The desire to make life better for our families and neighbors and to protect the places where we live comes naturally. But as we move through life, many of us are told that the world is too complex or the systems are too rigged for us to make a difference. In my 12 years at Appalachian Voices, we have not been discouraged by the naysayers. While the going isn’t easy, we have proven that we have the power to create positive change.
When Appalachian Voices first began going door-to-door in neighborhoods near some of Duke Energy’s toxic coal ash ponds in North Carolina, we didn’t know that roughly eight years later we would be rejoicing with members of those communities, celebrating a court ruling that orders cleanup of the state’s remaining coal ash ponds.
But we did know that coal ash was dangerous and that local residents weren’t hearing the full truth from Duke or government agencies. We knew that if we worked together, we might be able to make a change.
Change happens because we — you, us, our neighbors and partners from all walks of life — come together to identify our needs, chart out a good strategy and don’t stop working towards our goals. We might not always have the political establishment on our side. But when our purpose is clear and our coalition is diverse, united and persistent, and we use our collective energy wisely, we can improve our world.
In recent months, Appalachian Voices has been at the table with organizations from communities across the nation that have been hard-hit by the decline of the coal industry. Convened by the Just Transition Fund, this collaborative plans to release a platform in late winter outlining federal strategies that would support workers and communities affected by past and future coal site closures and promote a clean, life-sustaining environment.
The challenges facing mining and power plant communities in Appalachia, the Midwest and the Navajo Nation are many, and there is no overarching, simple fix. But by working together to advance place-based, inclusive, community-driven solutions, we can bring about a better tomorrow.