A mountaintop exploded at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse on Thursday.
Students built the mound of snow to demonstrate the destruction caused in the Appalachian Mountains by mountaintop removal coal mining.
The technique involves blasting apart the tops of mountains to reach seams of coal underneath, then dumping tons of waste rock into valleys and streams below, according to the Sierra Club.
Thursday’s demonstration took place just after trucks had delivered a load of coal to UW-L’s heating plant.
“This heating plant burns coal that destroys communities, mountains, environments and water systems. A lot of people are affected,” said Jeremy Gragert, a UW-L graduate student. “The larger issue is climate change. We shouldn’t burn coal in the first place.”
Gragert played a lead role in the demonstration, throwing black garbage bags out of the top of the snow pile to represent the coal. He also flooded a model village with a fake coal slurry mixture he poured from a gallon jug.
Wisconsin has coal-fired plants statewide, some of which buy from companies that do mountaintop removal coal mining.
“Our message to the governor is that we want those contracts to end, and we want to stop burning coal in the state,” said Gragert.