Ardmore native Becks Kolins has set up residence 80 feet above ground in the branches of a tree in West Virginia as part of a grass-roots campaign to prevent mining on the mountaintop area.
Kolins, 21, took a break from environmental and gender studies classes at Skidmore College in January to pursue environmental activism in the southern coal fields of West Virginia, said her mother, Faye Goldman.
Goldman said she and her husband knew that Kolins was lobbying to end strip mining in Appalachia as a volunteer for RAMPS (Radical Action for Mountain People Survival,) but they had no idea that would entail a tree-top sit-in within 300 feet of active blasting.
Despite their worries, Goldman said, they're proud of their daughter's conviction.
"Unless people are willing to put their lives on the line, other people aren't going to notice," Goldman said.
Kolins isn't the only one staked out in the treetops in hopes of convincing the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to outlaw any further strip mining in the Coal River Watershed. A fellow climber, Catherine Ann MacDougal, is sitting on a nearby tree.
Banners hanging from their respective platforms read, "Stop Strip Mining" and "For Judy Bonds," in honor of an activist from the area who died of cancer earlier this year. RAMPS supporters claim that pollution from the mining has caused dozens of people in the area to develop lung cancer and other illnesses.
According to an update posted July 25 on the RAMPS website, the two tree-sitters, who began their action on July 20, have been collecting rainwater, laying in hammocks and visiting each other across systems of strong ropes.
Goldman said she's had limited contact with her daughter, who's presumably keeping her cell phone off to conserve battery.
But, she said, Kolins has already told her not to bail her out of jail if they are arrested for trespassing in hopes that it will force the judges to schedule the trial in a timely manner. Another activist who was helping the two women from the ground was arrested earlier.
Read more about their campaign at www.rampscampaign.org.