The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

January 30, 2014

Coal Heritage Lecture Series kicks off Feb. 4 with PAN representatives


— Since the recent chemical spill in Charleston, the issue of clean water in West Virginia is a topic that many southern West Virginians are discussing. The Coal Heritage Lecture Series, an annual program presented by Concord University’s Beckley Center and the Coal Heritage Highway Authority, kicks off the 2014 programs with a look at this critical issue.

“Industry and the Environment and Responsible Development” will be presented Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. by Eric Autenreith and members of the Plateau Action Network at the Erma Byrd Center in Room E 10. The event is free and open to the public.

The issue of industrial impact on clean water has become more and more pertinent in West Virginia. The chemical spill in Charleston is not the only threat to the environment in our state. But, it is also important to balance industrial growth and with sustainability.

Plateau Action Network, based in Fayetteville, is an advocate for clean water issues. Autenreith and other members of the organization will discuss how industries can create responsible economic development. They will address past situations in West Virginia and examine how to maintain a sustainable environment.

This lecture is the first in the 2014 series. Each spring, the Coal Heritage Public Lecture Series explores the rich and enduring legacy of coal in the Mountain State. The lecture series will continue on March 4 with singer-songwriter Kate Long as she performs “Songs of the Coalfields.”

April 1 will see National Park Service Interpretive Ranger Billy Strasser discuss the recent work the New River Gorge National River has completed in the town of Nuttallburg in the lecture “Nuttallburg: Then and Now.” Once a model coal camp owned by Henry Ford, the National Park Service has stabilized the site and created an interpretive trail that is open to visitors.

The series will conclude on May 6 when Gordon Simmons, historian and Marshall University instructor, will explore the culture of resistance in coal miners. The Miner’s Freedom considers the history of coal miners and their ability to exert some control in the workforce, despite the autocracy of the coal camps.

The public lecture series is a part of an academic class at the Beckley Center of Concord University in the Appalachian Studies Department. The class, Coal Culture in West Virginia, is taught in the spring semester by Karen Vuranch.

“The course covers the history and technology of coal mining in West Virginia,” Vuranch stated, “but more importantly it explores the cultural impact on the people of our state.”

Students taking the course for credit hear lectures, watch films and participate in field trips that help them better understand the rich history of coal in West Virginia. Community members are also welcome to audit the course, where they attend all sessions without having to complete assignments for a grade.

The Beckley Center of Concord University and the Coal Heritage Highway Authority sponsor the Coal Heritage Lecture Series. For more information, contact the Beckley Center of Concord University at 304-256-0270.