Exploring the intersection of nature, labor and energy.

Beyond Lip Service: Why can’t Congress fund an Rx for Appalachian coal country? April 19, 2019 by Elizabeth McGowan - WHITESBURG, Ky.—Clinton Sanders can never gulp quite enough air. At night, he is tethered to an oxygen machine. And his constant daytime companion is a small, blue zippered case packed with an array of inhalers and other medicines doctors have prescribed to open passageways to his darkened, shriveled lungs. The soft-spoken 79-year-old, who spent 27 years mining coal near his hometown of Ashcamp, was diagnosed with black lung disease in 2010. And like the thousands of other miners, young and old, slowly suffocating from an incurable disease that has reached epidemic proportions in the region, the great-grandfather of five never knows if his next breath… Read more >
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 >