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Confronting Ecological Crisis in Appalachia and the South

University and Community Partnerships

edited by Stephanie McSpirit, Lynne Faltraco, and Conner Bailey

Publication Year: 2012

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.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Front cover

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pp. c-iii

Copyright page

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p. iv-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Foreword

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pp. vii-xiv

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

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Introduction

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pp. 1-20

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...

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1. Confessions of the Parasitic Researcher to the Man in the Cowboy Hat

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pp. 21-38

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...

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2. What Difference Did It Make?

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pp. 39-60

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...

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3. Participatory Action Research

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pp. 61-74

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...

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4. The Martin County Project

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pp. 75-92

The Big Branch Coal Waste Impoundment, owned and operated by the Martin County Coal Company, a subsidiary of Massey Energy (MCCCMassey), 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...

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5. Unsuitable

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pp. 93-108

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...

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6. Building Partnerships to Challenge Chip Mills

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pp. 109-130

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,...

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7. Environmental Justice from the Roots

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pp. 131-146

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...

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8. The Incineration of Chemical Weapons in Anniston, Alabama

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pp. 147-170

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,...

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9. Expertise and Alliances

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pp. 171-194

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...

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10. Headwaters

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pp. 195-231

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...

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11. Social Theory, Appalachian Studies, and the Challenge of Global Regions

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pp. 217-232

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...

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Conclusion

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pp. 233-244

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...

Acknowledgments

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pp. 245-246

Contributors

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pp. 247-252

Index

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pp. 253-270


E-ISBN-13: 9780813136615
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813136196

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2012

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Subject Headings

  • Environmentalism -- Appalachian Region.
  • Environmentalism -- Southern States.
  • Environmental protection -- Appalachian Region -- Citizen participation.
  • Environmental protection -- Southern States -- Citizen participation.
  • Environmental policy -- Appalachian Region -- Citizen participation.
  • Environmental policy -- Southern States -- Citizen participation.
  • Community and college -- Appalachian Region.
  • Community and college -- Southern States.
  • Industries -- Environmental aspects -- Appalachian Region.
  • Industries -- Environmental aspects -- Southern States.
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