Sunday, March 1, 2009

Dirty Coal: Pollution, Health, Jail & Change

Burning coal is the single largest contributor to global warming pollution and also to toxic mercury pollution. Smog-generating pollution, acid pollution and particulates from burning coal have been cleaned from some but not all coal-fired power plants. In 2007, Congress planned to 'Green' the Capitol, in part by switching from dirty coal to cleaner-burning natural gas at the Capitol Power Plant. But when it came down to the decision on coal, Congress was just blowing smoke. Pressured by legislators from coal States, Congress allowed the Capitol Power Plant to continue polluting the DC air by burning coal.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reported that global warming threatens human populations and the world’s ecosystems with intensifying heat waves, floods, drought, extreme weather, and by spreading infectious diseases. The Panel stated that the U.S. and other industrialized countries need to reduce global warming pollution by 25% to 40% by 2025 to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change. Burning coal is the single largest contributor to the problem. A transition to Clean, Renewable Energy sources is the solution, and it will also create new jobs, revitalizing our economy. Coal has become a liability, and it's now TIME FOR A CHANGE!

It's not just the air that's being polluted by using coal as an energy source. Waterways are polluted and the environment is being destroyed at the expense of getting at coal in a very eco-unfriendly way that provides ten times fewer jobs than traditional mining. In Kentucky and West Virginia, the mountaintops are literally being blown off to extract coal, raping the environment and raining toxic waste down on the valleys, polluting streams, wells and drinking water. In New York's Adirondack region and elsewhere, the lakes and rivers have been acidified and contaminated by mercury from air polluted by burning coal in upwind states, resulting in the killing of waterfowl, fish and plants. Mercury can damage developing brains of fetuses and young children, and high levels of mercury in fish have elicited advisories that children as well as women of childbearing age should not eat any fish from contaminated waters. Mercury pollution and mountaintop removal, that's GOT TO CHANGE!

And then there is the ash waste from burning coal. While most of the mercury goes up in smoke and unfortunately gets deposited elsewhere and incorporated into the food chain, less volatile toxic chemicals present in coal, like arsenic and lead, are concentrated by ten fold in the ash waste. In Tennessee, peoples' homes, properties and dreams were destroyed when 1 Billion gallons of coal ash surged out of an earthen storage dam, fouling the environment and polluting waterways with toxic chemical waste. Many people have switched to bottled drinking water. Some report respiratory problems associated with breathing airborne ash. Others are living in fear of future illnesses, such as cancer, that take time to develop. Environmental pollution with toxic coal ash waste, that's GOT TO CHANGE!

And then there is Jail. It might seem that it's the coal mining and power company owners who profit by polluting the planet, threatening public health, and destroying the environment are the one's who should be sent to jail. Ironically, good citizens have been arrested for non-violent protests against mountaintop removal and coal-burning plants in Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and elsewhere. Folks from these and many other States involved in the DC Capitol Climate Action, who care about the planet, not profit, are now willing to go to jail to stop coal companies from performing their dirty deeds. In the past, companies have gotten a "get out of jail free" card from Congressmen, who have received significant financial contributions from company lobbyists. That's GOT TO CHANGE!

News from the front lines of the anti-coal movement:
Movement for Clean Energy, Stable Climate, Environmental Justice and Public Health

Bill McKibben, Wendell Berry, Gus Speth, Jim Hansen, Kathy Mattea, Mike Tidwell and many other notable people have made it known that they are willing to get arrested on Monday, March 2nd at the Capitol Power Plant to put an end to burning coal. See current articles and video below, and updates at Capitol Climate Action.

The Carbon Addicts on Capitol Hill
by Bill McKibben
"The power plant is only a symbol, of course -- a lunch counter or a bus station in the fight for environmental justice. We'll sit down at its gates for a single afternoon, but the message is much larger: It's time to start figuring out how to shut down every coal-fired plant on the planet. Success won't come right away because we're up against some of the world's richest corporations, but we have to start turning this tanker around someday, and tomorrow is that day." Full article at The Washington Post.

See you in jail:
It's not symbolism when you live in D.C.

Why I'm joining 2,000 people for a global warming mass arrest on Monday,
by Mike Tidwell, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Click Here.

Coal Action Heats Up Capitol Hill
PowerShift, the youth climate movement, and Capitol Climate Action
At 6:30pm I'll be watching online the "Artists for the Climate: A Night with Wendell Berry, Bill McKibben and Gus Speth"
This will be a night of discussion, poetry and inspiration. Also appearing will be noted authors and activists Terry Tempest Williams and Janisse Ray, Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus, and singer Kathy Mattea. The live link is here, and following the event, it will be replaced by a link to a video recording.

UPDATES: Monday, March 2nd, from Capitol Climate Action

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