Exploring the intersection of nature, labor and energy.

Let There Be Sunlight: Switch to solar keeps historic Appalachian coal camp on energy map September 26, 2018 by Elizabeth McGowan- Benham, Ky—Black rock buried thousands of feet under the Cumberland Mountains might have put Benham on the energy map, but sunlight beaming from 93 million miles away might keep the former coal camp from fading away. The city of barely 500 residents in the heart of Appalachia is in the midst of switching to solar energy to save on electric bills and—ironically—to keep its prized Kentucky Coal Mining Museum afloat. Yes, it’s the same museum that drew national attention last year when media outlets noted the paradoxical transition to solar. But the high cost of electricity was on the verge of draining Benham of assets… Read more >
Rx for Appalachia: Non-profit restoring native forests to mountains devastated by coal mining and logging January 31, 2018 by Elizabeth McGowan- DURBIN, WEST VIRGINIA—Near the top of Cheat Mountain, bulldozer operator Bill Moore grimaces at the wreckage littering the steep slope below. It looks as if King Kong threw a temper tantrum in this rugged, rural region just southwest of the state’s eastern panhandle. Mature conifers are toppled, their tangled roots exposed. Angled boulders jut awkwardly from the slate-colored soil. And severe gouges crisscross the earth like a landscape-size checkerboard. "It is ugly," Moore tells Renewal News about the mayhem he created upon request. "Anywhere else I’ve ever worked, if I did what I did here, I’d be fired." Scientist Chris Barton, however, treasures Moore’s handiwork… Read more >
A Sense of Wonder: On Rachel Carson and Shooting Stars December 7, 2017 by Elizabeth McGowan- WASHINGTON, D.C.—On a late-night walk home from the train, I looked up at just the right time. Like a bug on fire, a shooting star darted across Orion, winking out near the three bold twinkles marking the hunter constellation’s belt. "Oh wow!" I thought, tickled to witness such a light show in an urban setting with less-than-dark night skies. "Rachel Carson would have relished that." It was early November, and Carson was on my mind because I had toured the author’s childhood home in Springdale, Pa., a month earlier while attending a conference for environmental journalists in nearby Pittsburgh. Carson will forever be linked to… Read more >