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November 8, 2006

An Eye-Opening Weekend in Boone, West Virginia

Larry Gibson stands on his family's mountain that has been ravaged by mountaintop removal mining.<BR><EM>Photo courtesy of http://www.grist.org</EM>
Larry Gibson stands on his family's mountain that has been ravaged by mountaintop removal mining.
Photo courtesy of http://www.grist.org

Last weekend, I traveled to Boone County, West Virginia, with 11 Ohio Wesleyan Environment and Wildlife club members to meet with Larry Gibson and learn about how mountaintop removal mining is affecting the Appalachian Mountains.

We slept at Camp Kayford, a 50-acre region atop Kayford Mountain. The mountain has been in Gibson’s family for over 200 years. This land, which once produced 32 herbs and plants, now is the site of the divesting effects of mountaintop removal mining on the environment. Mountaintop removal is a newer form of coal mining that involves the restructuring of the earth to reach minerals as deep as 1,000 feet below the surface.

On Saturday, Gibson took us on a mile hike around his property; we saw what is left of the land and the two family cemeteries Gibson is trying to protect from the mining. He has talked to students groups, scientists, environmental scholars, the United Nations, and other governmental officials about the current state of Kayford Mountain and other areas of West Virginia. He told us about his personal relationship with the mountains.

Gibson asked us: “What do you hold so dear that you don't have a price on it? And when somebody comes to take it, what will you do?” He has given up his life to protect the mountain and fight for what he feels is right.

With every day, Gibson’s voice gets stronger and the opinions about mountaintop removal get louder.

“I am disgusted that our politicians continue to fuel economic gain over the improvement of housing, public health, and especially the preservation of the environment,” says Ben Goodrum, sophomore zoology and sociology-anthropology double major.

By the end of last weekend we all had different views. West Virginia was truly an eye opening experience for all involved.

For more information about mountaintop removal visit the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition at http://www.ohvec.org/index.html.

Emily Uline-Olmstead ‘08