Protesters Speak Out Against Investments in Mountaintop Removal at 15 PNC Bank Branches
Quakers, students, and community activists held the largest coordinated action of their campaign at 15 PNC banks across the eastern seaboard yesterday as part of Earth Quaker Action Team's (EQAT) effort to end PNC's investments in a controversial strip mining practice known as mountaintop removal. At many locations, concerned community members brought samples of drinking water taken from a well in Eunice, West Virginia that had been contaminated by mountaintop removal operations financed by the bank.
Demonstrations included a banner drop over a highway in Morgantown, West Virginia, mock "taste tests" of contaminated water in Princeton New Jersey, a parade of toxic chemicals, a 15 person sit-in inside a bank in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania and more.
"PNC comes from a merger between Pittsburgh National and the Quaker Provident Bank," said Amy Ward Brimmer, executive director of EQAT. "So as Quakers, if PNC is going to advertise itself as a green bank, its important to us that they act with integrity and live up to their environmental commitments."
Mountaintop removal has destroyed more than 500 mountains in Appalachia and buried more than 2,000 miles of streams with toxic chemicals that have been linked to health conditions such as cancer.
“We know PNC can do better, and we are committed to using nonviolence to stand up for the people of Appalachia." said Bryn Mawr student Samantha Shain. "A full sector exclusion [on mountaintop removal investments] will bring Appalachia closer to having clean and safe drinking water for everyone.”
Two years ago, in response to demonstrations by EQAT, PNC updated their Corporate Responsibility Report with a policy that prohibits investments in coal companies that source more than 50 percent of their coal from mountaintop removal. The policy, however, does not apply to any of the six largest mountaintop removal corporations that PNC does business with and has not significantly impacted PNC's investments in the industry, according to a report by Rainforest Action Network.
EQAT is a Quaker-based direct action group whose current campaign is Bank Like Appalachia Matters. To support their goals, EQAT has organized an initiative encouraging individuals, Quaker meetings and institutions to remove their money from PNC until the bank commits to a sector exclusion on investments in corporations that practice mountaintop removal.
Actions occurred at PNC Bank branches in:
New Castle County, DE
Bala Cynwyd, PA
North Philadelphia, PA
West Chester, PA
Bryn Mawr College, PA
Swarthmore College, PA
Center City, Philadelphia, PA
Morgantown University, WV
Cincinnati University, OH
Visit EcoWatch’s MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL page for more related news on this topic.
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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