'Coal Country' to shine light on industry dangers

Students for a Sustainable Campus to show documentary tonight at Pruis Hall

The Ball State University Students for a Sustainable Campus will show a documentary about how coal mining practices affect the United States' Appalachia region tonight.

"Coal Country" will start at 7 p.m. in Teachers College Room 102, followed by a discussion about the film.

Carissa Hipsher, who organized the event, said the group decided to play the movie because a lot of people don't understand how destructive U.S. coal processes are.

"I think it's important that we all realize what the true cost of our cheap electricity is," she said.

Hipsher said there are two types of mining: surface and underground.
"What's happened in Appalachia is the underground mining has been too expensive," she said. "So what companies are doing is blowing off the tops of mountains."

This causes environmental as well as social problems, Hipsher said.

John Vann, associate professor of marketing and advisor for Students for a Sustainable Campus, said the type of coal mining the documentary focuses on is called "mountain top removal, valley fill." On the mountain tops, all the trees are cut down and all the soil is scraped off in the valleys below.

"That allows them to get the coal seems that are down there under the surface [of the mountain tops]," he said.

Mining companies benefit because they don't have to pay as many workers, making coal a cheaper resource, Vann said. However, he said it destroys the habitats at the mountain tops and in the valleys, polluting waterways with toxic heavy metals.

"It's kind of an ecological disaster," Vann said. "The whole place looks like it's been bombed."

He said everyone should come see the movie because it raises awareness for a problem and a place that people don't know a lot about.

"You can never go back to what it was," Vann said. "It took millions of years for it to grow into that mixed forest."

Maggie MacNeil, Students for a Sustainable Campus president, said she would recommend people come for at least a little while.

"Everyone always hears about how you should conserve energy and use less energy and turn off your lights and stuff like that," MacNeil said.
"This is a really good movie to show you why."

Hipsher said she has seen the damage to the mountain tops while flying overhead in a plane.

"It's one of the most devastating things I've ever seen," Hipsher said. "It's just heartbreaking ... We are paying costs for this, they just aren't monetary — not yet anyway," she said.

MacNeil said Students for a Sustainable Campus usually has about 15 to 20 people show up to its events. Their next meeting is at 8 p.m. Dec. 2 in Bracken Library Room 201.


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