On April 3-5, Ronesha Johnson of Residents for Air Neutralization and Kristen Evans of the Bucket Brigade traveled to the University of Kentucky on the invitation of Dr. Shannon Bell of the Sociology Department to give a public talk and then another talk to her class on environmental justice. We received a warm and enthusiastic welcome from the professors and students, with great conversations about the environmental challenges in both Kentucky and Louisiana. Here are a few reflections on the trip.
with the work we have done. They made us feel welcomed and treated us with great respect.Our first presentation was the longest. We had a group of about 12 people associated with the University of Kentucky. The audience showed great interest and were eager to ask questions. I talked about the history of Residents for Air Neutralization (RAN), how and why it was established. I also talked about how LABB and RAN works together. The second presentation was in the classroom. It was also great. Both times the presentation and participation were so great, we ran out of time.
We also learned about the problems they have while living in a coal mining state. We stayed at a great hotel and tasted different foods I had never eaten before. I really enjoyed speaking at UK and was honored that they had given me the privilege to educate them on the life of living in Shreveport,LA.
We appreciated the opportunity to share our experiences fighting the petrochemical industry for clear air and water in a Louisiana, but it was invaluable learning about the challenges facing Kentucky. Communities and activists in Kentucky have long battled to make the coal industry clean up its act, and now the immediate challenges are mountaintop removal (where entire sections of mountains are shaved off to access the top layers of coal) and fracking. There is a long history of social movement organizing in Appalachia, and we learned that there has been significant alliance building between blacks and whites as well as with organized labor. Some organizations have been working for generations, such as Appalshop (http://appalshop.org) and the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (http://www.ohvec.org/). I hope this was the first of many conversations: we can learn much more from each other, collaborate and join forces.