As the leaders of Save Our Allegheny Ridges, Laura and Mike Jackson have dedicated the past 2-1/2 years to preserving and protecting the state’s mountains, especially as developers work to place wind turbines throughout the region.
Between extensive research and meetings several times a month, the Jacksons dedicate a lot of time to SOAR, which now boasts 350 members, mostly people from the community concerned about noise or wildlife issues associated with the turbines.
“We’ve seen a lot of people come and go on this thing in the last two or so years,” Mike said. “They get really fired up, but people have families, jobs, lives. We do, too; it’s just something we feel so strongly about that we have to keep working on it.’’
Laura said the couple got interested when people started signing leases on Evitts Mountain. The first SOAR meeting was held in April 2006, although the issue of wind turbines has been around for several years.
‘‘If we had lived in Somerset, SOAR would have been in existence longer,’’ Laura said. ‘‘You don’t really know too much until it hits home. Then you start your research.’’
Critics of SOAR and the Jacksons’ work sometimes accuse them of being too “NIMBY” – Not in My Back Yard.
The Jacksons shrug it off, however, and focus on the facts.
‘‘If you don’t protect your backyard, then who’s going to do it?’’ Laura said.
One of the main problems the Jacksons find in the proposed 350 miles of turbines along Pennsylvania’s ridges is the claims by wind companies to be a clean and green industry.
‘‘They say wind is free and renewable,’’ Laura said. ‘‘That doesn’t mean the industry is clean and green. That’s what a lot of people don’t recognize.’’
Instead, the Jacksons focus on little things that can make a difference – using fluorescent light bulbs instead of incandescent, buying EnergyStar products, driving economically.
‘‘Once that level has been reached, then we can focus on different types of energy,’’ Laura said, citing major breakthroughs in solar technology as an energy alternative.
‘‘Within the next few years, we hope to see some other techniques available. We have to do something. There’s just so many things that can be done instead of putting these huge monsters into the sky.’’
For more information on SOAR, visit www.saveouralleghenyridges.com.
Name: Laura Jackson
Education: Master’s degree in science education
Title: Co-director of Save Our Allegheny Ridges; part-time job as director of Bedford Elementary School’s Environmental Center; former teacher
Name: Mike Jackson
Education: Master’s degree in elementary education
Title: Co-director of SOAR; former teacher
By Wendy McCardle
11 February 2008
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