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Healing Appalachia

Healing Appalachia: Sustainable Living through Appropriate Technology

Al Fritsch
Paul Gallimore
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 456
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  • Book Info
    Healing Appalachia
    Book Description:

    Healing Appalachia is a practical guide for environmentally conscious residents of Appalachia and beyond. It is also the first book to apply "appropriate technology," or the most basic technology that can effectively achieve the desired result, to this specific region. Authors Al Fritsch and Paul Gallimore have performed over 200 environmental resource assessments in thirty-three states. They bring this knowledge to bear as they examine thirty low-cost, people-friendly, and environmentally benign appropriate technologies that can be put to work today in Appalachia. They discuss such issues as renewable energy and energy conservation, food preservation and gardening, forest management, land use, transportation, water conservation, proper waste disposal, and wildlife protection. They pay close attention to the practicality of each technique according to affordability, ease of use, and ecological soundness. Their subjects range from solar home heating to greenhouses, from aquaculture to compost toilets, from organic gardening to wildlife restoration and enhancement, and from solar cars to microhydropower facilities. Their discussions of each topic benefit from the knowledge gained from thirty years of practical experience at environmental demonstration centers and public interest and educational organizations. Each section of the book includes details on construction and maintenance, as well as resources for locating further information, making this an essential volume for everyone who cares about the future of Appalachia.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7217-0
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    The Kentucky hills have enchanted me from my earliest youth.¹ I had to help with farm chores, including milking, from age six. Often during these years I would look out of the cow parlor to the east and see the rising sun over the wooded Appalachians in Lewis and Fleming counties. That sight of the sunrise over the hills is deeply ingrained in my memory. I came to love the Appalachian highlands and felt a call to always regard the valleys and coves of this part of America as home. With time I saw the devastation of these mountains by...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Solar Photovoltaics
    (pp. 27-37)

    Many applications of photovoltaics (PVs) are touched upon in this chapter: domestic electricity, energy-conserving lighting, PV accessories such as water pumps, and “net metering,” a procedure for integrating solar-generated energy into an electric grid system, thus reducing the cost of self-contained solar systems. Other chapters deal with such topics as passive solar heating of residences, greenhouses and other seasonal extenders, heating water and cooking, and solar-charged electric cars.

    ASPI (Appalachia–Science in the Public Interest) has three separate PV systems, one on its solar house, one on the nature center, and one system for the office. The office system was...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Microhydropower
    (pp. 38-47)

    From earliest times, diverting water for irrigation allowed indigenous peoples to expand food growing into drier areas. Flowing water has been tapped for power for grinding grain and later for mechanical uses such as sawmills. As Norman Brown notes in his bookRenewable Energy Resources and Rural Applications in the Developing World, the history of small-scale hydropower development can provide many useful ideas on how to aid rural areas of developing countries with water power potential to better provide for their basic needs. In the beginning, waterwheels were able to convert the flow of water into mechanical energy; later the...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Wind Power
    (pp. 48-58)

    Wind power is far from new. In the seventeenth century, England had ten thousand windmills of 10 to 20 horsepower each; in the same period, twelve thousand wind machines were operating in the Netherlands, primarily to reclaim inundated cropland.¹ In the nineteenth century, American wind devices were mostly found on the prairie and on individual farms, where they pumped water for livestock. Many of these devices survived even after cheap rural electrification programs, and some workable relics remain today. Even though the technology of these early devices and those of ancient Dutch windmills was notoriously inefficient, the devices were reliable...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Wood Heating
    (pp. 59-69)

    Wood, like solar and wind energy, is renewable and may be an Earth-friendly secondary heat source. The wood user feels a certain control over the heat source, especially when public utilities falter and fail. Burning wood gives a sense of coziness and satisfies the basic human instinct to be mesmerized by fire. The sight of wood smoke curling in the winter valley and the smell of wood smoke have been cherished for centuries, but in recent times, as those good sights and smells give way to signs of air pollution, wood burning has lost some of its aura of Earth-friendliness....

  10. CHAPTER 5 Solar Heating Applications
    (pp. 70-78)

    Sunshine is in plentiful supply in Appalachia much of the year. As of now, solar energy is free for all to use. It warms the Earth and delights our souls, allows plants to grow, and gives us light by day. In solar heating applications, the basic methodology is to capture the sun’s rays, convert them to heat, and retain that heat as long as possible through heat-storage systems and specific conservation measures.

    Solar energy offers several general advantages:

    Once the application is built, there are no additional fuel bills, for solar energy is free.

    The energy is renewable and comes...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Shade Trees and Windbreaks
    (pp. 79-88)

    The most natural and aesthetic way to cut cooling and heating costs for Appalachian buildings is to plant and maintain exterior vegetative cover. This involves selection and nurturing of properly placed trees, shrubs, vines, or other dense vegetative growth, as exemplified in the ASPI nature center shown in figure 6.1. Energy-conserving landscaping can play a major role in domestic resource management and is a natural complement to the benefits from overall building insulation and weather stripping around windows and doors. Designing for energy conservation in the landscape is a beneficial extension of our desire to step a little more lightly...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Food Preservation
    (pp. 89-99)

    American gardeners are skilled in growing bountiful crops of nutritious produce, but so often plenty comes all at once in late summer or early autumn. The bounty means giveaways to neighbors, relatives, and the needy—and still there are extra beans, corn, squash, tomatoes, or another crop that was overplanted. Some growers are tempted to follow the example of pragmatic ancestors and squirrel away goodies for winter when fresh produce is scarce. These forebears dried, stored in the ground or root cellars, or preserved foods through smoking, canning, or pickling. In hindsight, we discover that their goals were more than...

  13. CHAPTER 8 Edible Landscaping
    (pp. 100-112)

    The lawns around Appalachian homes often look like those in most other parts of America, although they may be smaller, because of limited space. They are decorative but not necessarily beautiful. What is often overlooked is that lawn space can be beautiful when turned into edible landscape. In place of decorative lawns the same land can be used both for recreation and for growing fruit, vegetables, herbs, nuts, and berries. Sitting and conversing is often done on a porch; kids play in the yard.

    Growing a lawn is keeping up with the Joneses, for it is the ultimate sign of...

  14. CHAPTER 9 Intensive and Organic Gardening and Orcharding
    (pp. 113-123)

    Inhabitants of parts of rural Appalachia suffer during winter from lack of fresh, nutritious produce; many urban and rural poor areas also lack sufficient gardening space. In place of healthy food one often finds a high percentage of shelf space in Appalachian food stores devoted to junk food loaded with excess salt, saturated fat, and processed sugar. Obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are epidemic in this and other low-income regions. All too often it is heard that people are “meat and potatoes” folks who never eat salads or fresh produce. State and local governments are beginning to recognize the dangers...

  15. CHAPTER 10 Regional Heritage Plants
    (pp. 124-133)

    It is no accident that the Cherokee refer to the southern Appalachian mountains as “the birthplace of all the plant people.” The genetic material passed on in plants and animals through generations is an evolutionary heritage, a natural equivalent to sacred songs, ceremonial dances, and the solemn passing down of cultural traditions on the human level. Nature in an unheralded manner passes on its tradition through a tortuous process of sorting out living forms that could survive under specific environmental conditions of soil, climate, and unusual weather conditions. The wild animals (see chapter 12) and plants have survived and thrived...

  16. CHAPTER 11 Solar Greenhouses and Season Extenders
    (pp. 134-147)

    Solar greenhouses are fascinating models of energy and food self-reliance in different parts of Appalachia, merging food production and heat energy production into aesthetically pleasing architectural creations. When attached to existing buildings, these greenhouses are able to share their surplus heat during winter months with the adjacent space. Thus they have the potential to convert these combined structures into functional bioshelters that share warmth, oxygen, and food.

    Appalachia has a growing number of greenhouses and other types of seasonal extenders (created environments for protecting plants at each end of the growing season). These are used mainly for growing produce and...

  17. CHAPTER 12 Wildlife Habitat Restoration
    (pp. 148-159)

    Wildlife has been struggling to hold on to its habitat in many parts of America; the demise of the passenger pigeon and the destruction of the bison herds on the Great Plains apparently were not strong enough warning examples, although some groups sprang up to advocate conservation and preservation. Wildlife groups followed in the wake of conservationist movements of the early twentieth century. The Audubon Society campaigned successfully to stop killing birds for hat plumage; the Sierra Club developed tours to see national wonders; wilderness areas and national parks were created by legislation. The advent of the World Wildlife Fund...

  18. CHAPTER 13 Nontimber Forest Products
    (pp. 160-169)

    Applying appropriate technological concepts to Appalachian forests involves the choice of what is to be harvested or removed (this chapter) and actual harvesting practices (see chapters 14 and 15). Let’s review the types of nontimber forest products (NTFP) and discuss decision-making processes related to their gathering and use.

    A recent scientific publication on NTFP neglects even to mention the most important Appalachian forest product: the experience that visitors enjoy when using the scenic forest for recreation. Forests can be observed by the visitor, camped and hiked in, climbed over, traversed by bike, water tube, boat, or motorized vehicle, or just...

  19. CHAPTER 14 Silvicultural Practices
    (pp. 170-179)

    Trees are a critical resource, and any action that diminishes their health and well-being is an attack on the vitality of Earth itself. Trees may appear robust on an individual basis but be part of a forested community that suffers from neglect; unsustainable harvesting practices; fragmentation through highways, development, and logging roads; introduction of invasive exotic plant species and insect pests; and private clearing.

    Anglo-Saxon land-use practices have influenced our forest-related attitudes. In old England, a forest was residual land too poor to plow and cultivate. Arable lands were highly esteemed, whereas forests were regarded as wastelands. English colonists brought...

  20. CHAPTER 15 Wildcrafting
    (pp. 180-195)

    Wildcrafting is the practice of gathering or extracting specific native plants or parts of those plants (seeds, stems, leaves, roots) for practical purposes—processing, selling, or utilizing them for one’s livelihood. This is a general definition; the term is not found inWebster’s New World Dictionary, but it is defined in legal, economic, and political documents and discourse within and outside wildcrafting regions like Appalachia. The person who performs wildcrafting, a wildcrafter, is often a local resident of limited financial means or a hobbyist who spends a certain time each year gathering wild plants for collection or processing.

    What makes...

  21. CHAPTER 16 Constructed or Artificial Wetlands
    (pp. 196-206)

    Eastern America has suffered from a sizable loss of its natural wetlands and bogs in the past two centuries. Some estimate that as much as 60 percent of American wetlands were destroyed during the period of major European settlement. The destruction has occurred through ditching for agricultural drainage, road building, and other development projects. During much of this time settlers thought of wetlands as waste areas, prime candidates for human conquest. Thus the swamps were drained and cleared to rid the landscape of snakes and mosquitoes and other undesirable varmints and to render it fit for human settlement. During recent...

  22. CHAPTER 17 Land Reclamation with Native Species
    (pp. 207-216)

    Appalachia has suffered much from various forms of land disturbance, which have included farming on steep slopes, overharvesting of timber, and the surface mining of coal. As a result, the land is prone to severe flooding because of the removal of the sponge of the forest cushion, landslides, drops in the water table, the fracturing of aquifers, major erosion, and siltation of streams and rivers. The life of mountain communities has also been disrupted in these land-disturbed areas because Appalachian people and the land on which they reside are so intimately connected. To hurt the Earth is to hurt its...

  23. CHAPTER 18 Retreat Cabin Sites
    (pp. 217-227)

    The need for rest and reflection is a basic component of the psychic and spiritual health of all who seek to be Earth-friendly. Those of us who see the importance of a wholesome environment for a good quality of life realize that we need an ecologically sound atmosphere where we can meditate, pray, come into balance with nature, and refresh our souls. We do not deny that some who are forced to sustain their spiritual balance in extreme poverty or in prisons can find peace of soul under extraordinary circumstances. Normally, though, people seek simple places to which to retreat...

  24. CHAPTER 19 Energy-Efficient Passive Solar Design
    (pp. 228-237)

    This chapter deals specifically with solar shelters; others deal with solar-generated electricity, space/water heating, and gardening. Low-cost residential shelters can be built by individuals who want to be free of mortgage and energy bills while enjoying comfort, coziness, and environmental harmony. Solarized structures in the temperate zones, whether residences or institutional buildings, provide warmth in winter and natural cooling in summer. The better the building is situated, constructed, glazed, designed, and fitted with thermal mass for heat retention, ventilation, and insulation, the more comfortable, low-cost, and easily maintained it will be.

    In the Northern Hemisphere, the ideal solar house is...

  25. CHAPTER 20 Natural Cooling
    (pp. 238-251)

    Before the advent of mechanical air-conditioning, natural cooling techniques were used in residential construction as a matter of course in Appalachia. Higher elevations of the region were cooler and became a favored destination during hot, muggy summer seasons. Virtually no residence at higher elevations with some natural shading requires mechanical cooling at any time of the year.

    The 2003 heat wave in France killed over ten thousand mostly older citizens. Temperatures were extraordinary for western Europe; thus many Europeans are now considering air-conditioning motels and homes. American domestic cooling is a major modern energy expenditure and results in summer electric...

  26. CHAPTER 21 Native Building Materials
    (pp. 252-275)

    A basic appropriate technology principle is to construct with materials that are close at hand. Importing marble to build a Taj Mahal may be an activity of the superrich, but in some ways, modern American culture imitates this practice by choosing to use imported (nonlocal) plastic, siding, asphalt roofing, and particleboard. Is it any different for those who seek to be environmentally conscious but import building materials from distant places (e.g., straw bales in humid Appalachia from distant, drier regions)? Our efforts should be concentrated on obtaining materials from local sources and processors who use local materials, including wood (see...

  27. CHAPTER 22 Cordwood Structures
    (pp. 276-285)

    Rural America, especially in the forested eastern portion, has used its native wood for a wide variety of building purposes: redoak-framed tobacco barns, chestnut-sided homes, and cedar shake roofs. While some of these have passed, or are passing, from the scene, native wood is still available and is a long-lasting building material when protected; it continues to be in favor in home construction.

    Widely used in the abundant forests of Scandinavia, the log cabin came early to Colonial America and has remained a relatively popular style, with many such structures continuing to dot the Appalachian and eastern American landscape. A...

  28. CHAPTER 23 Yurts in Appalachia
    (pp. 286-295)

    The yurt, a circular domestic dwelling (house or tent), is traditionally found on the rural steppes of Mongolia. In that part of the world the structures are made from animal skins and poles and held together by cords wrapped around the circumference of the building just below the eaves. The cords hold the walls and roofing rafters firmly in position, much like barrel hoops hold staves in place. Thus the yurt is as rigid as any traditionally framed building but made in a far simpler manner. For Mongolians, this structure is either permanent or temporary and was the only known...

  29. CHAPTER 24 Simple Modes of Transportation
    (pp. 296-307)

    Transportation is the most difficult Appalachian appropriate technology area to treat. Older transportation modes and networks (footpaths and rural roads) are not appropriate for modern needs; modern road conditions are unsafe for biking and walking; and cars and trucks use too many resources. Any choice we make seems to compromise our growing sense of appropriateness. We realize that improvements in the transportation systems in this region—the return of passenger trains, the creation of bike and pedestrian lanes—will demand coordinated policy efforts and not simply attempts by single individuals.

    Appalachian residents have always moved about, using different modes of...

  30. CHAPTER 25 Composting and Vermicomposting
    (pp. 308-318)

    Composting is the process of recycling discarded organic materials in a natural manner so that they will return quickly to humus, which can be used to assist plant growth. Compost, a product of the action of microorganisms on organic matter, is a dark, friable material similar to the dark portion of untilled soil. The process of creating compost has been known for thousands of years; even the Roman Cato realized that compost materials enhance the fertility of soil. Nature’s resurrection cycle is constantly composting organic “wastes” and returning them to living things. A good example with which all are familiar...

  31. CHAPTER 26 Composting Toilets
    (pp. 319-330)

    Appalachia is home to one appropriate technology practice that has immense potential in all parts of the world, especially in sparsely populated areas where sewer systems are quite expensive and in areas where leach field percolation is difficult or impossible.

    Compost toilets process human waste into a nutrient-rich fertilizer for use as a soil amendment. Risks associated with water-borne waste disposal, including contamination of ground and surface waters and the spread of disease-causing bacteria, are virtually eliminated by the aerobic decomposition of waste material in the closed-container composting toilet, where temperatures, oxygen, moisture, and carbon-nitrogen ratios are properly controlled.


  32. CHAPTER 27 Recycled, Salvaged, and Deconstructed Materials
    (pp. 331-339)

    A critical component of being Earth-friendly is to respect materials and treat them properly. Recycling gives more life to used materials that might otherwise be discarded. But isn’t it correct that nothing can be totally discarded on Earth? Affluent people sometimes act as though what they throw away no longer exists, although it may impose burdens on the less affluent who have to deal with it. There is a mind-set that regards recycling as a type of child’s play, junk as always existing elsewhere, and waste as a necessity. Actually, from an Earth-friendly standpoint,recyclingis a necessity,junkis...

  33. CHAPTER 28 Ponds and Aquaculture
    (pp. 340-349)

    Large and small bodies of water are essential for American rural communities. They provide flood control, recreational opportunities, potable water reserves, dependable barge transportation, some hydroelectric power, and aquatic life. For instance, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) lakes, along with private and public lakes, provide these advantages for residents and visitors alike. Larger impounded water bodies, such as the TVA lakes, have certain benefits, even though ecologists point out that such impoundments can have negative effects on watersheds (e.g., lack of fish movement, loss of mussel diversity, and siltation problems). These lakes are very popular tourist attractions, although some naturalists...

  34. CHAPTER 29 Cisterns and Water Catchments
    (pp. 350-360)

    Appalachia, like much of eastern rural America, has known the benefits of cisterns from the time of pioneer settlements, even though springs and wells were the principal sources of domestic drinking water. These cisterns, when protected from surface contaminants, provided a dependable source of water, especially during dry times. Today, cisterns remain a source of drinking water for humans and pets and of water for watering small gardens, refilling fish tanks, and washing vehicles. Municipal water is bad for gardens and houseplants.

    Cisterns are usually fashioned from rock, masonry, metal, or plastic-enclosed tanks built either aboveground or partly or totally...

  35. CHAPTER 30 Irrigation and Water Conservation
    (pp. 361-370)

    In normal years central Appalachia is blessed with about 47 or more inches of rainfall, ample for most domestic and commercial needs in the region. However, the people of Appalachia descend from pioneers who labored to carry buckets of precious drinking and washing water from a spring or hand pumped their water from a cistern. The pioneers’ offspring may easily forget water conservation, however, when a slight twisting of the tap can initiate a plentiful supply of municipal water. If we are committed to being Earth-friendly, we must act as though conserving water is good discipline; water conservation shows respect...

  36. Conclusion: An Appalachian Appropriate Technology
    (pp. 371-390)

    This final chapter does not attempt to predict the future of Appalachia in any way, for that is impossible. Rather than try to predict the future, let’s try to influence it for the better. Our region needs to improve in quality of life, environmental integrity, and economic health. Appalachia does not stand in isolation but is part of a nation and world seeking environmental and economic integrity. Concerned Appalachians are challenged to make this region of relatively limited resources into a model of what leadership in this affluent nation can do to use resources wisely. People can provide for their...

  37. Postscript: Communications
    (pp. 391-398)

    Is it right to talk about friendly or appropriate technology trends in the twenty-first century without discussing communication technologies? These technologies include the cell phone, the personal computer, and the Internet, which have dramatically altered the present-day world. More than any others, these three have made a profound impact on the movement toward globalization, for better or worse. These technologies have allowed people in developing countries to bypass the long process of industrialization and creation of an expensive communication infrastructure to become more nearly equal partners in access to general information.

    The history of technology is a history of communication....

  38. Resources
    (pp. 399-422)
  39. Index
    (pp. 423-436)