In this issue of The Appalachian Voice, we explore the struggle to balance health and economic concerns, and where our decisions have taken us. Protecting the natural environment — whether it’s a rare flower, a wild natural landscape, or the river that feeds them both — also protects our communities.
The aftermath of the Elk River chemical spill in West Virginia and the Dan River coal ash spill in North Carolina and Virginia is explored in “Toxic Warnings.” From stories of the people affected by these spills, the dramatic consequences of lax regulation are laid out alongside the community’s resulting determination to take action. And from the broken policies that allowed these failures to occur, we see that the issue of water contamination in our country runs much deeper than any would like to imagine.
Writer Molly Moore investigates the origins and achievements of the War on Poverty through the lens of Appalachia where, even 50 years later, the region remains among the most impoverished in the country. Yet Patsy Dowling, who considers herself a success of the War on Poverty, is quick to point out that continued progress takes commitment. Today, Dowling is the executive director of an anti-poverty nonprofit, and one of many who remains dedicated to the success of Appalachia.
Some achievements flourish best undisturbed, as the Dunaways observe during the blooming months of spring. While walking together through their eastern Tennessee property, they stumble on a delightful surprise. A burst of yellow displayed against the medley of leaves covering the forest floor, an elegant, three-petaled wildflower, turns out to be an undiscovered species of Trillium tennesseense. On the Dunaways’ land, the trillium has evaded the rising threat of sprawling development.
You can also read about some of the creative approaches being used to secure a bright future for our communities, and even get involved yourself! This issue’s regular Hiking the Highlands column follows Matt Kirk’s 350-mile hike along the nearly complete Southern Appalachian Loop Trail, which has been developed to foster a healthy environment and economic growth. You can volunteer to help maintain the route, or check out our special section on volunteer opportunities in Appalachia. The listing includes caring for rescue horses, fixing bikes to donate to low-income residents and residential environmental service programs. We’ve also posted our online exclusive summer camp listing, for all ages ranging from five to 18 years old.
Be sure to check out our election coverage too. Whether it’s through voting, volunteering, or your everyday work, there are many ways to get involved in your community. We only provide a small sampling of how you can help, but we hope to inspire you to stand up for your community and stand for a solution.
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