The room was wall-to-wall rednecks: dust-smudged coal miners, grandmas in flowery dresses, mussy-haired young punks, and old-timers in union ball caps. The red bandannas they wore around their necks spoke of a radical history you won’t read about in the average American history book. This colorful crew of about 500 souls had traveled from neighboring hollers and all over the country to mark the grand opening of the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum, which I helped launch last weekend in the coalfields of Appalachia. I wrote about it, and the potential for heritage tourism, in Yes! Magazine.
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.
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.