Students from South Stokes High School and the Stokes Early College shared their views on fracking and coal ash last week at the first ever Symposium on Technology and Environmental Asset Management at the Walnut Cove Public Library.
The event was organized by the Amnesty International clubs at both schools as a way for the county’s youth to learn more about the issues and share their thoughts.
“When the coal ash spill happened in Eden one of our kids said why don’t we go down and see it,” said Patrick Minges who sponsors the club at Stokes Early College. “They got first hand experience about the impact of coal ash. This year we were talking about issues and there was a lot of discussion about fracking so we thought we would do something that deals with both coal ash and fracking.”
Minges said students spent a good deal of time researching the issues and preparing papers and displays to present to the community.
“These are our future leaders,” he said. “These are the people who the environmental considerations are most important to. They wanted to come talk to the community and we wanted to give them this professional experience of presenting at a seminar.”
The symposium allowed participants the chance to work closely with teachers and professors from surrounding institutions and to present their papers to the community at large during the symposium. For this purpose, there have been collaborative meetings and discussion between students and teachers with the aim of leading and directing research on energy and resource applications in Stokes County.
Most of the students said they were against both fracking and coal ash, listing a variety of impacts either practice could have on the local environment.
“What we really have to look at when we look at fracking is why it is going on,” said Stokes Early College student Hollister Collins. “The government is looking at the money that is coming from fracking but at the same time they are not thinking about the things that could happen a few years down the road. Those things could effect us so much more than what the money could give us.
“We have to think about what we are doing to the environment,” he added. “If we destroy the environment we may not have as many years as we thought on this earth. I am 15 and I am hoping I can live at least another 60 years.”
But the discussion was not all against fracking. Stokes Early College student Evelyn Murphy argued that fracking could have big economic advantages.
“As the population continues to increase with no end in sight to the nations potentially crippling addiction it pays to have more domestic sources for oil and gas,” she said, arguing that transitioning from coal-fired power plants to natural gas could help improve the environment. “The country can be improved by using hydraulic fracturing as its main way to obtain natural resources. Air quality improvement, less dependency on foreign oil, and providing jobs are positive aspects of fracking.”
Students participating in the symposium from Stokes Early College include Hailey Marie Ramey, Evelyn Murphy, Abby McBride, Taylor R. Fulk, Brandy Rodriguez, Lauren Hazelwood, Josh Gibson, Trazon Mitchell, Kendall Yancy, and Hollister Collins. Students from South Stokes High School included Jonathan Weavil, Mary-Beth Wall and Carly Shelton.
Shelton was chosen to receive a $100 scholarship from Amnesty International as a result of her presentation.
Stokes Early College Amnesty International is a service club at Stokes Early College and has been in operation for nearly four years; the organization has hosted a series of events on human rights and related issues since its inception and encourages students to make a commitment to the betterment of their community. South Stokes Amnesty International was formed last year and engages in a variety of social and community events and attempts to raise consciousness of important social issues within the community. It has participated in events with Stokes Early College Amnesty International. Both will be co-hosting “SK8 against H8” with Stokes Pride on December 9 at King RollrKing in King.
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.