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Economic diversification needed in Appalachia
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by Bill Price, Sierra Club Environmental Justice Coordinator | 2010

Years ago we heard that Corridor H would bring us economic diversification. NOW we are really having an Appalachian conversation on economic diversification!

The crucial need for economic diversification in the Coalfields of Appalachia is an issue of growing importance as more and more Sierra Club leaders, groups, and chapters become involved in the struggle to abolish mountaintop removal and work on other issues all along the dirty cycle of coal. We are reaching out to all of our Sierra Club networks for interested groups and individuals who are willing to be a part of the next step toward ending the dirty cycle of coal.

Nationally, the Sierra Club has committed significant resources and interest in an alliance with the US Steelworkers and other unions. The Blue Green Alliance unites over eight million people who are working for policies that create good jobs and a clean environment. For the past two years, this alliance has sponsored a “Green Jobs” conference. Last years conference in Washington DC saw more than 250 Sierra Club leaders and staff participate. The third annual conference is being planned for May 4–6 and the organizing goal is to double the participation of Sierra Club leaders, staff and Environmental Justice (EJ) community leaders.

On the regional level there is much work to be done. Earlier this year, the Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign authorized the three Central Appalachian EJ staff (Bill McCabe, Bill Price, and Adam Wells) and Kentucky coal organizer Lauren McGrath to dedicate a portion of their time to working with Sierra Club leaders and EJ communities on economic transition issues. With the involvement of Sierrra Club leaders from throughout the region and the leadership of community activists we are hoping to build toward the goal of a just economic transition.

A process has begun of seeking advice and knowledge from those doing the work in the communities. Kentuckians for the Commonwealth’s Canary Project, Mountain Association for Community and Economic Development (MACED), Appalachian Community Economics (ACE), Coal River Mountain Wind Project, Sustainable Energy and Economic Diversification Project (SEEDS), Central Appalachia Prosperity Project (CAPP), Remembering and Respecting Neighbors Economy and Watershed (RRNEW) and others have worked for years to develop more diversified and community-owned economic opportunities for the communities of Appalachia, and their ideas are being gathered.

You can become involved in working on economic diversification in Appalachia. Specifically, we are looking for Sierra Club members who have experience or background in economic development or vocational training. If you’ve ever owned a small business or worked at a bank we need to hear from you. If you have a degree in economics or a masters in business administration we would like to hear your ideas. In other words, if you believe that your skills, experience or expertise can help bring a strong economy to Appalachia, get in touch with us. Bring your brains, skills, and enthusiasm.

Please contact Bill Price, 304-389-8822, or email at bill.price@sierraclub.org to discuss your ideas.

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