In Appalachia, Audio, coal, Economic Transition on June 10, 2015 at 9:55 am
Art “Bunny” Hayes, rancher – Tongue River (Montana) (Photo: Clay Scott)
Earlier this year, I collaborated with producers Clay Scott of Mountain West Voices and Reid Frazier of Allegheny Front to produce a half-hour radio doc about the state of coal in America today. Portions of it recently aired on PRI’s Living on Earth:
“Living With the Rise and Fall of King Coal” — Coal was a vital industry in Appalachia for a century, but its environmental effects and economics have undermined its power, leaving many once employed by the industry floundering. In a special team report from West Virginia Public Radio, the Allegheny Front, and High Plains News produced by Clay Scott, we explore the past and future for coal mining areas and the people that live there.
The story I contributed to the documentary, about an East Kentucky strip miner turned farmer, spurred this piece on PRI’s main news site, about the mourning of coal’s gradual decline in Appalachia.
In Appalachia, Audio, Photography, West Virginia History on May 6, 2015 at 9:17 am
Diane Schou of Green Bank, WV, pictured with her catalogued list of the symptoms of electrosensitivity.
I recently collaborated with the BBC show Digital Human to produce a piece about the electrosensitive community in Pocahontas County, WV. I traveled to Green Bank to spend some time with Diane Schou, who moved to the mountains to escape health issues she says are related to the electromagnetic radiation we’re all exposed to in our daily lives. Green Bank is a designated Radio Free Quiet Zone because of a radio telescope located there, so cell phones and wireless technologies are banned. Diane and about 50 other electrosensitive people have sequestered themselves in its protective zone.
The Digital Human episode is called “Magic,” and it’s a pretty thoughtful reflection on all the ways we treat technology as a supernatural force:
Arthur C. Clarke’s 3rd law goes “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” So does that apply to the modern digital world? Aleks Krotoski asks the question with some surprising results. From people living under the ‘curse’ of electro-sensitivity to the rituals we all go through to ward off evil spirits like updating our anti-virus software.
View a gallery of my photos of Green Bank here.
In Appalachia, Audio, coal, Economic Transition on March 16, 2015 at 10:49 am
Since the days when mules carted coal and miners were paid in company credit, coal has certainly been king in Central Appalachia. But now, in a trend not widely noted outside the region, far fewer people make a living in mining there. West Virginia, for example, had 132,000 miners in 1950. Today there are fewer than 20,000, and that number is falling. Nearly every day, Appalachians awake to news of mass layoffs and mine closures.
It’s no one thing. There is cheap and newly-abundant natural gas. Limits on coal-burning power plants. Increased competition from Wyoming, where coal is cheaper to mine and lower in polluting sulfur. And finally, after over 100 years of intensive mining, Appalachia’s coal seams are simply becoming mined out.
Producer Catherine Moore has witnessed this moment. She travelled the back roads of West Virginia from county to county, like Logan, where about 130 laid off miners from Patriot Coal gathered with their families for an emergency meeting held by the state’s workforce development program. Each miner was given a booklet called Surviving a Layoff. Inside, how to write a resume, give a good interview. But something else caught Catherine up short.
EXCERPTED FROM “Moving On But No Way Gone: Coal in America,” A 30-MINUTE RADIO DOCUMENTARY COMMISSIONED BY HIGH PLAINS NEWS, AIRING NATIONALLY SPRING 2015.