Award-winning journalist Jeff Biggers to speak at Warren Wilson Thursday

Environmental author and activist Jeff Biggers will give a free public lecture at Warren Wilson College Thursday evening. His book, Reckoning at Eagle Creek, The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland, received the Sierra Club’s David Brower award, and has been called “a world-shaking, immensely important book” by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love), who wrote of it: “If you’re an American, it is almost a patriotic duty to read it.”

The book offers a personal portrait of the human and environmental costs of “our nation’s dirty energy policy over the past two centuries.” Biggers chronicles the removal of Native Americans from his native Illinois, and the hidden story of legally sanctioned black slavery in the land of Lincoln. It discusses a century of regulatory negligence, describing miners’ struggles for union recognition and workplace safety, and the environmental consequences of industrial strip-mining.

Attendees at Thursday’s lecture will likely hear of Biggers’ adventures last month, when he participated in a three-day sit-in with Wendell Berry and a group of coalfield residents and retired miners at the offices of Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear. The group spent the weekend locked in the capitol building in an effort to focus national attention on the issue of mountain top removal mining. Beshear has remained adamant that his administration is ensuring safe strip-mining operations. Berry said during the sit-in, “He thinks that all we have on our side are our own personal opinions…and he thinks that surface mining can be done without harm to the land or streams or the people.” Environmentalists insist that clean water violations have been standard practice in the industry for decades; meanwhile, Beshear’s administration joined a Kentucky Coal Association law suit against the Clean Water Act authority of the EPA last fall.

Biggers hopes to expose what he and others see as the fallacy that lies at the heart of the Obama administration’s controversial pursuit of “clean coal,” and rejects what he calls “the Big Coal marketing myth,” arguing that “coal will never be called clean or cheap again.” His presentation is set for Thursday, Feb. 24, at 7:00 p.m. in Canon Lounge at the Gladfelter Building on the campus of Warren Wilson College.

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