MARQUETTE - Lillian Heldreth of Marquette speaks passionately about the place where she grew up: Fayette County in the south central part of West Virginia.
Yet, while she tells of happy memories, a sad undertone is clearly audible.
"I'm afraid of losing it. I've seen my state raped, literally, by strip mining," the retired English and Native American Studies professor said. "The situation is so critical. About 500 mountains have already been removed from the Earth."
“Thoreau’s Legacy: American Stories about Global Warming,” a book of essays, was published by Penguin Classics and the nonprofit organization Union of Concerned Scientists.
Heldreth addressed her love and fear of her land, connected to global warming, in a personal essay called "An Appalachian Trail" that has been published in the anthology "Thoreau's Legacy: American Stories about Global Warming," published by Penguin Classics and the nonprofit organization Union of Concerned Scientists. Heldreth's essay was picked from among a thousand submissions about places, animals, plants, people and activities at risk from a changing climate. The book features 67 short pieces and contains a foreword by well-known author Barbara Kingsolver.
In her essay, Heldreth wrote about how the practice of mountain top removal to extract natural resources such as coal is threatening her family's 100-acre farm in West Virginia.
"Coal began global warming," she said. "Simply because it was the first fuel that was mass-used. Global warming is definitely happening and the coal companies know that the coal era is limited. They want to get out as much coal as they can."
Heldreth said the use of coal as a fuel has led to pollution and has heavily contributed to global warming. She added that now - with the world recognizing that burning coal pollutes - and with the rise of alternative energy such as wind, hydroelectric and solar power, coal companies feel threatened.
"Coal is so dirty and produces so much pollution that it's going to be the first thing to go," she said.
Heldreth said she has always been interested in the environment, especially geology, and she hopes that the articles in the anthology - written by ordinary people - will make an impact on others.
"It can help alert people that global warming is happening," she said. "It's normal people saying it's happening."
The new book is being offered for free online at www.ucsusa.org/americanstories, but will also be available in an eBook format and iPhone format as well as a limited-run hard copy edition.