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Confronting Ecological Crisis in Appalachia and the South

Confronting Ecological Crisis in Appalachia and the South: University and Community Partnerships

Stephanie McSpirit
Lynne Faltraco
Conner Bailey
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 284
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  • Book Info
    Confronting Ecological Crisis in Appalachia and the South
    Book Description:

    Throughout Appalachia corporations control local economies and absentee ownership of land makes it difficult for communities to protect their waterways, mountains, and forests. Yet among all this uncertainty are committed citizens who have organized themselves to confront both external power holders and often their own local, state, and federal agents. Determined to make their voice heard and to improve their living conditions, newfound partnerships between community activists and faculty and students at community colleges and universities have formed to challenge powerful bureaucratic infrastructures and to protect local ecosystems and communities.

    Confronting Ecological Crisis: University and Community Partnerships in Appalachia and the South addresses a wide range of cases that have presented challenges to local environments, public health, and social justice faced by the people of this region. Editors Stephanie McSpirit, Lynne Faltraco, and Conner Bailey, along with community leaders and their university partners, describe stories of unlikely unions between faculty, students, and Appalachian communities in which both sides learn from one another and, most importantly, form a unique alliance in the fight against corporate control. Confronting Ecological Crisis is a comprehensive look at the citizens and organizations that have emerged to fight the continued destruction of Appalachia.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-3661-5
    Subjects: Environmental Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword Work That Is Real
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    Scott J. Peters

    Marge Piercy tells us in one of her poems,

    The pitcher cries for water to carry

    and a person for work that is real.¹

    These lines came to mind while I was reading the stories in this book. As I read them I couldfeelthe truth Piercy was trying to communicate in her poem. But I felt and learned a lot more. That’s because the stories inConfronting Ecological Crisis in Appalachia and the Southaren’t about people who merely cry or yearn for real work. They’re about people who jump in and do it.

    The realness of the...

  4. Introduction: Forging Partnerships between Communities and Academic Activists
    (pp. 1-20)
    Stephanie McSpirit, Lynne Faltraco and Conner Bailey

    There are places in Appalachia and parts of the South that are characterized by widespread ecological degradation and community crises. These phenomena of environmental and community conflict are closely linked and have their origins in a history where the power to make decisions that affect people’s quality of life often is held by people living elsewhere. Recurring patterns of corporate control over local economies and absentee ownership of land and resources historically have made it difficult for communities in Appalachia and the South to protect the purity of their waterways, the sanctity and beauty of their mountains and forests, and...

  5. 1 Confessions of the Parasitic Researcher to the Man in the Cowboy Hat
    (pp. 21-38)
    Sherry Cable

    In 1987, as a brand-new assistant professor, I stood in the center of Hotense’s full-to-overflowing living room in Bell County, Kentucky, and nervously made my pitch to the assembled members of Yellow Creek Concerned Citizens (YCCC) for their permission to conduct a case study of the group. YCCC members were experienced research subjects, scrutinized several times previously by other academics. Someone asked what I would gain from the study. I answered, “If I can pull it off, I’ll publish enough articles in academic journals to earn promotion and tenure, instead of losing my job.” Someone else asked what the group...

  6. 2 What Difference Did It Make? The Appalachian Land Ownership Study after Twenty-Five Years
    (pp. 39-60)
    Shaunna L. Scott

    In 1979–1980 the Appalachian Land Ownership Task Force (ALOFT) coordinated a team of more than sixty activists, citizens, and academics to conduct a systematic study of landownership patterns in six states: Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, and Alabama. The study found that land in these six states was concentrated in the hands of corporate and absentee owners who paid less than their fair share of taxes. Corporate and absentee ownership of land made it difficult for local communities to pursue alternative economic development and provide adequate housing for residents; and the low tax base resulted in poor...

  7. 3 Participatory Action Research: Combating the Poisoning of Dayhoit, Harlan County
    (pp. 61-74)
    Roy Silver

    In February 1989 residents of the community of Dayhoit in Harlan County, Kentucky, received the following notice: “Due to organic chemicals found in the well water supply at the Holiday Mobile Home Park, the Division of Water has placed a ban on consuming water from this supply. Residents of the Holiday Mobile Home Park must immediately stop using this water for drinking and cooking. The division recommends residents not use the water for bathing or showering.”¹

    The Kentucky Division of Water informed residents of the mobile home park that owners of the facility would furnish water for drinking and cooking...

  8. 4 The Martin County Project: Students, Faculty, and Citizens Research the Effects of a Technological Disaster
    (pp. 75-92)
    Stephanie McSpirit, Sharon Hardesty, Patrick Carter-North, Mark Grayson and Nina McCoy

    The Big Branch Coal Waste Impoundment, owned and operated by the Martin County Coal Company, a subsidiary of Massey Energy (MCCC-Massey), occupied approximately seventy-two acres in Martin County, Kentucky. It rested at the top of the stream head to two of the county’s primary creeks: Coldwater and Wolf Creeks. Most of Martin County’s eleven thousand inhabitants live between these two creeks, and therefore most of the county’s inhabitants were affected in some way by the events of October 2000.

    At midnight on Thursday, October 12, an employee of MCCC-Massey was working near the west mine portal when he noticed that...

  9. 5 Unsuitable: The Fight to Save Black Mountain, 1998–1999
    (pp. 93-108)
    Robert Gipe

    A hawk flying over the southern edge of the Kentucky coalfields sees Black Mountain sprawled like a bear across Harlan County’s border with Virginia. Kentucky’s highest point is the arch of the bear’s shoulders. To the northeast Big Black drains into Looney Creek through the mining towns of Benham and Lynch and into Poor Fork at Cumberland. To the southwest Big Black drains into Clover Fork through Holmes Mill, Louellen, and Evarts and joins with Poor and Martin Forks behind the Dairy Queen in the city of Harlan to form the Cumberland River. It is on the Clover Fork that...

  10. 6 Building Partnerships to Challenge Chip Mills: Citizen Activists Find Academic Allies
    (pp. 109-130)
    Lynne Faltraco and Conner Bailey

    Community activists must quickly come to grips with the nature of power. Distilled to its essence, power is the ability to make things happen (or keep things from happening) despite opposition from others. In modern industrialized societies, power is found largely within large institutional settings, such as government or corporate bureaucracies or even universities. Such organizations control financial and human resources, often work together, and can make things happen even when people in a community oppose their plans. People have power only when they become organized and focus on common goals.

    The challenges are daunting when people wake up to...

  11. 7 Environmental Justice from the Roots: Tillery, North Carolina
    (pp. 131-146)
    Mansoureh Tajik

    Most rural communities in eastern North Carolina are underdeveloped and confront a multitude of environmental, economic, and sociopolitical problems linked to how local lands are used. Decisions about land use, however, frequently are made without local citizen input. Often unrepresentative of the local population and operating under the rubric of economic development, decision makers on local, state, or regional boards introduce and enact public policies that are heavily influenced by powerful economic interests and that often have perverse public and environmental health effects. While the authors and beneficiaries of such policies mostly live in locations far removed from the harm...

  12. 8 The Incineration of Chemical Weapons in Anniston, Alabama: The March for Environmental Justice
    (pp. 147-170)
    Suzanne Marshall, Rufus Kinney and Antoinnette Hudson

    Anniston, Alabama, lies in the southernmost reaches of the Appalachian range, where the mountains merge with the Deep South’s old cotton belt. Here in the 1870s entrepreneurs from Britain and the northern United States founded a private company town to produce iron. Later Anniston became a New South industrial city, attracting workers such as African American sharecroppers from the Black Belt of Alabama, whites from the highlands, and European immigrants. During World War I two newcomers arrived—the chemical industry, in the form of the Theodore Swann Company; and the military, at Camp McClellan—and provided jobs. In 1929 Swann...

  13. 9 Expertise and Alliances: How Kentuckians Transformed the U.S. Chemical Weapons Disposal Program
    (pp. 171-194)
    Robert Futrell and Dick Futrell

    In 1984 the U.S. Army’s Program Manager for Chemical Demilitarization (PMCD) declared the existing U.S. stockpile of chemical weapons obsolete and announced plans to incinerate the weapons in the eight communities that housed them. Before proceeding with this plan, the army held a public hearing in each of the eight communities, but few residents attended. Madison County, Kentucky, was an exception, where more than two hundred curious citizens came to find out what the army had in store for them. They got no clear answers. What the army intended as a perfunctory hearing to begin the incineration program sparked fears...

  14. 10 Headwaters: A Student-Faculty Participatory Research Project in Eastern Kentucky
    (pp. 195-216)
    Alan Banks, Alice Jones and Anne Blakeney

    The Headwaters Project began as part of an Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) project being carried out through the Consortium of Appalachian Centers and Institutes. This consortium project grew out of a reciprocal desire between academic regional studies centers/institutes and the ARC to envision ways to work more closely with citizens in the Appalachian region, especially those living in counties classified by the ARC as “distressed.” Over a three-year period, the ARC hosted several discussions between ARC staff and center directors from a variety of institutions in Appalachia. With the guidance of Dr. Ron Eller, then Whisman scholar at the ARC,...

  15. 11 Social Theory, Appalachian Studies, and the Challenge of Global Regions: The UK Rockefeller Humanities Fellowship Program, 2001–2005
    (pp. 217-232)
    Betsy Taylor, Lynne Faltraco and Ana Isla

    From 2001 to 2005 several interdisciplinary programs at the University of Kentucky (UK) sponsored a fellowship program for Appalachian activists and international scholars working to build strong communities. Over three years the program awarded seventeen fellowships to scholars and citizen leaders who are at the leading edge of global innovation in new models for partnership among communities, academics, and governments in community-centered and participatory planning. Fellowships were equally divided into two tracks—one for activists working in the Appalachian region, another for scholars from the Southern Hemisphere, or “the global South.”

    Worldwide, local communities face similar problems as economic globalization...

  16. Conclusion: Reflections on Public Scholarship in Appalachia and the South
    (pp. 233-244)
    Stephanie McSpirit, Lynne Faltraco and Conner Bailey

    In this volume we looked at partnerships that have formed across eleven separate cases where community and academic activists have joined forces to challenge corporations, the military, and government agencies. In the first chapter we met Sherry Cable as a young professor and read of her first meeting with the community group Yellow Creek Concerned Citizens, when she had to admit to the group that she could provide them nothing in return for their acceptance of her as a researcher in their midst. Her honesty at that moment went a long way toward winning the group’s trust. In the next...

  17. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 245-246)
  18. List of Contributors
    (pp. 247-252)
  19. Index
    (pp. 253-270)