Together, We Can Choose A Different Future For Appalachian Communities

Over the course of my career, I have been humbled by what the people in the Ohio River Valley have given to me.

I recall those community members who kindly served me coffee made with bottled water because their wells had been compromised by the then-new fracking industry; gifts of home-grown fruit that ripened despite the adjacent coal ash disposal area blowing a thick dust over all adjoining properties; and donuts shared with retired mine workers as we stood in the cold demanding the benefits they earned putting their bodies on the line to line the pockets of their corporate bosses.

What I know to be true about the region is that the depth of character, work ethic, and commitment to community here is unparalleled, and it is time to give back to a region that has given us all so much.

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Appalachia’s New Day: Black Appalachian Young & Rising

History was made on the Pine Mountain Settlement School campus this November 2019, when the first ever Black Appalachian Young and Rising gathering was held there, bringing together more than 40 young African American Appalachians to discuss change-making in the region. The purpose of the gathering was to create a welcoming and safe space for Black youth in Central Appalachia, and to discuss challenges and opportunities in the region.

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$44,000 For An Ambulance, Hour-Long Drives To An ER: The Impossible Cost Of Healthcare In Appalachia

WHEN HEATHER EDWARDS’ CONTRACTIONS BEGAN THREE MONTHS EARLY, in March, she worried about the long drive to the hospital from her home nestled in the Appalachian Mountains in Jonesville, Va., a town of fewer than 1,000 people. Edwards, 32, was carrying quadruplets and hers was considered a high-risk pregnancy. The nearest hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) was an hour away in Kingsport, Tenn., Holston Valley Medical Center. A decade ago she could have found an emergency room, if not a NICU, 10 minutes up the road at Lee County Regional Medical Center in Pennington Gap, Va.,…

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It’s Not Just ‘Coal Country’ — What The History Of Women’s Labor Reveals About Appalachia

After the 2016 presidential election, many people in the United States sought to understand the rise of Trump through stories of rural America. Books like “Hillbilly Elegy” and “Strangers in Their Own Land” examined conservative communities as a way to explain the rise in right-wing politics. But for historian Jessie Wilkerson, who grew up in eastern Tennessee, there is something important missing from the stories that gained a spotlight after Donald Trump’s election.

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“We Have Stopped It For Another Year”: MVP Tree-Sit Hits Over 156 Days

Today marks 156 days since the beginning of the Yellow Finch tree sits, and a lot has changed since then. The forest around us has undergone seasonal changes, the trees have shed their leaves, and animals have become dormant for the winter months. The tree sits have endured a hurricane, snowstorms, high winds, and below freezing temperatures. But thanks to the tree sits, this hillside has been able to experience another winter, and another chance at rebirth come springtime. Thanks to the tree sits, there is currently one less forest degraded and destroyed for profit, one less forest ecosystem suffering from fragmented habitat and biodiversity loss. Thanks to the tree sits, there is still a thriving, functioning forest on the hillside above Yellow Finch Lane in Elliston, Va.

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From Appalachia To Germany: Anti-Capitalist Trees, People Power & Systemic Corruption

On the front lines of the fight against dirty energy – worldwide. First up, some great news from West Virginia and Virginia – taking time to celebrate these victories while taking a look at the corrupted agencies playing into the hands of big oil and gas. Next, a powerful weekend in the Hambach Forest of Germany – where the fight against the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel continues on a large and creative scale.

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Land Of Extraction: How The Carceral Institution Settled In Central Appalachia

Driving the roads of any small coal town settled within the central Appalachian Mountains, it is easy to see the beauty of the landscape. However, this beauty is concealed by lasting embodiments of capitalist ideals, including rusting coal tipples or large swaths of mountains destroyed by mountain top removal mining, built on the bodies of the region’s inhabitants who have been continually abandoned and exploited. Well documented is the level of destruction and exploitation residents continue to face following over a century of reliance on the coal industry. Less evident is the alarming shift in the idea of “extraction” taking place. As mining operations in the area continue to fade, prisons now fill the void. This expansion furthers a level of labor exploitation documented since the earliest days of colonial practices in the United States.

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In Appalachia, Women Put Their Bodies On The Line For The Land

Women turn to environmental activism later in life due to health concerns, deep community investments, and, according to 75-year-old Peggy Gish, because they have “more freedom to get around, to have time—to get arrested!” Ollie Combs, a 61-year-old widow in Knott County, Kentucky, sat in front of bulldozers with her two sons at her side. It was 1965. Determined to not let the coal industry strip-mine her family land, she remained unmoved; officials were forced to physically carry her away—an image that drew national attention. So did, more recently, the story of Theresa “Red” Terry, a 61-year-old Roanoke County, Virginia, resident. In 2018, Terry lived in a “tree sit” alongside her grown daughter for more than a month, protesting the Mountain Valley Pipeline construction through her private property.

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A Young Tree Sitter Starves In A Tent 50 Feet High To Stop A Pipeline

When a young girl got up in a monopod tent with limited food to prevent construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) back in March, she had no idea the movement her action would spark. A 61 year-old woman, “Red” Terry, would soon join the effort by climbing her own tree and making national news as police denied her food and water. Last Saturday, “Red” Terry told Police at the base of her maple tree that she was running out of food. Law enforcement looked back up at the 61-year old woman in her treehouse and said they would give her what she needed. They gave her stale cookies and a sandwich. Then law enforcement taped a piece of paper to her tree saying, “You should vacate immediately. I am posting a copy of the order on this tree.”

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The South’s Pipe Dreams

The largest gas field in the world lies deep below the shimmering Persian Gulf, surrounded on all sides by wealthy OPEC nations. The second-largest sits largely beneath rural Appalachia. And as political opposition to fracking and pipelines builds in the Northeast, that gas glut is increasingly heading one direction: south. Once fueled by the nearby mountain coal mines, the South is set to become one of the biggest benefactors of America’s natural gas boom. But first, the region will have to build the pipelines to transport it. “If you look at the numbers this whole (Appalachian) region would be the second-largest gas producing country in the world,” says Akos Losz, a research analyst at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy. “One way or another, gas has to find a way out of this region and the Southeast is one of the natural destination markets.”

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I’m An Eagle Scout, And I Don’t Want Pipelines In My Wilderness

Troop 149, an enthusiastic and lively troop from Arlington, made me the person I am today. Being a member of Troop 149 meant a lot of things, but most importantly it meant incredible outdoor expeditions on the Appalachian Trail. The Appalachian Trail, a treasured 2,200-mile hiking trail that traverses the Appalachian Mountains, was a mainstay of my youth. I spent countless hours and made lots of memories on the trail — learning how to cook on a smoky campfire, leaving my tent to greet the crisp morning air, watching the sun dip below the mountains after a long day of backpacking. I wouldn’t trade these memories for anything. My visits to the Appalachian Trail became more infrequent as I got older and my Scouting career came to a close. I shipped off to a college on Virginia’s coast, far away from the mountains. Even as I grew older and busier, I found myself longing to be back out on that well-worn trail.

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100-Year Capitalist Experiment Keeps Appalachia Poor & Stuck On Coal

The first time Nick Mullins entered Deep Mine 26, a coal mine in southwestern Virginia, the irony hit him hard. Once, his ancestors had owned the coal-seamed cavern that he was now descending into, his trainee miner hard-hat secure. His people had settled the Clintwood and George’s Fork area, along the Appalachian edge of southern Virginia, in the early 17th century. Around the turn of the 1900s, smooth-talking land agents from back east swept through the area, coaxing mountain people into selling the rights to the ground beneath them for cheap. One of Mullins’ ancestors received 12 rifles and 13 hogs—one apiece for each of his children, plus a hog for himself—in exchange for the rights to land that has since produced billions of dollars worth of coal.

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This Proposed Pipeline Would Cut Right Through The Appalachian Trail

By Hilary Hanson for The Huffington Post – Environmental groups are voicing opposition to a proposed natural gas pipeline that would cut across the Appalachian Trail in Virginia and require clearing a previously protected corridor of forest. The Mountain Valley Pipeline would transport natural gas from northwest West Virginia to southern Virginia, according to The Wilderness Society, which published an editorial this week saying the pipeline would set a “dangerous precedent.” That’s because construction would involve clearing a 125-foot-wide section that would cross 3.4 miles of forest protected under the Forest Service’s “roadless rule ― litigation meant to protect lands from road construction and logging.

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Coal Industry In Collapse, Mountains Not Coming Back

By Laura Gottesdiener in Tom Dispatch – In Appalachia, explosions have leveled the mountain tops into perfect race tracks for Ryan Hensley’s all-terrain vehicle (ATV). At least, that’s how the 14-year-old sees the barren expanses of dirt that stretch for miles atop the hills surrounding his home in the former coal town of Whitesville, West Virginia.

“They’re going to blast that one next,” he says, pointing to a peak in the distance. He’s referring to a process known as “mountain-top removal,” in which coal companies use explosives to blast away hundreds of feet of rock in order to unearth underground seams of coal.

“And then it’ll be just blank space,” he adds. “Like the Taylor Swift song.”

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Week Of Actions For Climate Justice In Appalachia

While much of the national climate movement has focused on gearing up towards the People’s Climate March in New York City later this month, frontline communities in Appalachia have been working hard at the local and regional level to address climate justice issues at the source.

“Our people have been producing energy for this nation for over 100 years. We are proud of our heritage. But we can’t stay stuck in time,” said Teri Blanton, a long time organizer with Kentuckians For The Commonwealth and The Alliance for Appalachia. “In Appalachia we’ve already seen what climate change can do — denuded and destroyed landscapes, poisoned water and a corrupt political system — it’s all together and it’s all connected. We have seen first hand that what they do to the land, they do to the people.”

One of the key issues Appalachian leaders are organizing communities around is water pollution; lack of access to safe water has been an issue for decades in the region, a grim irony considering the area is a temperate rainforest.

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