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

Preserving Forests, Helping Appalachians

The good folks at Making Connections News have a great story on the Appalachian Carbon Partnership, a project of MACED's (along with Rural Action and Appalachian Sustainable Development). ACP helps forest owners in Central Appalachia preserve their forests for future generations by selling the carbon offsets their forests generate. Because forest stewardship can be costly - and many family forest owners cut their timber to pay pressing bills - offset payments can really make a difference. Here's what Making Connections has to say about their radio story: 

Central Appalachia loses more than 130 acres of forestland everyday, as economic pressures force families to clear their land.  Nearly 90 percent of forestland is privately owned and less than 5 percent of that land is under sustainable management. An innovative pilot program called the Appalachian Carbon Partnership is working to reverse this trend.  A project of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development  (MACED), in partnership with Appalachian Sustainable Development and Rural Action, ACP supports the practice of good forest management by selling carbon offsets that compensate landowners for the carbon sequestered in their trees each year. WMMT visited the Stickney Family in Estill County, KY, where they are sustainably managing their woodlands, and talked with various folks who support land and landowners by buying Appalachian Forest Offsets.

Listen to the whole radio story here.

McConnell Must Focus on Transition, not Rhetoric

by Ivy Brashear

Senator Mitch McConnell followed up his recent trip to eastern Kentucky with an editorial in the Hazard Herald that makes some interesting and misleading claims about coal mining in the region. Even more importantly, it avoids comment on the critical question we should all be asking: What are we going to do to build a new economy as coal in eastern Kentucky goes away?//www.appalachiantransition.net/sites/ati/files/images/depot%20by%20frank%20kehren.jpg/>
 
McConnell wrote that  “President Obama’s policies have raised energy rates, decreased domestic energy production, and cost jobs,” and that “a barrage” of EPA regulations has strangled the coal industry. After four years, he says, “it is clear this administration has declared war on coal.” 
 
Since this President was elected, his policies and the EPA have been blamed for the decline of coal. Yet serious and consistent evidence points to major changes in the economy of coal that deserve the primary blame. McConnell’s repeating of this “EPA is the problem” story continues to get in the way of the critical conversation about what is next for our economy.
 
The reasons for Appalachia’s coal-production decline are more complex and varied than McConnell lets on. The meteoric rise in natural gas production and the rapid decline of easily minable coal in Appalachia are certainly factors. Stricter EPA Clean Air Act regulation that drives utilities to shutter coal-fired power plants in favor of cleaner-burning natural gas plants also plays a role. The international coal market, which is growing fastest in Asia, relies heavily on western coal from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin because it takes less time to transport it to Asia. 
 
Recent data do show that production and employment in 2012 was down in eastern Kentucky mines, but the numbers also show that coal production and employment in western Kentucky mines actually slightly increased in 2012. If a war on coal actually were raging in Kentucky, then mines in the western half of the state would be experiencing employment and production casualties, too.
 
If a step is taken back from the “war on coal” debate, it’s clear to see all the tangible ways that Appalachia’s economy can be improved. 

Video: Justin Maxson on "Just Transition"

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth has been hard at work collecting video, photos and other material from the Appalachia's Bright Future conference. We want to share with you this clip from one of the plenaries, where MACED President Justin Maxson discusses what a just transition looks like. 

What do you think? What will it take to achieve a just transition to a diversified economy in Appalachia?

What's Appalachia For?

Though some of our politicians might disagree, we know Appalachia is more than just coal, and we know Appalachians can do more than mine it.  photo by Michael Quick of Michael's Photography de NamoursCoal is important, it's history and heritage, it's provided a purpose and a living for thousands through the decades, but its days are dwindling and no number of EPA permits will make our coal competitive with the price of Wyoming coal or Illinois basin coal or natural gas. There's an old saying, "Adapt or die," and at the Appalachia's Bright Future conference, we heard about different communities that either heeded or ignored that adage when their dominant industr fell on hard times. The Daily Yonder today featured an excellent report on the conference and the important lessons to be gleaned from other regions. Take the example of the fisheries in Newfoundland, closed by the Canadian government after being rampantly overfished:

“The way coal companies are treating retirees now [in Appalachia] sure sounds familiar,” [Brendan] Smith [a former cod fisherman] says.  He notes that these industries don’t understand the nature of work—or what work meant to these fishermen.  “Without jobs, they gave us checks. Money is great, I love money. But we lost our purpose.  We would spend that check to buy a brand new beautiful truck, and we’d drink ourselves to death while wishing we were out on the boat.” 
 
After the cod industry collapsed, people found replacement jobs.  They had a job at a call center selling seatbelts for pets.  “The jobs they are offering suck,” says Smith.  A proud fisherman doesn’t want to have to sell pet accessories to rich people, and a proud community—one that fueled the entire nation—doesn’t want to work over-the-counter jobs.  They think they are worth more.  They think their communities are worth more.  “We need jobs that allow us not only to feed our families, but also to feed our souls.”

Even More Press on Appalachia's Bright Future

In the week following the Appalachia's Bright Future conference, we've seen a lot of great media about the event. Here's a quick roundup of the latest.

From Making Connections News comes a radio story, "Building Appalachia's Bright Future:"

In late April, leaders from across eastern Kentucky and Central Appalachia came together in the heart of Harlan County, at the Harlan Convention Center, to talk about the future of mountain communities.  Called Appalachia’s Bright Future, the conference was sponsored by Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, and aimed to build a new conversation about the unique opportunities and challenges the region faces at this pivotal moment in time.  A common theme articulated throughout the event was that, as our counties face more lay-offs and an uncertain future, everyone needs to be a part of the conversation for what comes next.  Here we’ll share just a few of the many voices from the weekend. Click here to listen!

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