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

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

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

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

Excerpt

Forging Partnerships between
Communities and Academic Activists

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 the health and safety of their families and communities. Over the past several decades academic observers have documented the political and economic causes of the social and ecological problems that have afflicted Appalachia and the South, and these academic works as well as many others start to provide social and historical context for this book.

However, this litany of woe may falsely portray Appalachian and southern residents as victims and invariable pawns in structures of production and resource extraction over which they seemingly have little control. The authors of the following chapters would definitely see this as a misreading of the Appalachian and southern experience. Shaunna Scott makes this point in chapter 2 by reviewing the Appalachian Land Ownership Study, which involved more than sixty activists, citizens, and academics between 1979 and 1980. Taskforce members were involved in collecting county data on landownership and property taxes across the states of Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, and Alabama. Shaunna explores the recollections and reflections of . . .

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