Clean up and renew Appalachia

By George Brosi
George Brosi is the Editor of Appalachian Heritage at Berea College, KY

The future of Appalachia will be great if we can clean up and renew our infrastructure — in the broad sense of that term.  If we can’t, there will be two Appalachias: one of fancy gated communities and the other of garbage dumps, prisons, and rocky ATV trails.

Barack Obama is committed to renewing our national infrastructure. I think that the Obama presidency, like the presidency of John F. Kennedy, will usher in a new era of activism. If the re-energized activists outside government and those inside can reinforce each other, we can accomplish wonders.

To me, the highest priority is our water, and our waterways must be recognized as a vital part of our infrastructure. I was there in the Rose Garden of the White House when Jimmy Carter signed the 1977 strip mine bill providing for stream buffer zones, and I’ve watched since then as both Democrats and Republicans have re-written the regulations to negate that provision. I hope we can pass a new, more explicit, stream saver bill in 2009, and then fight to keep it from being negated.

We also need a kind of national effort, like Rural Electrification, to guarantee sewer systems for all. The pollution of people as well as corporations and agriculture must be abated. Mass transit for freight and passengers, both to cities and between urban areas, must be part of our renewed infrastructure. Paved trails for bicycles, baby-strollers, and wheelchairs should crisscross the country as well as pathways for walking and hiking. If our infrastructure can be renewed in this kind of thorough way, then I think that our region will become an advantageous place to locate facilities that employ people and a truly attractive place to live.


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