My Initial Brief
Senior Graphic Design Capstone Studio
GD 400, Design For Relief and Aid
PROJECT TITLE: Design can aid in the prevention of Mountain Top Removal in West Virginia which provides coal to North Carolina
LOCATION: Local Effected Regions in West Virginia (for example Boone County) & North Carolina
BACKGROUND & JUSTIFICATION:
Mountain Top Removal is the most destructive and extreme form of coal mining. It involves the removal of the summit or summit ridge of a mountain in order to gain easy access to the coal seams beneath. Besides permanently destroying natural habitats, surrounding valleys, and the beauty of the mountains, this form of mining creates an astounding amount of negative environmental, health, and economic consequences.
Regions surrounding these sites often have high concentrations of extremely toxic pollutants in the water and air, which has been proven to be the cause of the high concentrations of cancer, terminal illnesses, and birth defects in areas near these sites. Much of these pollutants enter the water and local streams by leaking from the slurry ponds, which are contained areas filled with the toxic materials left over after the process of separating the valuable fraction from the uneconomic fraction of an ore. These ponds are often located on the side of mountains after the coal has been extracted. Furthermore, on several occasions these slurry ponds have collapsed and were responsible for hundreds of deaths and left the surrounding areas uninhabitable due to the vast amount of toxic waste that flooded these communities. In fact, there have been multiple disasters in which the spills were far larger than the Exxon Valldies, and one in particular that was over 30 times larger. Lack of coverage by the mainstream media has left many of these disasters unnoticed by most of the general public.
West Virginia practices coal mining more than any other state. Government officials justify their participation by claiming that their economy and job market is highly dependent on Big Coal. Although they do heavily rely on coal, the amount of coal mining jobs has drastically dropped since the transition from underground mining to the machine and explosives powered Mountain Top Removal. Furthermore, areas in which this practice is taking place are left with a destroyed landscape and hardly any natural resources that could support a future economy such as outdoor recreational businesses and even alternate energy endeavors such as wind turbines.
Some states, such as North Carolina, have made huge progress in outlawing the practice in their own state and proposing legislation to no longer support MTR, however import a large percentage of their coal from West Virginia and other states that practice Mountain Top Removal.
Since the introduction of Nuclear Power and more sustainable energy alternatives, the percentage of energy that coal has provided the overall sum in the United States has gradually decreased from year to year. Furthermore, only five percent of the U.S. energy is supplied through Mountain Top Removal. This small amount of energy is not worth the toll created on the land and wildlife, the people inhabiting these spaces, or the future lack of viable economic resources.
Short Term: Local Communities and West Virginia as a State
To educate the larger community of West Virginia about the true repercussions and hazards involved in Mountain Top Removal and raise questions about the lack of long-term economic value in Mountain Top Removal. West Virginians are inclined to support and rely on Big Coal as the basis of their economy due to its immediate high economic yield. My goal is to visualize, disseminate, prove, and provide alternatives to these preconceptions.
- Coal is not a renewable resource (will eventually run out)
- Cannot support long term economy and job market
- WV is eliminating natural resources and future economic opportunities such as outdoor recreation and, due to lower altitudes, sustainable energy economies such as wind turbines
- Mountain Top Removal is not much cheaper than other forms of coal extraction
- Coal is outdated and it’s share of the U.S. electricity generation is steadily declining
Ultimately, my goal is to provide relief and immediate aid to those who currently live in these affected regions, as well as enable them to provoke action in a more effective way and to help prevent further Mountain Top Removal in their communities.
This will be addressed through observation, implementation, and reflection.
Long Term: North Carolina and National Application
To give North Carolina a more accurate sense of their proximity to the issue and a clearer understanding of how they may be directly influencing and promoting the practice of Mountain Top Removal.
My goal is to provide aid through design and to address and enable those individuals who have a desire to advocate, inform, and provoke their own communities to take action against the practice of Mountain Top Removal, and to do so in a more effective way in regards to their specific community.
Furthermore, to persuade the public that Mountain Top Removal is not, by any means, a necessity and by changing a few small habits in regards to our daily energy consumption we could eliminate the small percentage (5%) of U.S. energy that is generated through Mountain Top Removal.
My designs will provide easy and effective ways for individuals to raise questions about the morality of Mountain Top Removal in locally effected and nationally supporting communities. Their intention is to communicate the crisis of Mountain Top Removal and the need for change in a way that will address these specific communities.
Furthermore my designs will communicate a professionalism that is associated with larger national issues guiding the public’s attention to a cause that is usually limited to grassroots movements and a small community issue.