‘UK Rising’ examines mining

By Audrey Smith

Students will have the opportunity to hear different perspectives on the mining practices in Eastern Kentucky Friday.

“Earth Days in the Bluegrass,” which is put on each year by the Office of Sustainability and UK Student Sustainability Council, is a monthlong occasion, with events throughout the month of April aimed at spreading awareness about environmental issues.

This year “Earth Days in the Bluegrass” asked the statewide social justice organization Kentuckians For The Commonwealth’s student group at UK to host an event, called “UK Rising,” which will be Friday, April 8, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Jessica Barnett, an Integrated Strategic Communication junior at UK, is a member of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth student group.

“They wanted to include an event that would deal with social injustice affecting people and not just issues effecting the land,” Barnett said.

“UK Rising” will give students the chance to have a dialogue on their connections to mountain top removal mining, a practice where the top of the mountain is removed so coal can be extracted from inside the mountain.

This kind of mining, which is practiced in Eastern Kentucky, has a harmful impact on the residents living around the mountains. Health problems mainly caused by the water contamination this mining practice creates and the destruction of homes and landscape have been the main concerns of environmental activists.

The goal is to show how all Kentuckians are affected by coal, and to encourage people to share their stories and experiences, Barnett said.

The event will start off with three main speakers: Ada Smith, Stanley Sturgill and Martin Mudd. Sturgill and Mudd are both members of “Kentucky Rising.”

The group drew a lot of attention to their cause in February when its members staged a sit-in at the Capital Building.

The activist group was protesting Governor Beshear’s lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act and Beshear’s lack of assistance in accomplishing many Kentuckians’ goal of ending mountain top removal mining.

“It’s important for students to hear from the people whose lives are directly impacted by coal,” Barnett said.

Smith, 23, lives in Whitesburg, Ky. and teaches young people from Appalachia leadership and community organization. She will be telling her story as a young woman living in Eastern Kentucky.

Sturgill, a retired coal miner from Lynch, Ky., will share with the audience how coal has impacted his life.

Mudd is a Graduate student at UK studying physics; he will be speaking about his experiences as a member in “Kentucky Rising.”

Following these speakers, UK students will discuss ideas such as transitioning away from coal and how the mining practices taking place in Eastern Kentucky are connected to Lexington and UK. Afterwards a table will be set up for students who wish to write out their own stories and experiences involving coal. These stories will then be published in a “zine” and distributed around campus and Lexington for free, Barnett said.

“UK students should come to the event to hear different perspectives on the issue and also share their own stories and opinions through the ‘zine’,” Barnett said.

The event also includes a free meal and live music. The meal, to be prepared by UK students, will be vegetarian and made with ingredients mostly grown in Kentucky.

“Using local ingredients is a way for students to connect to the people who grow food in Kentucky and the land it comes from,” Barnett said.