Benji Burrell is a great guy and technologist with a passion for his home, his community and his neighbors. He spoke with Net2 attendees about his organization, Appalachian Voices. They are based in Boone, North Carolina and are focused on fighting coal fire power plants and reclaiming their natural state. They’ve achieved much success – coalition of 50,000 people in Virginia to stop the power plant and delivered petition to company.
The group has started an ‘End Mountaintop Removal’ campaign online called ilovemountains.org that is just exceptional from a marketing and Social Media perspective. They have 2 main goals: 1) Stop mountain top removal coal mining and 2) promote sustainable forestry practices in the mountains.
The Appalachians house incredible biodiversity – right behind rain forest, full of indigenous species (like salamanders) and an enormous variety of trees and other wildlife. Appalachian Mountains and regional areas provide HUGE percent of coal for our country. 7-10% of US energy is fueled by coal from this region. However, we could save around 30% of energy by conserving and using more efficient — this would totally offset the coal removed by mountaintop removal.
Some coal mine areas can be up to 10,000 acres (the size of Manhattan Island) – nothing but dirt and rubble – all the biodiversity destroyed and no one can live there anymore. Coal plants near homes and schools – young children getting cancer and dying. Their shoes turn black when they play on their playground from coal soot.
To really understand the true scale, visitors can fly for free
on South Wings to really see the damage. Problems in starting the
organization, national tour cost a lot, missing an online organizing
piece of their campaign accessible to all and national legislation
needs a national network.
The group has done some amazing things with Social Media, in addition to pulling in celebrities like Woody Harrelson and Willie Nelson:
- Flickr photos
- YouTube videos
- Google Earth
- Interactive Calls to Action
- ‘My Connection’ interactive feature – type in your zipcode and learn how your energy consumption is fueled or affected by mountaintop coal mining
- Lots of banners and widgets
- Blogger challenges
- RSS feeds and news updates – with props to Bloggers who have helped spread the word