Students protest UNCW's energy supplier at "Die-In"
Published: Friday, February 15, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 14:02
UNC Wilmington's Chancellor's Walk looked like a mass-murder crime scene on Feb. 14, the sidewalk covered in chalk outlines of student bodies to demonstrate human death at the hands of coal-fueled power plants, specifically Duke Energy.
The student-run Environmental Concerns Organization led the event, called Duke Die-In, as a kick starter for Operation Duke, a national campaign spearheaded by Greenpeace. According to an Operation Duke “toolkit” provided by Greenpeace, air pollution from Duke Energy’s coal-fueled power plants causes 15,700 asthma attacks; 1,450 heart attacks and 950 premature deaths a year.
Peration Duke's objective is to put pressure on Duke Energy’s clientele and demand safer environmental practices and standards from the energy powerhouse.
The company currently supplies 82 percent of North Carolina with power and energy, including UNCW's campus.
ECO set up tables at the end of Chancellor’s Walk on Thursday to gather support and signatures for their petition. They ended the day with 74 student signatures but are hoping for more at future events similar to Duke Die-In.
Students showing support not only offered their signature but participated in a metaphorical strategy to emphasize the health risks involved in harmful environmental strategies.
Once students signed the petition, they were asked to lie on the concrete and play dead, to signify the harmful effects of coal-fueled power plants to local communities.
ECO wants enough student and faculty signatures locally to pressure Chancellor Miller and the UNC system to stand up to Duke Energy and force the company to pay attention to the environmental and sustainability standards of students on campus.
“We pump millions of dollars into their pockets every year and, it is understandable, we do need lots of energy, but just the practices they are using are not good for us,” said Caitlin Hall, ECO's media coordinator. “If they are going to be our partners they need some better practices.”
UNCW isn’t the only campus where students are concerned with the effects of coal on the environment. Earlier this week in Chapel Hill, students were offered a referendum to dissolve part of UNC-CH’s endowment in the coal industry. Seventy-seven percent of students voted in favor of the referendum.
The main focus of this national, but campus centered, campaign is Duke Energy’s implementation of mountaintop removal to fuel their coal-fired power plants. Mountaintop removal is a surface mining tactic involving the removal of mountaintops to expose coal seams and the subsequent disposal in adjacent valleys, according to US Environmental Protection Agency.
In areas where mountaintop removal is practiced, mostly the eastern U.S., the health consequences are devastating to the people who live there, says Hall.
Duke Energy coal-fired power plants emit more greenhouse gases than any other energy provider in the U.S., according to a 2012 study published by Ventyx. According to the study, Jim Rogers, CEO of the company plans to keep 77 percent of their coal capacity through 2032 and double their gas emissions.
Greenpeace argues the energy supplier is letting their business plans shackle their willingness to deliver sustainable energy.
ECO is hoping their efforts will result in action taken against Duke Energy to ensure a safer and cleaner environment for the students of North Carolina as well as the people of the U.S.