Protesters Shut Down Obama Backed Strip Mine in West Virginia
Ramping up renewed efforts to end mountaintop removal mining in central Appalachia, scores of protesters staged a daring action at the controversial Hobet strip mine on July 28 in Boone County, West Virginia, shutting down operations through a series of coordinated lock downs, tree-sits and banner drops. In a symbolic challenge to the Obama administration's failed regulatory policies, the protest targeted the Hobet 45 mountaintop removal mine, which had been granted a widely denounced permit over two years ago.
According to RAMPS, a West Virginia-based grassroots groups that organized the "mountain mobilization" protest as part of a nationwide summer of actions against devastating extraction industry operations, St. Louis-based mine owner Patriot Coal has left behind a legacy of destruction in coal country for both area residents and miners. Patriot filed for bankruptcy earlier this month, which could also affect pension and United Mine Workers of America union contracts.
"The government has aided and abetted the coal industry in evading environmental and mine safety regulations. We are here today to demand that the government and coal industry end strip mining, repay their debt to Appalachia, and secure a just transition for this region," said Dustin Steele of Matewan, West Virginia, in a released statement. The son and grandson of union coal miners, Steele took part in one of the truck lockdowns.
Citing the mounting evidence of the health and humanitarian crises in the coalfields from toxic mining fallout, including a rise in black lung disease and links to birth defects and cancer, the protesters also stationed banners on the mine site: "Coal Leaves, Cancer Stays."
"The coal companies are poisoning our water and air, and they're treating the workers no better than the land—fighting workplace health and safety protections to get the most out of labor as they can," said Junior Walk, a former coal company employee from nearby Whitesville, West Virginia, who won the 2011 Brower Youth Award for his environmental activism.
Protesters also called on the Obama administration and regional politicians to launch more sustainable job training and coalfield regeneration projects.
Coal mining residents have pleaded for basic civil rights and environmental protection for years, with more than 20 peer-reviewed studies suggesting higher risks and links between reckless strip mining and devastating health impacts, including birth defects, cancer and chronic heart, lung and kidney disease. (A recent report noted that strip miners are even subjected to unacceptable levels of black lung disease.)
A bill, the ACHE Act, calling for an emergency moratorium on mountaintop removal mining was recently introduced into Congress.
For updates on the protests and arrests, follow RAMPS campaign.
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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