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The Future of Appalachia

With the help of a dynamic group of academics, business leaders, and activists, Solutions has recently released a special issue dedicated to creating a brighter future for Appalachia. A new conversation is emerging in Central Appalachian coal country. Many groups are exploring how the region can grow a more diverse and more sustainable economy by reforesting barren mine lands, reclaiming rivers and streams, developing renewable energy industries, and supporting the region's many entrepreneurs. This discussion goes beyond the important goal of creating a restorative enterprise economy; it also includes investing in the region's social capital. Including a diverse range of perspectives, rich historical accounts, and detailed descriptions of solutions already in place on the ground, this Solutions special issue is Appalachia’s playbook for an economic and environmental transition.

All content will be available online at the Solutions website. Links to articles in the Appalachia special issue will be posted to this page, and we will encourage authors to use this forum to answer reader questions.

Look out for articles by Wendell Berry, Ecological Design expert John Todd, and Vernon Haltom of Coal River Mountain Watch.

As always, we welcome and encourage the involvement of our readers and invite you to use this online forum to contribute your own thoughts on the future of Appalachia.

A Step toward Fixing a County’s Economy

In this perspective article, Herb Smith discusses his family's history in Appalachia, and how the region's rich mineral resources have long been exploited to the detriment of local residents and the local economy. Read the article to learn about his proposed solutions.


Heartwood Reunion, Oct. 8-10, Paoli, Indiana

Please plan to join us for the Heartwood Reunion, October 8-10, at the Lazy Black Bear, in the gently rolling forested hills of southern Indiana. This year marks Heartwood’s twentieth year of existence, and to celebrate we will dedicate a significant portion of the weekend’s program to what the next twenty years might bring and what we can do individually and collectively to chart a course of ecological integrity, human comfort and satisfaction, and community well-being. Keynotes and workshops will explore what truly sustainable human communities in the Heartwood region might look like.

Major Lenders Hesistant to Fund Risky Extraction

Check out this New York Times piece on a shift in the financing of controversial and hazardous extraction of natural resources, namely coal and oil.

As a result of legal issues and allegations against banks who finance unsound environmental endeavors, such as mountain-top removal and deep drilling, several big lenders are deciding that the money to be earned is not worth the environmental cost.

The article can be found at:


Conventional Coal Wisdom Questioned

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to draw your attention to a great article in NatGeo: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/09/100908-energy-peak-coal/

It was also covered by the Charleston Gazette's Ken Ward in his Coal Tattoo blog: http://blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/2010/09/10/peak-coal-coming-even-s...

Understanding the finite nature of coal reserves is vital to advancing a transition conversation, so I'm glad to see this kind of questioning of conventional wisdom that coal will be powering our electric grid for decades to come.

Comments needed to protect Benham and Lynch

We wrote in the July/August issue of Solutions about the communities of Benham and Lynch, two former coal camps in southeastern Kentucky that are envisioning for themselves a future beyond coal. Unfortunately, several coal companies have set their sights on mining near the local water supply and near historic buildings that have been renovated for tourism. The latest is a 500-acre strip mining proposal that would come very close to historic buildings in Lynch. The Kentucky Department for Natural Resources is accepting comments on this proposed mining permit through Thursday, September 2.

Renew East Kentucky

Check out this Solutions article by Sara Pennington and Randy Wilson about a plan called Renew East Kentucky that would create thousands of jobs and help the Appalachian region transition to a more diverse economy.


Renew East Kentucky would be a five-year energy efficiency and renewable energy initiative to retool and expand the local workforce, build up local initiatives already in place, and more aggressively implement solutions to address the region’s infrastructure and economic challenges.

Religion and MTR

If there is something constructive to be gained from the anti-mosque, anti-Muslim fervor in middle Tennessee right now, it is the reminder that when it comes to matters of politics and policy in America, religion still carries tremendous influence.

Healing communities in lands damaged by resource extraction

Developing a complex of solutions through discipline of 'applied industrial ecology' and integrative planning/design, fully engaging an eco-centric and culturally compassionate worldview to repairing places we have collectively made to be environmental sacrifice zones. The Tar Creek Superfund area is largely inhabited by 8 Native American tribes, with most of the severely damaged land on that of a single tribe. Once extremely productive ecologically and biologically, the area can't even be developed by neighboring urbanizing communities (it's that bad).

Ready for a New Power

Read our story about the future of Benham and Lynch, two former coal towns in Eastern Kentucky that are working to create an economy that reaches beyond coal. With tourism and green energy projects well underway, they also must devote time and energy to preventing new mining that threatens their water supply.

Two Kentucky Towns Envision a Future Beyond Coal

Coal vs. Wind in West Virginia

Read this fascinating article in the New York Times about creating an alternative future for Coal River Mountain. Read how environmentalists are fighting to create a wind farm where a mountain-top removal project is currently planned.


Interview with Bill Becker: Sustainable Appalachia

Check out WMMT Mountain Community Radio's interview with Bill Becker, guest editor for our special issue on Appalachia: http://appalshop.org/wmmt/node/2109

Coal Executives Hoping to Pool Vast Resources to Defeat Chandler, Conway, Others

Several major coal companies appear to be working together to defeat anti-coal political candidates like Jack Conway and Ben Chandler. By creating a politically ative non-profit under Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code, they would be able to fund their causes by the millions, and would not be made to disclose their activities until they file tax returns—after the election. A letter written by Roger Nicholson, senior vice president and general counsel at International Coal Group, was obtained by the Lexington Herald-Leader, and outlined his plans to defeat anti-coal candidates and fund their efforts through this non-profit.

Read more here:


Activists Shut Down Highwall Miner

Read how several activists shut down a highwall miner on Coal River Mountain here:


Coal's New Focus on California

In their latest push, Appalachian coal interests have donated $60,000 to the US senate campaign of Republican Carly Fiorina. This comes as an effort to oust Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer. Doing so could help defeat California's cap-and-trade bill—one which could be a big threat to big coal. Read the full article by Josh Harkinson here:


The Return of the American Chestnut

How surface mines can help bring back the American chestnut: http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/688

Kentucky's Community Farm Alliance: From Growing Tobacco to Building the Good L.I.F.E.

Check out this new perspective on how the Community Farm Alliance worked to protect the livelihoods of small tobacco farmers in Kentucky: http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/698

Federal court reverses TVA emissions ruling

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday reversed a lower-court judge's order that the Tennessee Valley Authority install upgraded emission controls at several area coal-fired power plants. Judge Lacy Thornburg had ordered the upgraded emission controls, yet yesterday's ruling by Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III overturned her order, writing that allowing the ruling to stand would undermine the nation's regulatory scheme.

With Climate Bill Dead is Coal to Blame?

Today, senate democrats abandoned their plans to pass an energy bill that would cap emissions on carbon dioxide. Ken Ward Jr., writing for the blog Coal Tattoo discusses coal's involvement in this failed bill.


A Cooperative Approach to Renewing East Kentucky

In this feature article, authors Sarah Pennington and Randy Wilson discuss one part of the Appalachian Transition. This part, the Renew East Kentucky plan, pushes for an aggressive five-year initiative that would help create jobs, diversify the area's energy portfolio, and yield economic benefits.


Let Me Count the Ways …

In his Whole Earth Discipline, Stewart Brand overturns many of the key presuppositions of the environmental movement. Reviewed here:


The Future of Appalachia

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