For nearly a decade, now, the Appalachian Voice has presented stories on the many facets of life here in the Appalachian region. We have written about fishing, hiking, skiing, hunting, and many other recreational and cultural opportunities that we are blessed with, either as residents or visitors, in the Appalachian Mountains. In all issues of “The Voice” we strive to bring you the best that our unique geography and culture has to offer.
As in all things, however, there is another side to the coin, and we have also included stories and articles pointing out the threats to the environment and culture of our region. For instance, we’ve called your attention to the fact that air pollution, caused mostly by upwind coal-fired power plants, has become so bad in the mountains that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park now has levels of air pollution rivaling our most polluted cities such as Atlanta and Los Angeles. We have also written about the hardships and catastrophes that mountaintop removal coal mining has brought to our neighbors living and working in southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, east Tennessee, and southwest Virginia.
But the news hasn’t been all bad. We have also reported on forest practitioners who are pioneering better ways to protect the health of forests while also making a good living. We have reported regularly on the outstanding work of local land-trusts to protect the natural treasures in the mountains, as well as the work of advocacy groups trying to protect the health of our rivers, forests and wildlife.
We try to provide you with a balanced account of the good and the bad, but being informed is simply not enough. We encourage you – our readers – to take the next step by participating in the many good things that the Appalachians have to offer, and also by being part of the solutions to the problems we face. This is not an appeal for money; it’s an appeal for you to use your time and talents – in whatever manner is comfortable for you – to help preserve the environment, culture and way of life that is unique to this part of the world.
We as Americans are blessed to have many opportunities to be involved in the decisions that affect our lives. For example, if there is a particularly bad air pollution day in these mountains, we can sit down and write a letter to the editor of our local newspapers, or we can call or write our Congressperson and Senators to let them know that we expect our children to have the opportunity to breathe clean air.
Talking to your neighbors is important, too. Do you have an issue that you really care about? Our guess would be that most of you do. How many of you live within a mile or two of a church? Again, probably just about everybody. But here is the million dollar question: have you ever gone to that church that is near your home to talk about the matter that is so important to you?
Americans have a duty as well as an opportunity to be involved in the decisions that affect our lives and those of our loved ones. Write a letter to the President to tell him how important these mountains, rivers, forests, and our culture are to you. Go to city council and county commission meetings and take advantage of the freedom of speech that we are blessed with in this country. Countless Americans have given their lives so that we may enjoy that right which is guaranteed in the first amendment of the constitution.
This is not just a matter of civic responsibility. This is how every victory for the land and people of Appalachia has ever been won, from the unionization of the coal mines at the turn of the twentieth century to the passage of surface mining laws in the 1970s. A more recent example is the 2002 passage of the North Carolina Clean Smokestacks Act, one of the strongest clean air laws in the nation. It was the commitment and combined effort of thousands of people just like you that made these great advances possible, and it is the only way we will solve the great environmental problems facing our region today. It simply can’t be done without you.
We are asking that you take an active part in the issues that affect all of our communities, and we are asking you to aim high – shoot for the heavens, because even if you miss you will surely land somewhere among the stars.