One-hundred pinwheels briefly blanketed the ground outside South Building on Tuesday, as members of the Sierra Student Coalition protested against the use of coal extracted through mountaintop removal.
Titled “Music Saves Mountains,” the event was intended to increase awareness of the controversial process of extracting coal through musical performance and speakers.
After the pinwheels were placed in Polk Place, about 15 members of the group walked into the chancellor’s office and submitted a letter explaining the consequences of mountaintop removal and the potential alternatives.
The pinwheels that were placed outside of the chancellor’s office are now being shipped to Washington D.C., where they will join anti-coal pinwheels sent in across the country for the National Sierra Student Coalition Conference, said Stewart Boss, co-chairman of the coalition and organizer of the event.
He said that the group has found data showing the University has violated its policy regarding the green initiative and is causing major damage to mountains, including those along the Appalachian Mountain Range.
Boss said the University has reneged promises not to use mountaintop removal.
The University signed a new 3-year contract in the summer with a coal company that requires the company to disclose its production processes.
“Students have to realize that their university is not doing what they say they are,” Boss said.
“My goal now is to encourage the people of Appalachia and let people know what’s going on”, he added.
University officials rejected the premise of Boss’ claims, saying the student coalition has inaccurately grouped mountaintop removal under the banner of surface removal.
“The EPA definition of mountain removal is that they destroy the whole mountain,” said Susan Houston, outreach editor for UNC News.
“Our suppliers have told us that they don’t use that technique,” she added.
Emily Allan, a freshman member of the group, said she was disappointed that Thorp reneged on his stated commitment against the use of coal extracted from mountain tops.
“It’s all about raising awareness. Chancellor Thorp committed to not using coal from mountain top removal, yet we still are,” she said.
As part of the protest, Ben Sollee, a known activist against mountaintop removal, performed songs from an album he co-produced which is intended to share Appalachian culture and raise funds for the Appalachian Voices, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the mountain range’s environment.
“You’ve got the ears of universities across the nation”, he said. “So spread the word.
“They need you.”
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