The highlights from our 3rd annual SierraFest!
For those who couldn’t attend, here are highlights from SierraFest 2011, held Sept 30–Oct 2 at Camp Caesar in Cowen, Webster County.
Ed Wiley gave a moving talk about his years-long quest for justice at Marsh Fork Elementary, where his granddaughter and other children got sick from nearby coal plant operations and lived in the shadow of a potential disaster from a gigantic coal sludge pond looming directly over the school.
After Ed’s talk, we viewed the film On Coal River, which tells Ed’s ultimately successful story.
We started the day with a fun musical-chairs type icebreaker that got people up, talking, and learning about each other!
Our kick-off speaker, Deb Nardone, Sierra Club Natural Gas Reform Campaign Director, brought us up to date on national Sierra Club’s gas campaign and energy policy, while we brought her up to date on the West Virginia Chapter’s work on gas here. Deb is relatively new to national staff, and it was a nice opportunity to get to know her.
Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer briefed us on the progress of the Marcellus shale gas bill and Select Committee. She especially focused on the amendments. Twenty-two amendments
strengthening the bill had been passed at that point, with four more pending.
Artist Ann Payne shared her very original art project memorializing the species wiped out at Dunkard Creek. Project artists created ninety varied and creative works, each illustrating one of the extirpated species.
Outings Chair Dan Soeder trained new leaders for our statewide outings program. Welcome, new leaders! Watch for more great outings.
Tim Guillefoile of the national Sierra Club Water Sentinels program told us all about this effective grassroots volunteer water monitoring program. With training and simple equipment, volunteers can provide vital information about water quality in areas of interest.
After lunch, attendees chose one of several short sessions to attend. Dan Soeder went over the best outdoor gear to have for different types of outings. Mike Costello of the West Virginia Wilderness Coalition shared ambitious plans for wilderness and other protective designations for our outstanding public wildlands.
Beth Little briefed us on the latest developments on Marcellus Shale issues.
Awards Chair, Jonathan Rosenbaum, gave moving testimonials while presenting the annual West Virginia Sierra Club awards to the hugely deserving recipients.
After a delicious and filling dinner, we congregated to hear our Keynote speaker, archeologist Harvard Ayers, give a fascinating account of the years-long battle to preserve famous (infamous?) Blair Mountain, site of the pivotal Battle of Blair Mountain that strove to protect coal miner rights in 1921.
Singer-songwriter Kate Long shared her talents with us between speakers. Heartbreaking, inspiring, or funny; a capella or with guitar or autoharp, Kate sang her beautiful songs and let us sing along.
During the V-I-C-T-O-R-Y Session, we asked folks to share important recent victories.
Patience Wait and Keryn Newman, The PATH slayers gave a sometimes hilarious account of their long and successful battle to kill the unneeded and ill-conceived PATH power line.
Pam Nixon, WVDEP Environmental Advocate, told of the history of MIC (that killed thousands at Bhopal) in Charleston and the long struggle to get this potentially catastrophic poison out of West Virginia.
Petra and John Wood recounted their ongoing efforts to keep toxic coal ash out of their community in northern West Virginia.
Derek Teaney of Appalachian Mountain Advocates shared the “inside story” of the many victories his group has won representing Sierra Club on Mountaintop Removal and other coal mine issues.
Silent Auction Wrap-up: The auction was a lot of fun, as well as a financial success. Folks are now eating, wearing, carrying, sleeping in, and paddling their auction prizes!