Appalachian Transition is devoted to ideas for a more just, sustainable and prosperous future in Central Appalachia. We are at a critical moment in our region. The time has arrived to talk about the coming transition of our economy, workforce and communities. This site is a resource for that conversation.

Appalachian Transition Blog

Multimedia documentary project looks at Appalachia 50 years after "War on Poverty"

It's been 50 years since the "War on Poverty" was declared from an Appalachian front porch - how far have we come? How much farther do we have to go, and where, exactly, is our destination? Journalist Ralph B. Davis asks these questions of many prominent Appalachians in his new documentary "Appalachia 2050." 

‘Appalachia 2050′ is an effort find solutions to the region’s historic economic troubles and related problems. The project will interview leaders in a wide variety of fields to get their opinions on what must be done to lead the region to a successful future by the year 2050, as well as what a successful future might look like (e.g., Does success mean Appalachia should look like the rest of America, or does it mean something different that harnesses the unique culture of the region?).

While the modern mythology of Appalachia has prompted many journalists and filmmakers to explore the region’s historic problems with poverty, nearly every popular account of Appalachia has been undertaken by outsiders who focus their attention on the most glaring examples, rather than on the norm. As a result, residents of the region often bristle over what are perceived as slanted and stereotypical depictions of mountain residents as dirt-poor, uneducated, uncouth, potentially violent hillbillies. ‘Appalachia 2050′ will be unique as it will seek to obtain an honest and unflinching appraisal of where the region is economically, where it needs to go, and how it will get there, from those who live, work and lead their professions from within the region.

Coal Severance Controversy

Coal severance has been in the news quite a bit lately, raising questions about how it’s being used and who is benefiting. Earlier this month, it was revealed that Kentucky would be using $2.5 million in coal severance dollars to fund the renovation of the University of Kentucky’s Rupp Arena, despite the fact that Lexington produces no coal nor is it even in Appalachia. A public outcry led one coalfield senator who supported the expenditure to issue an op-ed explaining his decision, stating that a reworking of how the severance tax is allocated means that more money overall is going back to coalfield counties, so the $2.5 million was a “surplus.” (How there can be a "surplus" of funds when so many coalfield counties are just barely scraping by is a good question.)

The whole incident spurred some great commentary about who gets coal severance taxes and how they’re spent. “Has Eastern Kentucky had enough yet?” asked an editorial in the Hazard Herald, decrying the “outright theft” of badly-needed funds. The Lexington Herald-Leader called out some other questionable expenditures of severance tax funds – including Little League and football teams, as well as day-to-day county budget expenditures for which severance funds are supposed to be off-limits – and asked a bigger question: “Why is the potential for an economic reboot being squandered? And what would it take to spark reform?”

Video: Bringing Main Street Back

We're sharing with you today a video from MACED featuring a young entrepreneur from Hazard, KY. After moving home after college, Jennifer Noble felt like "an outsider," so she opened the Treehouse Cafe and Bakery as a place for folks to gather, promote the arts and share a healthy meal. "I hoped from the beginning that maybe opening a businesse of my own would inspire other people who had dreams of becoming what they want to be, that they can do it too," says Jennifer in the video. "If I can do it, anybody can do it.... You just have to do what makes you happy!"

Mark Your Calendars: "A Bright Economic Future for the Mountain State"

If you don't know what you're doing on September 4, you do now. You'll be in Charleston, WV for "A Bright Economic Future for the Mountain State," a one-day conference being put together by the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Here's the event description from the website, where you can also register (it's free!): 

Join Anne Barth of TechConnect, the Honorable Alan Mollohan, Charlotte Weber of the Robert C. Byrd Institute, Chris Yura of SustainU Clothing, and other speakers for a series of engaging and vital discussions of West Virginia's economic future.

In an effort to focus on moving West Virginia forward, the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy and the Union of Concerned Scientists will convene a forum seeking to spark an honest, objective, and open discussion about the potential for future economic development in the state. Our goals are threefold:

  • to provide a relaxed atmosphere for diverse perspectives and exchange of views;
  • to identify needs and pathways for moving the state forward; and
  • to celebrate the successes of local communities in creating new economic opportunities.

Attendees will include local community leaders, elected officials, industry executives, academics, policymakers, union leaders, and advocates.

The event will be held at the Walker Theater of the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences, One Clay Square, Charleston, WV, 25301.

"Love Can Build a Bridge"

What does it take to build a community of giving and support when it's in transition? According to a beautiful, thoughtful essay by Ethan Hamblin, an intern with the Foundation for Applachian Kentucky, it takes a love of place, a love of self, and a love of community. Three things that sound simple but in reality are far more complex and challenging. How can we build up these "loves of" in our own lives and towns? I've posted an excerpt from the essay below - be sure to go to the Babcock Foundation website to read the whole thing.

In December 1990 country music legends The Judds released their 22nd career single, “Love Can Build a Bridge.” The hit song’s lyrics encourage audiences to engage in acts of love that will inspire hope over despair and solidify justice and compassion.

As Appalachia continues to seek economic and social transition, there could be no greater means of empowerment than the call to action from “Love Can Build a Bridge.” Communities and individuals must dedicate themselves to “whisper love so loudly every heart could understand.” Through love-charged giving of our time, talent, and treasure we can actively pursue opportunity, eradicate social barriers, and build healthy, thriving communities for all people.

Love of Place

The greatest affection of a community is its sense of identity, its purpose or calling. Thus, the charge behind community-based action must be rooted in a strong sense of place. In simple terms: one must love a place to see it change.

Cultural organizers and grassroots movements within Appalachia have a long-standing commitment to place identity. However, businesses, schools, local governments, and private institutions must also sincerely invest in our community.  Loving a place is much more than an appreciation of culture and heritage, it involves actively giving for the betterment of the place.

As a place changes, so does its identity. Industry shifts, demographics flip-flop, and traditions change. Today, as Appalachia faces an economic transition, we must be willing to explore new possibilities, embracing what has been and what could be. Loving a place includes seeing it change and being present for that change.

Click here to keep reading. 

Photo of Hazard, KY by cindy47452 used under Creative Commons license.

Syndicate content