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Mt. Pleasant's Ashley Funk stars in environmental film

| Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 9:39 p.m.
Mt. Pleasant Journal
Ashley Funk sifts coal waste through her hands to show affects of the coal mining industry in Western Pennsylvania while filming an environmental video during the summer of 2012. Submitted

Ashley Funk, 17, of Mt. Pleasant represents Pennsylvania in an iMatter film series to bring environmental issues to the attention of people across the nation.

Her passion for environmental issues sparked as a child growing up in Bridgeport with piles of coal waste behind her home as her playground left behind by mining companies years ago.

In the film, she speaks of how although mining hasn't occurred in the area for decades, the pollutants remain in areas of Bridgeport, Standard Shaft and Norvelt. The piles referred to as gobs or slate piles contain sulfuric acid.

It effected her so much that her life's goals are now focused on moving the country in the direction of a sustainable future.

“If you ever see an orange stream in our area, it's probably because a gob pile is nearby,” stated Funk.

The project came about as a result of her work with the RandomKid campaign when she was a junior at Mt. Pleasant Area High School. RandomKid enabled her to raise money for recycling bins at the school.

After a few months, she was approached my the iMatter Campaign representatives to get involved with their Atmospheric Trust Litigation. iMatter is a movement focused on youth across the country. The TRUST film series is a project of WITNESS, a video advocacy group; Our Children's Trust, a group dedicated to empowering youngest generation through legal action; and iMatter, a group of young activities who see climate changes as a critical human rights crisis affecting the youngest generation. Together, these groups work to give young people a voice at home, in their communities and on a national stage, noted Funk.

“I want to start making a change on a large scale as soon as possible, and the iMatter campaign has truly given me the resources to do that. Despite my young age, I am influencing environmental policy, and the feeling I get from that is incredibly rewarding,” explained Funk.

The film encourages people across the nation need to take action in order to reduce the effects on the environment. The primary focus in her video was to show that environmental health is intrinsically related to human health, according to Funk.

“If more people recognize this connection, citizens and policy makers will be more compelled to take action,” she stated.

Her video was filmed at various locations in Southwestern Pennsylvania. She, along with the film makers wanted to expand beyond Mt. Pleasant to better represent the state. The scenes focused on alternative energy to show how the state can move beyond its current dependence on fossil fuels.

Katie Gilbertson, a student in the MFA in Science and Natural History Filmmaking Program at Montana State University. Kelly Matheson, Witness's program manager for the Americans, directed, edited and produced the film.

The video is not available for purchase, however it can be viewed online at www.crowdrise.com/pennsylvania/fundraiser/ashleyfunk.

Kelly Vernon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-547-5722 or kvernon@tribweb.com.

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