Polar bears strike again in Charlotte

More than a dozen protesters, many of them Warren Wilson College students, staged a ruckus outside Duke Energy’s headquarters in Charlotte earlier this afternoon. Dressed as polar bears, Santa Claus and elves, the group presented a Christmas list asking for clean air, sustainable energy and energy-efficiency initiatives. During the protest, they loudly condemned Duke’s proposed Cliffside power plant. After two individuals dressed as polar bears decided to lock themselves to the door of the building with a bike lock, they were promptly arrested.

The coal-fired facility, which would be located in Rutherford County, has drawn a great deal of criticism from the environmental community statewide. Last month, the Canary Coalition hosted a public hearing on the topic in Asheville, though the state Division of Air Quality has refused to hold additional public hearings in either Asheville or Charlotte. Internationally renowned NASA climatologist James Hansen has also publicly voiced concern about the plant.

This afternoon’s protest in Charlotte was reminiscent of the Bank of America protest staged in downtown Asheville this past August, when a group of 40 or so protesters donned polar bear and canary costumes to decry the bank’s financial ties to companies that perform mountaintop-removal mining. It also comes on the heels of the arrest of an Asheville man in Charlotte for scaling a construction crane and unfurling a banner condemning mountaintop removal, which could be plainly seen from within the Bank of America’s Charlotte headquarters.

Below is a press release sent out by the group of protesters earlier this afternoon.

— Rebecca Bowe, contributing editor


November 15 2007


Charlotte, NC – At 12:30 today, two Warren Wilson
College students dressed as polar bears were arrested
while blockading the entrance to Duke Energy’s
headquarters in downtown Charlotte. The students are
demanding that the company stop its plans to build the
new Cliffside coal-fired power plant, and are joined by
concerned citizens dressed as Santa Claus and his
Elves. “The bad kids get coal in their stockings, and
we’re here to say that we don’t want any new coal,”
said Keith Glendinning, a local resident. Santa’s Elves
presented Duke with a Christmas wish list of clean air,
sustainable energy, and energy efficiency initiatives.

“North Carolina’s youth will be living with the impact
of dirty energy and climate change far into the future.
We need community-based alternatives to the fossil fuel
empire.” said Nina Otter, a student at Warren Wilson
College who locked herself to the entrance. “Coal has
got to go if we want to solve the climate crisis.”

Climate scientists around the world agree that
immediate actions must be taken to reduce levels of
carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in order to stop the
worst impacts of climate change. Duke’s new Cliffside
plant alone would emit 312 million tons of carbon
dioxide over its fifty year lifespan, the equivalent of
putting an additional one million cars on the roads.

The Cliffside plant will also emit pollutants such as
mercury, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide.  Duke’s
own calculations project a 10-fold increase in mercury
emissions from the proposed plant over 2005 mercury
emissions from the existing units. In addition, much of
the coal burned at Cliffside would be extracted through
the highly destructive practice of mountaintop removal.
This practice has destroyed hundreds of square miles of
the southern Appalachian Mountains and devastated
thousands of miles of streams.

“North Carolina and Duke Energy need to follow the lead
of other states such as Kansas and Florida that have
said no to new coal plants. In order to avert
catastrophic climate change our society must shift
towards sustainable and socially responsible energy
sources now. Coal is not a part of that equation”, said
student activist Lindsay Popper.



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8 thoughts on “Polar bears strike again in Charlotte

  1. Nam Vet

    I assume these protesters are free of hypocrisy concerning the lives they lead? Do these students eschew the use of electricity? No computers, TVs, electric heat pumps, video games, fax machines, copy machines, etc? Because if they want a clean environment with no pollution, they really should go live in the woods as our ancient ancesters did…3000 years ago. Hey get the drummers and the back to the earth crowd involved. Let’s give up on this society and go primative tribal. Otherwise, we who want to use electricity need to understand that Duke is just trying to meet the demand WE have for their product. Either don’t use the product or quitcherwhining. Simple.

  2. I thought college students were supposed to be in their dorm room studying? Wonder who’s paying the tuition for these two, mommy and daddy?

  3. chucky

    “Nam Vet”:
    In order to change our power consumption, as a society, it is necessary to change the infrastructure. power companies are built to make a profit, not to supply power in a logical, sustainable way. i applaud these folks for stimulating the conversation. Unfortunately, politics and money cloud the issues, and limit our perceived choices. Many simple changes could be made so that we are not dependent on unsustainable (do you understand the definition of that word?) technology. Your ‘needs’ for power are most likely comfort pleasures, anyway. not “needs”.

    The thing is, if these same people just lived in the woods eating berries, as you suggest, you would then call them escapists. So it would seem that you just have a grudge to air out in a public forum instead of having a two-way conversation not based on pre-conceived assumption. I am glad that they are interacting with our society in a helpful way. This is true democracy. Not just sniping from your laptop at home. (powered by coal which is having a fairly negative impact on our environment and economy)

    You may find it more productive to engage in a conversation with a real human, if you wish to expand your understanding of a complex, multifaceted topic that, whether you understand it or not, deeply effects us all.

    Conversely, if you wish to maintain the moral high ground by viewing people in black and white, then keep up the good work. The boring, predictable,and baseless generalizations are doing the trick.

    Do you really mean that education is something that can only be acquired through book learning in a dorm or library? If I was learning about the effects of Coal and nuclear energy, I would probably be motivated to DO somehting about it as well, in addition to being a well behaved student.

  4. Nam Vet

    “In order to change our power consumption, as a society, it is necessary to change the infrastructure. power companies are built to make a profit, not to supply power in a logical, sustainable way.”

    Chucky, providing a service does involve “profit”, yes, but utilities are REGULATED and therfore are kept from making free market-type profits. Not that that is a bad thing, but this is the way it is. In other words, since you appear to be the typical neo-liberal dunce when it come to economics, the power companies strive to meet the demand YOU make on them. The utilities commissions keep an eye on them to make sure YOU are not over charged for their hard work in meeting YOUR demand.

    Bottom line Chucky, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Either walk your talk and lessen your demand for electricity, or quitcherwhining. Perhaps you need a sense of scale here. Go visit Cuba for a few months, then come back here and compare our 1) freedom of speech and path to finding your happiness, and 2) the infrastructure there and the quality of life there as compared to HERE. But hey, they have “free” healthcare, so maybe you will stay. The price will be you freedom to “whine”. They don’t brook whining in Cuba. :)

  5. Jim Greenwood

    Anything associated with mountain-top removal coal mining is criminal!! It’s unbelievable That this onerous practice has been allowed to devastate portions of Eastern Kentucky. What’s equally unbelievable is the lack of concern outside the affected areas.

  6. Jim Greenwood

    Anything associated with mountaintop removal coal mining should be challenged by everyone! I’ts amazing that this onerous practice has been allowed to destroy large portions of the Appalachians. What’s even more amazing is the lack of indignation of those outside the free-fire zone. Our of sight, out of mind……..

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