SHAMOKIN — While environmental groups turned out nationwide Saturday for the “Climate, Jobs and Justice” event, three organizations demonstrated the environmental impact of coal mining and restoration efforts locally.

Approximately 20 people met in Claude Kehler Community Park as a chilly rain drizzled down to take part in the event sponsored by Susquehanna Valley Progress, Climate Reality Project and the Hub for Progress, which consists of several different organizations in Lewisburg, Danville and the Columbia County area.

Penn Darvin, of Climate Reality Project, explained that on Sept. 8, events are held across the country for “Climates, Jobs and Justice,” and for 2018 they precede a large national gathering in San Francisco this week where state and local government officials will meet to discuss ways to respond to climate issues.

The event helps create discussion on ways state and local governments can take on the burden and responsibility of helping the United States adapt to climate change, Penn said, adding “there’s a feeling the federal government had kind of opted out of this.”

Susquehanna Valley Progress Chairwoman Nicole Faraguna said people all over the world Saturday were rising up to demand action on climate change.

“We thought there’s no better place to have an event than a place like Shamokin and Coal Township, which has been hit so hard by (the country’s) energy policies. The idea is to educate people on the work and progress that Shamokin Creek Restoration Alliance has been making in terms of cleanup on the creek,” she said. (Read more on the subject from Faraguna on Page A5.)

Look ahead

The group toured a site on the Venn Access Road and near Claude Kehler park to learn about and discuss successful recovery efforts. Faraguna said they originally chose another restoration site in Ranshaw, but a large bee nest made them reconsider that option.

Originally from Shamokin, Faraguna said she would like to see towns like it “move into the future and instead of looking back on our coal history and coal heritage. Let’s look to the future and really start thinking about how we can revitalize and rebuild the coal communities and help position them so they can participate in the 21st century economy.”

Shaunna Barnhart, director of the place studies program for the Bucknell University Center for Sustainability and the Environment, brought two Bucknell students with her to participate. It was sophomore Ruby Lee and junior Arianne Evans’ first trip to Shamokin.

Invitations were sent out by Barnhart, who said she thought it would be a great opportunity for students to learn more about local environmental issues and what local organizations are doing.

Lee said her professor for her management for sustainability course suggested students interested in a community-based perspective attend, so she made her first trip to Shamokin to learn about the creek restoration projects.

“There’s not much I can say about the area until I learn more of what’s going on, and right now being informed is definitely important if you want to bring some positive impact,” said Lee.

Evans offered another perspective, stating, “I think what’s cool about being Bucknell students in this area is we are studying, but this isn’t our home yet, so being able to reach out to people and find ways to become part of the community and take what we learn in the classroom is a great resource, and these communities know that we can be a resource as well.”

Everyone should learn

Also making the visit to Shamokin was Geoff Goodenow, of Lewisburg, who works with the Merrill W. Linn Land and Waterways Conservancy, an organization interested in land and water preservation. The former biology teacher has always had an concern regarding environmental issues and was happy to learn of the event through an email invitation.

Goodenow said though Shamokin is not in their area of focus, some of the issues may be relevant, and he was hoping to learn something new that could be used.

“I’m pleased that this is being sponsored and it provides a neat educational opportunity for the public,” said Goodenow. “Everybody should know what is going on, what the causes were and what the restorations are to make our environment a little better.”

Vote for the environment

Lou Ann Pacocha, of Coal Township, is involved with numerous environmental organizations throughout the area, including the Shamokin Creek Restoration Alliance. She learned of the event on Friday when she saw a poster while on a walk in the downtown area.

A self-pronounced “tree-hugger,” she decided to attend the event to meet like-minded people. Pacocha said she firmly believes in sustainable energy and has had solar panels on her house for years, which she described as the best decision she ever made.

The event was important as a means to raise awareness, she said.

“Don’t be apathetic about voting. You’ve got to vote for the environment,” she added.

Demanding action

Faraguna was thrilled with the turnout, saying, “I think it’s really good to see folks from outside the community come, people who have never been to Shamokin and may not understand the impacts of something like coal, but also really celebrate people who care about this issue. Even despite some rain, we’re here and we’re standing up and we’re demanding some action on climate.”

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