Mountain Top Removal

These days it seems like everyone is talking about MTR, or Mountain Top Removal coal mining. If you’re here at Berea, you can see the wall in the Appalachian Center covered in signs from old MTR protests. With the terms being thrown around so much, it seems important to explain what it means.

Mountain Top Removal is a coal mining process that removes the tops of mountains to access coal seams. This is different from traditional underground mines that tunnel into the mountain without removing much, if any, of the surface of the mountain. Removal of surface material is usually done with explosives that blast apart the rocks and soil so they can be easily moved away from the site.

There are many reasons why people take issue with this form of coal mining. One reason is that the debris from blasting the rock can fall down the side, creating falling hazards to those in the area. The debris can also contain heavy metals and other toxins that accumulate from the mining process, and when the debris lands in waterways, those toxins can contaminate drinking water.

Another reason why people are against MTR is that contrary to what many believe, it takes away more jobs than it provides. The MTR process relies a lot more on machines and explosives than human labor to extract coal. Because of this, MTR sites create less jobs than traditional mining operations. Many people who argue that coal is important to local economies by providing jobs don’t realize that MTR methods don’t create very many jobs.

The last main reason that people don’t like MTR mining is that it destroys the beautiful mountains that the coal seams are in. Having been to many former MTR sites, I can attest to how heartbreaking it is to see what used to be a huge mountain now reduced to a flat, useless plain. The “reclaimed” sites are often grasslands full of aggressive, invasive plants that can’t support the life that once thrived on the mountains. From a conservation standpoint, MTR mining and ineffective reclamation techniques are disasters for natural ecosystems.

Coal mining is a very sensitive issue, and no one at HEAL is trying to tell you to support or not support coal. However, some practices are more harmful than others, and we encourage you to look into these issues and make informed decisions on what causes you support or oppose.

Nourish your soil: Compost

At home, after every meal, have you encountered the dilemma of not knowing what to do with the leftover food? In my family, we give it to our dogs, so we do not throw it away; but, what if you do not have an animal that can eat that food? Would you save it for lunch for the next day? Would you ask your neighbor if he or she wants that food? Sometimes something as easy as deciding what to do with your leftover food becomes a big problem when people are not aware of composting.

Well, the best solution for your leftover food is to compost it! By composting, you decrease waste (less items in the trash can :) ) and produce organic matter that will nourish your soil.

Since ancient times, people have composted in order to enrich the soil as well as to dispose of the waste produced by animals (the first instances of compost were done with animal manure) and food scraps. So, what we can do now is carry on the practice that our ancestors had, which proved to be an efficient method for maintaining nurtured and healthy soils.

What is composting anyway?

It is a way of disposing organic matter (food, leaves, trees) to create a natural fertilizer for soils. Look at the following graphs to better understand the process:

How to compost

Composting

Compost Happens

Compost Happens

 

Composting is very easy to do: You just need greens (leftover food) and browns (leaves or wood), water and air. Get a compost heap and you can start composting. A great benefit of utilizing compost for your soil is that it has a better water retention rate than regular dirt, which keeps your soil moist and nourished. Composting enriches the soil with added vitamins, nitrogen, and organic matter. It helps clean up contaminated soil as well as prevents pollution, and it reduces the need for water, fertilizers, and other chemicals, thus, helping you save money.

A great example of an institution that carries on the example of composting is Berea College, with it’s many departments (such as Dining Services, Center for Excellence in Learning Through Service, Agriculture department, Farm Store, Sustainability and Environmental Studies house, among others) that compost in a regular basis. In addition, composting in the college will soon be expanded to the newest dorm on campus, Deep Green, to teach students on the importance of composting.

With all this information, you may be wondering how to start composting at home; therefore, we have provided a link with a very informational hands-on video clip that teaches you how to do your own compost:

In conclusion, composting is a great way to decrease waste, enrich your soil to have a more beautiful garden, and save your money by doing so.

Sources:

History of composting: http://www.carryoncomposting.com/142941469

Grow Appalachia, Queen of Compost: https://www.berea.edu/grow-appalachia/2013/05/02/queen-of-compost/

EPA: Environmental benefits of composting: http://epa.gov/composting/benefits.htm

The Free Dictionary: Compost: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/compost

 

Berea College People’s Climate Week

Last week was not only a big week for Berea, but a big week for the world!  On Sunday, September 21st, world leaders in climate crisis were in New York helping lead what turned out to be the largest climate march in history. Nearly 400,000 people from all over the world peacefully flooded the streets of New York City demanding a world filled with clean air and water, good jobs, and healthy communities.  There were also groups from all around the world organizing their own marches, days of solidarity, and other events to raise awareness and take action in their community.   Here in Berea, HEAL, People Who Care (both programs of the Center of Excellence in Learning Through Service at Berea College), and the SENS program (Sustainability and Environmental Studies) hosted a community march in Berea on Sunday, September 21st.  Students and community members marched through Berea to raise awareness and to make a statement.  After the march a festival was held in Baird Lounge.  At the festival we were graced with an informative speech about climate change and the different approaches we, the people, needed to take in order to make a difference.  This eye-opening speech was delivered from Nick Mullins.  Following our guest speaker we had live local music, dance, food, and informational tables for everyone to enjoy.

To set the mood for the march and get Berea College campus informed and excited, HEAL and People Who Care hosted an event related to climate change every day of the week.  On Sunday 14th at night, with the help of volunteers, many signs about climate change were placed in the quad for people to read as they walked by.  On Tuesday, we showed the movie A Day after Tomorrow.  On Wednesday, we had a table in food service talking with students about climate change and the importance of reducing our carbon footprint.  On Thursday, People Who Care hosted a talk about climate change.  On Friday, HEAL had an up-cycling workshop, making baskets out of newspaper.  All of these events were held to influence people to join the March, inform them why the March is important, and most importantly, inform people of the urgency to act against climate change now.

All About Bees!

We all hear about the disappearance of the honey bees. We know that the loss of bees is related to pesticides and loss of habitat, but how do these factors cause such a serious problem? What can we do to solve the issues that bees face? Why should we solve these problems?

There are many different kinds of bees, but they can mostly be grouped in these categories: Honeybees, Bumblebees, and Solitary Bees. These three types differ greatly in many regards, from colony structures to honey production. Here’s some basic information on the three types.

Honeybees: Honeybees live in large colonies with 50,000-60,000 workers and they produce a large amount of honey. The queens can live from 2-4 years and lay thousands of eggs throughout their life. Wild honeybees make their nests in cavities of buildings and trees, but easily adapt to hives in domestic cases.

honeybees-small

Bumblebees:Bumblebees line in smaller colonies with 40-400 workers and produce a small amount of honey that is eaten only by the bees themselves. They also do not store honey over the winter, as only the queen can survive over winter. The queens only live up to a year, generally. Naturally, Bumblebees will nest in tussocks of grass or in abandoned rodent holes, but with the increasing loss of habitat, they’ll now nest just about anywhere they can.

bumblebees

Solitary Bees: Solitary bees fly alone, and do no live in colonies. They do not construct honey combs and do not produce honey. There are no solitary bee queens, and adult females will lay about 4-10 eggs in their lifetimes. Solitary bees will construct nests in holes, cavities, and hollow stems. Some will also nest in man-made hollow canes.

solitarybee

Threats
The threats facing bees today are habitat loss, pesticides, and disease.

Habitat loss: With growing urbanization and the adoption of exotic plants into gardens and landscapes, our pollinator friends are facing an increased loss of habitat. There are many areas that either lack the sort of plants that provide food to these creatures, lack any suitable structures for nests, or both.

To help solve this problem, plant native plants that are good for pollinators. Also creating designated areas for nesting according to which type of bee you’re trying to attract can help them get established.

Pesticides: Neonicotinoid Pesticides have also contributed to the decline in bee populations. The pesticides act as neurotoxins on the bees and cause symptoms such as leg tremors, paralysis, disoriented movement, and death.

To help solve this issue, go organic. Don’t use pesticides that are harmful for insects. If you can’t go completely organic, be sure to keep non-organic crops far away from established colonies, whether wild or domestic.

Disease: The two biggest disease problems with bees are Varroa Mites and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Varroa Mites attach themselves to adult bees and suck out their heamolymph (more or less the bees’ equivalent to blood). This weakens the bee and can transmit a variety of diseases.

Colony Collapse Disorder is the term used to describe the sudden and complete collapse of a bee colony. There are many factors that are thought to contribute to CCD but the exact causes are unknown, as research on the issue is ongoing.

To treat Varroa Mites, there are a variety of chemical and natural methods you can use. Two natural methods include applying powdered sugar with a powder puffer to the hives, and applying lemon juice, as it is a natural source of acid that can deter the mites.

Since the exact causes of CCD are unknown at this time, there are many tips and suggestions for prevention. Usually the recommended course of action is to take a holistic approach to the health of the hive, encouraging hygienic behavior in the colony, not using pesticides, and creating good habitats for your neighborhood pollinators.

This has only been a brief overview of bees and the problems they face today. For more information on bees and what you can do to preserve their numbers, visit http://www.buzzaboutbees.net/.

Build houses with Habitat for Humanity

habitat-logo1

After a long day of work, you arrive home, where you can finally relax at your own expense. You put on some comfortable clothes, take out your shoes, get something to eat and sit down in your sofa to finally find some peace… We may not always think of ourselves as fortunate for having a place like this that we call home, a place that secures our basic and safety needs, and a place where we can rest. However, we are indeed fortunate!

If we start thinking of all the families that do not have a safe place to live and execute their daily activities, we may start thinking that something is working wrong in our society and that we must take action to make the change. Well, one of those great “angels” that provide houses for our local, national, and international communities is Habitat for Humanity. They- with the human power of volunteers- build affordable, simple, and decent houses for families in need. Habitat houses are constructed to cover the needs of the family, where costs are kept at a minimum, and where no-profit loans are available so that these families can afford to pay for the house.

Habitat houses in Birmingham, Alabama, USA

Habitat houses in Birmingham, Alabama, USA

Becoming part of this amazing group of volunteers is possible for you! If you are a Berea College student and are interested in this cause, we have great news for you:

Habitat and HEAL (both are groups within CELTS, The Center for Excellence in Learning Through Service at Berea College) are partnering up this semester (Fall 2014) to build a house in Berea city. Beginning October and following up November, every Saturday will be a volunteer day from 9am to 3pm, where we will be working together to make this house a reality for a family in the area.

Thursday, September 11th, at 6:30pm, we’ll be having the 1st official meeting to talk about this project.

Location: 2nd Floor, Stephenson Hall (Former Bruce Trades), Berea College.

Would you volunteer with us? You can make a difference.

Air Pollution Control

In 1955, the very first Air Pollution Control Act was enacted by Congress. This Act was meant to be a means of conducting research and better understanding how the United States could better technical assistance pertaining to air pollution control. The federal government left individual states in charge of preventing and controlling air pollution. Unfortunately, all the federal government did was provide minimal information about air pollution and its effects and there were no penalties to massive polluters.

Since the Air Pollution Control Act of 1955, there have been many improved Acts passed through Congress. Although with each new Act there are stricter policies, loopholes and minimized punishment remain.

Since 1970, the EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, has been extremely successful in protecting the health of the people by regulating and setting standards to protect the air that we breathe, but with the numerous loopholes and light punishment, there is still much more to be accomplished. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, nearly 37 million children live in areas of low air quality and there are many pollution-associated illnesses on the rise. With pressure from big businesses pushing the EPA to lay off, it is of utter importance that we the people speak up. If there is to be change made, we need to rise against the big corporations and fight for the passing of the newest national campaign, the “Clean Air Promise”. For more information, check out http://www.nrdc.org

Earth Day 2014

April 22 is the international Earth day

Let’s all celebrate together!

When did it started?: 1970, in the USA, after a gradual and slow awareness of the increasing environmental damages due to modernization.

Founder: Gaylord Nelson, U.S. Senator from Wisconsin at the time. The idea of having a day dedicated to increasing awareness to protecting the earth came to him after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California.

Below you can watch a short clip describing the series of events that took place for this day to be official.

Brief History of Earth Day

Earth day became global in 1990 and currently is celebrated in more than 192 countries.

What is the purpose of this day? To increase awareness of the need to protect the environment and its resources, to be active advocators of the rights of our planet, to seek solutions to current environmental problems, and to advocate for the use of green energy.

Our constant pursuit for technological progress and economic improvement are creating a negative impact on the health of the environment. However, there are possible ways to help reduce our carbon footprint, and still improve a country’s economic situation. Watch the following TED Talk about Greentech, a project that seeks the inclusion of big corporations into the green industry.

Salvation (and profit) in Greentech

 

For more information about Earth Day, visit the website http://www.earthday.org/