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Christina Jarvis contributed to blog for nationwide democracy project
Monday, April 04, 2011

Christina Jarvis
In a Dr. Christina Jarvis describes the common ground local citizens discovered in the coal ash controversy.

SUNY Fredonia is prominently featured on the website of the American Democracy Project, sponsored by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, thanks to a blog submission written by English professor Christina Jarvis.

Jarvis, co-director of the Fredonia Academic Community Engagement Center, contributed to the ADP blog on "Stewardship of Public Lands," in which she revisits a discussion she initiated in 2010 that brought together a local activist opposed to the controversial use of coal ash to improve traction on local roads and top officials of the local NRG coal-fired power plant that creates the product during the electric generation process.

View her submission on the ADP blog here>>

Jarvis was motivated to schedule the gathering to discuss coal ash as a result of her participation in ADP’s Stewardship of Public Lands Seminar held in Yellowstone National Park. The public meeting was incorporated into “Writing, Sustainability, and Social Change,” a service-learning class taught by Jarvis that focused on local environmental topics.

As could have been expected, the meeting became heated at times, but a small amount of common ground – created when the power company indicated it would stop supplying coal ash to communities if they switched to other anti-icing products – opened the door to several new opportunities to expand knowledge of the issue and promote energy conservation. The meeting also gave the utility an opportunity to outline recent plant improvements that have reduced missions.

NRG offered to share environmental compliance and testing information and invited a representative of the clean-energy advocacy group, Concerned Residents of Portland, to see coal ash storage sites. Inspired by the outcome, some of Jarvis’ students attended meetings of the town board and CROP, while others toured the power plant.

As a class, students promoted energy conservation through the distribution of 1,350 compact fluorescent bulbs during Earth Week in 2010 to reduce energy costs for consumers, conserve energy and trim CO2 emissions. Dr. Sherri Mason, also a member of the FACE Center board, and Jarvis toured the power plant last fall and began a dialogue with NRG that ultimately led to NRG’s funding three community sustainability projects. CFC bulbs were also distributed during this year’s Earth Week.

The coal ash debate wasn’t resolved, but SUNY Fredonia students felt empowered by their collective action and community engagement, Jarvis concluded in her blog. The success of the SUNY Fredonia coal ash project can be obtained by a national audience from links to campus and community resources included in the website post. The ADP website is read by close to 3,000 people each month 

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