People Power Episode 1: Susan Lapis, SouthWings Pilot PDF Print E-mail

SusanLapis_Flying_MSSusan Lapis lives in Bristol, Virginia, a small town in Appalachia near the border of Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. She grew up roaming the mountains, hiking, and loving nature. So when she saw the Appalachian region being altered by mountaintop removal mining (MTR) beginning in the early 1990s, she wanted to do something, and she found the power to do so in one of her many talents. In this episode of People Power, a short video series from the creators of Deep Down, we'll see a creative way to make change as we get a birds-eye view from Susan's small Cesna plane.

the Deep Down connection
Susan says she enjoys flying "the movers and shakers" over the Appalachian mountains to show them what mountaintop removal mine sites look like from the air, and she's flown everyone from U.S. senators to New York Times journalists and regular folks from Appalachia over the mountains.  Susan flew Jen Gilomen, Co-Director and Cinematographer of Deep Down, over portions of Virginia, Kentucky, and West Virginia on two occasions, pointing how much the landscape had changed in the months between the trips and giving Jen a chance to film a "birds eye view" of mountaintop removal mines.  The very first frames Jen shot for Deep Down was on the first flight, in June of 2007, and those shots also became the first frames of the film.

Discussion questions

  1. What is Susan's motivation for providing free flights over the Appalachian mountains to journalists and activists?
  2. What are some creative ways we can use our own talents (and interests) to improve the environment?
  3. How is mountaintop removal mining connected to air pollution? What are some effects of mountaintop removal mining on drinking water?
  4. Some people are of the opinion that the earth's resources will "grow back" in time. What is your opinion?
  5. Who is "responsible" for mountaintop removal mining?
  6. As consumers of electricity, what choices or options do we have?

Information sources: mountaintop removal
"Mining the Mountains," Smithsonian Magazine, January 2009 - an in-depth article at the practice and science behind mountaintop removal mining.
"EPA to Limit Water Pollution from Mining," New York Times, April 1, 2010 - an article about the Environmental Protection Agency's new guidelines.


Information sources: volunteerism
http://dosomething.org - a web site for teens giving them opportunities to act on causes they care about.
http://www.sparked.com - a web site that lets users do little volunteer projects from their mobile phones whenever they have a few spare minutes.

About SouthWings:  Susan was one of SouthWings' first pilots to take flight on volunteer missions, promoting environmental education from the skies.  Learn more about the amazing organization SouthWings at http://southwings.org.

About the People Power series: From the makers of Deep Down, People Power is a short documentary portrait series highlighting just a few Americans who are making a difference for the air, water, and mountains that we all share.  Learn more, and find your own people power at http://peoplepower.blip.tv.


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