The Appalachian Mountains are ancient — 350 million years old. They are home to a variety of ecosystems and one of the most biodiverse areas of North America, home to endangered species like the rusty-patched bumble bee and red-cockaded woodpecker, as well as rare species of salamanders.
They are, of course, also filled with coal. The region has relied on coal for more than a century, leading to the extraction of wealth at the expense of health for laborers and nearby communities. Rates of black lung disease are surging among younger miners, and communities that often lack access to healthcare suffer higher rates of chronic pulmonary disorders, cancers, and development delays in children. Communities and waterways have been decimated, and these conditions will only be made worse as the climate changes: higher temperatures and more severe floods and droughts could worsen the region’s economy.
For decades, Appalachian activists and organizations have been organizing around sustainable economic development, cleanup of poisoned land and waterways, and access to healthcare. Southerly is telling the story of economic transition and environmental justice in West Virginia, southwest Virginia, eastern Tennessee, and eastern Kentucky. If you have a story tip or an issue you want to see covered, contact us using this tip form.
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- Appalachia is transitioning from coal. Here’s what it could learn from Germany.
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The bankruptcy could signal a new environmental and economic crisis in central Appalachia, where many coal companies have failed to reclaim former mine sites.
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Sharp drops in coal severance tax revenue have led to a massive funding gap for education, infrastructure, and law enforcement.