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Documentary reveals environmental hazards of electricity

Kilowatt Ours is more than a documentary. In many ways, it's a personal quest. Filmmaker Jeff Barrie draws a link between the electricity he uses and the families of Appalachia, where electricity-producing coal is mined.

When the environmental documentary last screened in Charlotte, only about 60 people watched at the McColl Center, said June Blotnick, executive director of Carolinas Clean Air Coalition. Now, eight months later, local environmental activists hope filmmaker Jeff Barrie's conservationist message reaches not just the choir, but the congregation as well. Quite literally -- the screening is at Myers Park Baptist Church.

Several local churches are interested in stewardship of the earth as a Christian responsibility, Blotnick said. Nationally, two relatively liberal denominations -- the Presbyterian Church USA and the Unitarian Universalist Association -- passed resolutions condemning mountaintop removal, an environmentally hazardous method of coal mining.

One doesn't need to venture to Appalachia to find reasons to conserve energy. Although amounts of some pollutants have declined, Mecklenburg County's ozone levels still exceed federal standards by 4 percent, according to the county's 2006 State of the Environment report. Particulate matter pollution, which can increase risk of heart arrhythmia, heart attack, cancer and asthma, climbed above federal standards for the first time in 2005.

"We're all sort of connected through these electrical lines, and the more we learn about it -- other than just flipping on a switch and not thinking -- the more we can be responsible about our use of electricity and the people that produce it," Blotnick said.

Kilowatt Ours will be screened at 7pm Friday, July 21, at Myers Park Baptist Church. Admission is free.

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