Saving West Virginia

I’ve already spoken a bit about how I fell in love with West Virginia. I’ve only lived here for a bit over 6 months, so I’m sure most would still consider me an outsider. Be that as it may, I can still see some hard truths about this beautiful place. The biggest one I can put my finger on is a serious pr problem.

When I mention West Virginia, what comes to mind? Dirty coal mines? Uneducated, impoverished hillbillies? Mining disasters and chemical spills? It might be uncomfortable to admit to these prejudices, but you wouldn’t be the only one. The government’s War on Poverty is what brought the Appalachian region to the attention of the rest of the nation’s attention. That created the foundation for many of the stereotypes that run rampant today.

It’s true that West Virginia is rich in natural resources. And yet, who is really profiting from this abundance? It’s not the everyday person, its giant corporations. Coal companies have sold the people a lie in that the region depends on them for work. Already there have been huge job losses due to automation and changes in mining techniques. They fight safety measures to protect their workers and wring there hands about unavoidable mining disasters. They pay people a decent wage but leave them to the dogs once they’ve contracted black lung and can no longer work. It’s heart breaking!

Even the green energy here, which could be leveraged in many more ways than it is now, isn’t used to the benefit of the state. It’s sold to Washington DC so the politicians can feel good about themselves. Laws that are meant to protect the environment are either lacking or laxly enforced. The land called me here, and part of what makes that call so sharp and potent is the pain involved.

Something is starting to happen here, though. People are standing up and saying, enough. And it’s time for my voice to join theirs. I want to share with you the other side of West Virginia, the parts that don’t always make the news but make this place amazing. I’ll be adding posts about my explorations and studies of my new home state and you might just fall in love with it, too.

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