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Letter to the Editor: It’s time to tear down the coal power plant representing SIU

SIU's power plant is seen from a pedestrian overpass over South Illinois Avenue on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, in Carbondale. (Autumn Suyko | @AutumnSuyko_DE)

SIU's power plant is seen from a pedestrian overpass over South Illinois Avenue on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, in Carbondale. (Autumn Suyko | @AutumnSuyko_DE)

SIU's power plant is seen from a pedestrian overpass over South Illinois Avenue on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, in Carbondale. (Autumn Suyko | @AutumnSuyko_DE)

By Noah Leverett

I didn’t know climate change was real.

I was an 8-year-old kid riding my bike around Carbondale. I was crashing into UPS trucks. Five years later, I even broke my arm riding my bike, feeling the wind too heavily in my sails. But heck, I didn’t know what global warming was.

Not until I was lucky enough to attend an AP environmental class and graduate high school, did I have the slightest idea what it was.


Trash filling oceans. Rising waters. A hockey shaped curve in the graph that illuminates us to the drastically rising temperatures.

Before I knew it, I was in college. I applied to SIU with a mission to learn about the Earth; I started in plant biology. After being rejected by a field opportunity in the Canada Tar Sands, I switched gears to mathematics.

I learned about curves, about sudden changes in trajectories, about trends.

There are two curves I have noticed — two trends — both of which are reflections of some of the problems that need solving in Carbondale.

One, of course, is the rising wealth inequality in the United States of America. Of course, it is a free country, and the rich deserve some of their riches, of course. I would argue that they don’t deserve the wealth that brings overwhelming harm to the environment.

Researchers at SIU and elsewhere have found coal to be one of the most harmful fossil fuels to extract from the environment.

But the rich keep getting richer, right? At least the administrators. At least the politicians. While SIU students and faculty (some, of course) are in debt.

Meanwhile, we do the research. We bring in the ideas, the writing, the educational insights; learning how to fix the cars.

But it’s jobs. It’s employment. It’s manufacturing. Coal does, in fact, live near the heart of many American families. But let me offer a solution, of course, because I have mentioned the problems.

How about raised beds? A massive greenhouse, or multiple greenhouses, for that matter, with the nice big label: Southern Illinois University Carbondale. All of which can bring food to underprivileged families, as well as horticulture therapy for those affected by war or tragedy. This is important not just for our environment as a globe, but for our community as Carbondale.

I think our students, many of whom know the issue of global warming all too well, would rather their grandparents drive to a town for graduation that doesn’t blatantly represent coal, something we now know is a disaster for our globe.

We’re doing the research about the environment and about agriculture. We’re even doing research about therapy.

But why aren’t we walking the walk?

SIU student Noah Leverett is a senior from Carbondale studying therapeutic recreation. 

Letters to the editor can be submitted at [email protected]


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8 Responses to “Letter to the Editor: It’s time to tear down the coal power plant representing SIU”

  1. Kari on November 15th, 2016 10:04 am

    Did SIU shut down it’s mining engineering program? I’ve always thought that, in addition to being a working plant, it was also a part of the education process. So, we should tear it down because of it’s symbolism? It symbolizes the lifeblood of the area. It symbolizes hard work and dedication that others want to continue. It is also what charges your laptops, cell phones, etc. I don’t think the majority of Southern Illinois wants to see this plant leave anytime soon.


    Noah Leverett Reply:

    Hey Kari,

    It is so true that coal represents the lifeblood of the area. But so many scientists, including our very own, have agreed that coal hurts our environment much more than energy sources such as wind and solar. Though many haven’t learned the facts, and are still coming to accept the realities of climate change, I maintain that our community can come together in support of the environment.


  2. Amanda on November 15th, 2016 12:54 pm

    While I understand the mentality of tearing down the plant as well as it’s environmental impacts, I would encourage people to take a tour and read the efficiency strides this particular plant has taken over the years to decrease the environmental impact (although, we know there *will* be an impact no matter what when using fossil fuels). Along with this, tearing down the plant would need to be countered with more than with raised beds/gardening. Although this is a nice idea and would be extremely beneficial for so many people, it doesn’t replace everything or anything the plant provides for SIUC which would create it’s own list of issues.


  3. Noah Leverett on November 15th, 2016 1:38 pm

    Furthermore, just because it is the lifeblood doesn’t mean it has to be in the future.




  4. Jack on November 15th, 2016 3:40 pm

    Shutting down the campus power plant down will cause not only force SIU to spend more money on power, most of the buildings on campus would not
    get heat. The power plant creates heat which turns liquid water in to steam. That steam is used to make power and to heat campus. Also, the plant doesn’t make all of SIU’s power. At least half or more of the power comes from the grid. Did you know that contractually the campus power plant isn’t aloud to supply power to the city grid? So any excess power the plant makes is literally wasted. The lake of Egypt power plant is a coal plant. Prarie state plant is nuclear. Nuclear has to deal with radioactive waste but doesn’t pollute the atmosphere. I don’t think you should target the small campus generating station. You should target your anger at much larger coal plants. Without the coal plants in the area, we might be sitting in the dark.


  5. Jimi Hendrix on November 15th, 2016 4:42 pm

    Your cause is righteous, your research is not.


  6. Anonymous on November 17th, 2016 8:40 pm

    This article is ridiculous. Other mining engineering interns and I get paid around $28 an hour working 50 hours a week over the summer. We make more in 3 1/2 months than many liberals make year round after they graduate.

    Coal is not going anywhere and individuals are arrogant to think humans have a huge impact on the planet. The planet has been around for billions of years and survived large meteorite collisions. The human race from beginning to end is insignificant to the planet. Burning coal is not hurting the planet the planet can do quite well without activist liberals.

    The reason the rich are getting richer and poor getting poorer. Is because some young adults are learning differential equations and advanced calculus to become mining engineers. And some are studying thearupeutic recreation. Also all mining engineering students pass a hair follicle drug test for internships. I doubt that can be said about therapeutic recreation majors. It’s the difference between being in touch with reality and societal needs versus having the millennial activist mentality. Well experience the results of the difference in our attitudes in many ways including financial.


  7. Anonymous on January 17th, 2017 2:34 pm

    If you really want to fight for the planet, then you would be better off learning Mandarin, Cantonese, Hindi, Benghali, or whatever and taking your message overseas… where they will be far less warm to your Mother Earth virtue signaling than any one here. Good on ya for trying, but we are far from meeting the energy demands by throwing up a couple wind turbines and throwing a few solar panels on some of the old buildings.


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