion and $444 million cash, the company's 2013 annual report stated." It is notoriously anti-union and not particularly welcoming -- an understatement, of course -- of government safety regulations.
Coal remains a primary energy source in the United States and is also a primary factor in increasing global warming as it is extracted and processed. Southern Illinois coal has characteristics that cause additional air pollution as it is utilized as an energy source.
In an essay for PowerShift.org, a student at Southern Illinois University also noted the negative impact of strip mining in on the health of residents:
Southern Illinois locals have noticed abnormally high rates of diseases such and breast and brain cancers. Most of this coal is being mined and disposed of in small towns in rural areas. In order for locals to claim their health problems have been caused by local mining processes, there must be a health study conducted. According to a Coulterville local they have not been able to get a health study done by public health department because their town does not have a big enough population.
Mining companies buy mining rights from farmers and land owners in the Heartland without telling them about the negative consequences that come along with the coal process. Living next to large machines that contribute to noise and light pollution 24 hours a day does not sound pleasant to most folks. Coal companies do not back down regardless of their destructive ways. As I listened to one farmer explain what long wall mining was, his eyes were quivering with hopelessness and he shrugged his shoulders as if he was giving up.
It is profoundly accurate that the sign behind arrested protesters Daniel Goering, 20, and Alice Fine, 19, read, "Fossil Fuels Are Killing Our Future." Let us be clear about this; that is not speculation: It is a fact.
The fossil fuel, logging and slaughter house industries have gotten laws passed that make protesters against their businesses prosecutable, in certain cases, as so-called "eco-terroists."
But it is coal mining companies such as Peabody that are wantonly destroying the earth, making the fossil fuel corporations the eco-terrorists, not young people who are trying to save life as we know it, including their own.
The coal mining companies do a superb job of exploiting rural areas that have few jobs by presenting a choice between jobs and earth destroying pollution or a healthy life with few employment opportunities. That is a choice that needs to be changed and will require an uprising of activists such as Goering and Fine, because DC and most state houses are owned by coal mining and other fossil fuel industries. Government intervention will be necessary to bring alternative employment to impoverished rural areas.
If we don't cut off the political power of corporate eco-terrorists such as Peabody Energy soon, fossil fuels will indeed kill our future: we are already well on our way to that moment.
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