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Posted: February 4, 2009 12:30 a.m.

Climate Coalition raises awareness of carbon footprint

At a recent showing of the environmental documentary "Kilowatt Ours" members of the Newton Climate Action Coalition swapped ideas of ways they could reduce their carbon footprint and encourage the greater Newton County community to do the same.

Shown at the Newton County Library on Tuesday, the documentary by filmmaker Jeff Barrie examines the effects of the Southeast's coal-based electricity grid on things such as higher rates of asthma among children and drastically altered mountaintops from coal mountain blasting.

According to the film, 5 million explosives a day are used by coal mining companies in Appalachia resulting in the burying of more than 1,500 miles of streams as the part of the mountaintop-removal process.

The effects of such large-scale land alteration came to a head for Kentucky in 2000 when a coal-waste reservoir developed a leak, resulting in more than 300 million gallons of coal slurry spilling into the Big Sandy River in Martin County. The damage done by the incident is estimated to be 30 times greater than the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.

"It's really pretty devastating," said Theodosia Wade, an Oxford College biology instructor and NCAC member, of the damage done by mountaintop blasting.

Noting that the West Virginia mountains are one of the oldest geological features in the country, Upham said, "We're killing the nursery."

While 50 percent of America's electricity is generated from coal, in the Southeast the average is 61 percent.

In an effort to lower the amount of coal-based electricity they use in their household Upham and her husband, J.J. Hayden, took the step this past summer of installing two solar heating panels to power their water heater.

"We want to do the whole array [of solar panels] to actually get off the grid as much as possible," Upham said.

Though Georgia provides a $2,500 state tax credit for households that install solar panels, Upham and Hayden are still working out how actually to get the tax rebate form.

"It has been a challenge would be a polite way to put it," Upham said, adding that even before they could get the tax rebate form they had to file a pre-form application.

Still, NCAC members were optimistic about what the election of President Barack Obama would mean for national efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change. Members were much less optimistic about state and local attitudes on climate change.

"People are not on the same planet. They just look at the fundamental facts differently," said NCAC member Mark Hodges.

Added Upham, "You have to believe in the science. That's the problem."

NCAC holds meetings on the second Monday of each Month at 7 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church. For more information visit their Web site at newton-climate.org.


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