You may not have been able to attend the recent hearing held by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regarding mining on Gauley Mountain, but you could almost be there thanks to social media technologies such as Twitter. With coverage from the likes of the Smithsonian Magazine, interest is certainly sky high on the outcome.
Twitter is a "micro-blogging" tool where thousands of people send out brief (less than 140 character) "Tweets" about what they're doing, seeing or hearing. During major events such as the Presidential Election, you could almost put yourself there as thousands of people provided a 360 degree report on the happenings, including "Twit Pics."
During the Gauley Mountain hearing, a couple hundred people showed up in a small elementary school gymnasium to voice their oposition and concerns to DEP. Tweeters such as "TravelinReid" provided a blow-by-blow commentary on the proceedings and also provided photos as the discussions occurred.
Although according to the Tweets the anti-permit audience was up against a less-than-open-minded group of DEP staff, they were certainly able to get their side of the story out to supporters and media through social media technology.
Could social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and even Google Earth help organize and empower local WV communities and level the playing field when they are up against entrenched, seemingly immovable, interests?
With the ongoing destruction of thousands upon thousands of acres of West Virginia mountains, there is no doubt the battle will rage on. We need energy, and more of it produced in the U.S. (The Smithsonian article writer highlighted the irony involved in the very writing of his article being dependent on mountaintop removal-derived coal.) But here's hoping green energy policies and incentives can help West Virginia businesses and workers transition to new high-paying energy jobs that don't leave such permanent destruction.