This afternoon, a loose coalition of students, frontline community members, retirees of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), forgotten people from Black Mesa, the Powder River Basin Resource Council, and allies converged on the annual shareholder meeting of Peabody Energy in Gillette, Wyoming. Peabody bills itself as the "world's largest private-sector coal company," and we were there to confront them on their horrendous business practices.
Primarily I was there supporting the voices of the people most affected by Peabody: relocated off their ancestral land, cheated out of their pensions and healthcare, menaced by hungry strip mine expansion. But as a student at Washington University in St. Louis involved in the campus campaign for fossil fuel divestment, attending the meeting had a further, more personal significance.
On campuses nationwide, thousands of students have returned from winter break with greater passion and determination to win. They are holding teach-ins, winning endorsements, rallying, and petitioning their Trustees with unparalleled momentum - and the national media is taking notice.
Yesterday, my friend Ken and I attended an Obama Campaign fundraiser in St. Louis. But we didn’t go there with any ordinary mission. We went to make sure our generation’s demand that President Obama reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline was heard.
After waiting over an hour, and with hundreds rallying outside, President Obama took the stage. As he began his speech, Ken and I prepared for our intervention. I unwrapped my shawl, and Ken opened his jacket, which both had our message clearly inscribed “President Obama: Veto the Keystone XL pipeline.”
After President Obama spoke about leaving a better future for our children, we seized the pause and asked “will you veto the Keystone XL pipeline?” Obama didn’t directly respond, but acknowledged us a few minutes later when saying “we’ve got a couple of people here who are concerned about the environment.” Yesterday, we were heard.
St. Louis, Mo. – Yesterday afternoon, a crowd of local students and community members gathered in front of Peabody Energy’s world headquarters to protest the harmful effects the coal industry is having on the health of local communities.
The event was planned in recognition of National Asthma Awareness Month; however enthusiasm for the event quickly grew early Tuesday morning when news spread regarding cyber-hoax Coalcares.org. What later turned out to be the work of techno-pranksters Coal Kills Kids, Coal Cares seemed to be a shockingly-uncharacteristic public health initiative from Peabody, offering free asthma inhalers to children living within a 200 mile radius of a coal plant.