Appalachia won’t be thrown under the bus in a side deal to climate legislation. That’s why we’re going to the capital this week, for the “Appalachian Resistance Comes to DC“ rally, on September 8. Our message: we’re done with being a sacrifice zone. If you care about climate, you’ve got to care about us too. It’s the right thing to do. And it’s also the only way we can get better climate policies going forward. The wheelers and dealers who negotiated the Inflation Reduction Act need to work with those of us on the ground who lead this fight, rather than against us. The side deal proposed by Senator Joe Manchin includes the undermining of laws that protect us from the fossil fuel industry.
The birthplace of bluegrass and home to the oldest mountain range east of the Mississippi River, Southern Appalachia is not only fertile soil for the sharing economy, but a co-op-driven movement known as the solidarity economy. Aimed at generating locally rooted wealth and ensuring its equitable distribution, the solidarity economy is fiercely democratic. For Sara Chester, co-executive director and founder of The Industrial Commons (TIC), a 501(c)3 organization that fosters employee ownership, in a solidarity economy “workers are appreciated not just for their labor but their ideas, insights, and innovations. Workers are not just a piece of the business, they are the reason the business exists.” Sometimes referred to as the co-op model, this approach is about creating prosperous and resilient communities by emphasizing worker agency and ownership, environmental sustainability, and the value of place.
I have met so many people through this fight,” says Nancy Bouldin of Monroe County, West Virginia. “If you look at any benefits of all this, it’s the people and the connections that have been made.” When Bouldin says, “all this,” she refers to the years-long battle communities across West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina have waged against the Mountain Valley Pipeline and its proposed Southgate extension. When Bouldin and fellow organizers Lynda Majors and Donna Pitt met for a discussion via Zoom in March of 2022, the MVP’s prospects seemed dim. Originally priced at $3.7 billion, the MVP’s costs have ballooned to over $6.2 billion, the project is over three years behind schedule and has faced millions of dollars in fines for violations of clean water protections. A number of recent legal setbacks
Activists just completed the "Walk for Appalachia's Future" through West Virginia, North Carolina and Virginia to highlight the impacts of fossil fuel extraction on communities and the land. At each stop, they held events with local activists to learn about their struggles and make broader connections. The Appalachian region is a sacrifice zone - rich in mineral wealth that is extracted by large corporations without benefit to the people. West Virginia is the fifth poorest state in the US with low education attainment and high rates of physical and mental diseases. Clearing the FOG speaks with two organizers of the walk, Maury Johnson and Melinda Tuhus, about the conditions that led to organizing the walk and what they have learned along the way as well as the people's vision for the region.
A fossil fuel executive recently told Fortune, “Appalachia is the elephant in the room,” referring to the claim that demand for natural gas is rising, while supply in Appalachia and the United States is falling. Such corporate executives would like to see expansion of production in order to bail out their dying industry. And Fortune’s interviewee is right. Appalachia is the elephant in the room. We need to talk more about the role of Appalachia in the country’s energy system. But what he gets wrong is that the future does not entail further dependence on fossil fuels. The future that Appalachia can and will lead is in renewable energy. For over a century, this region has powered the country’s growth with our natural resources, including coal, gas, and oil.
The growing movement for regeneration offers a much needed reframe of how to fully show up in our humanity at this critical moment in our planet’s history. We need to move beyond incremental change and a narrowed fixation on reducing our carbon footprint. We cannot treat social injustices and ecological crises as separate, unrelated phenomena. Nor can we surrender to despair and distraction, or waste time on projects that make us feel good but lack deeper impact. The task at hand—our great calling—is to simultaneously regenerate our ecosystems AND integrate the design of new social and economic systems that can truly center and support life. At a foundational level, this ambitious project of regeneration requires us to RESIST or stop destruction, repair harm, and reimagine our world, our communities, and the systems upon which we depend.
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.
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.
$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.,...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”