Extreme Extraction and Community Consequences: Southern WV

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Extreme Extraction and Community Consequences:
Southern WV (Mountaintop Removal)
and Northern AB (Tar Sands)
May Term 2015
Application Deadline: October 15, 2014
Dates: May 12 – June 2, 2015
Course: SoAn-399. 3 credits. Fulfills the IE gen ed requirement.
This course explores the phenomenon of “extreme extraction” – i.e., increasingly large-scale and
environmentally devastating means of exposing and mining fossil fuels – through several lenses,
with an emphasis on the consequences for communities located in close proximity to these
operations. Two cases in North America will receive sustained attention (including site visits –
see below): 1) the leveling of mountains in Appalachia (esp. Southern West Virginia, US) to
expose coal; and 2) the scraping away of boreal forests in Northern Alberta, Canada, to expose
the “tar sands” containing oil. Through readings, films, and direct experience during extended
seminars at the two sites, students will consider the cultural, social, economic and health
consequences of extreme extraction operations on those who live and work near these sites. In
addition, the group will learn about efforts of activists to stop – or at least lessen – the negative
effects on these communities.
Faculty
Deb Jackson, Professor of SoAn and HDSR, is a cultural anthropologist who has been
researching environmental injustices over the past seven years, mainly related to the
petrochemical industry and oil extraction. In Fall 2011 she led a Ford/Knight project titled
“Living Downstream from the Tar Sands: The Case of Fort Chipewyan,” in which students
conducted “virtual” ethnographic research on the effects of tar sands operations on First Nations
people of the region. Through this project, she developed an interest in a similarly devastating
case of extreme extraction much closer to home: the mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining
that is taking place in Appalachia. A brief visit in February 2014 to a mountain justice
organization in Southern West Virginia confirmed her sense that MTR results in ecological
damage and environmental injustices of a similar kind, and on a similar scale, to those associated
with the tar sands of Northern Alberta. This May term was conceived as a means of exploring
these two North American cases of extreme extraction in relation to one another.
Locations and Living Arrangements
While Earlham College will serve as a home base for the program, there will be two excursions
of about one week each to the two main sites. In Southern West Virginia, the group will stay at
the Appalachian South Folklife Center where we will learn about traditions and life ways of
people of the region. While there, we will participate in meetings and tours with anti-MTR
activists, take hikes on mountain trails, and make excursions to museums and other points of
interest related to mountain culture and coal mining. The second trip, to Northern Alberta, will
be split between two locations. In the small predominantly indigenous community of Fort
Chipewyan, the group will camp out, visit a local museum to learn about the history of the
people there, spend a day out on the land with a Native guide, talk with local residents and
professionals about the effects of the tar sands on the community, and learn about some of the
initiatives underway to address the problems resulting from tar sands mining. Then, in the city of
Fort McMurray, students will stay in a motel and experience the “boom town” effect of massive
growth brought on by tar sands development, and will take a tour of the tar sands operations.
Orientation
There will be 4 required orientation sessions during spring semester 2015. These sessions will
cover logistics, provide background information on extreme extraction in general and on the two
cases in particular, and allow students to become acquainted with the associated communities/
cultures that will serve as a focus of the course.
Charges
The course fee for this May Term is $3,000, which covers all room and board (both on campus
and off), roundtrip travel for each of the two excursions, entrance fees to museums and tours, and
honoraria and contributions for individuals and organizations involved in the site visits. You will
also be charged a non-refundable enrollment fee of $385.00. Earlham tuition fees apply if applicable.
Applications
Applications are available in the International Programs Office in LBC 131 and online at
https://wildmanscience.wufoo.com/forms/ipo-may-term-application. The deadline is October 15, 2014.
Students will be interviewed individually as part of the application process.
Further Information
Contact Deb Jackson ([email protected], x 1225, LBC 329).
May Term Policies: http://earlham.edu/academics/off-campus-study/program-policies/for-mayterms/
Program Plans Subject to Change
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