By Tracy Blevins, KSEC Just Transition Working Group Organizer
Growing up in Eastern Kentucky, I had little hope for the region I call home. Like many communities in the area, my home town of Van Lear was built and later devastated by the coal industry. Many companies left Appalachia in the mid-20th century after coal extraction became less practical and profitable and local economies have been struggling to recover ever since. The region’s lack of career opportunities left me thinking I would have to move away to find success, a feeling to which many young Appalachians may relate. Some of us have even had parents and mentors advise us to leave in search of a better future.
I planned to escape Kentucky as soon as I graduated high school but financial and family circumstances led me to stay close to home. Through independent research and my Appalachian Studies classes at Morehead State University, I came to feel connected to a culture I had once rejected. From the the West Virginia Mine Wars of the 1910s and 1920s to the Harlan County strikes of the 1970s, Appalachia’s history is one of resistance against exploitation and environmental degradation. I gained a new appreciation for my home region, but most importantly I came to realize that modern Appalachians have the power to take back control over our own lives. In 2014, I got connected with KSEC, met other young people who shared this vision, and learned about the movement for Just Economic Transition. Through my involvement in KSEC’s Just Transition Working Group, I have committed to shaping Kentucky’s future for the better.
Last year, the Just Transition Working Group decided that we could best serve the youth looking to renew the Appalachian region by learning about their visions for the future. We believe it’s important that young people lead the conversation about Kentucky’s future because we are the future. From this idea, our Solutions Tour was born. The Solutions Tour consists of three parts: youth assemblies, solution spotlights and our solutions survey. Through the youth assemblies, we hope to bring together young Kentuckians to learn about successful models of transition as well as up-and-coming ideas that may help shape a just economy. We also want to give you a space to share your ideas for how we can work together to make Kentucky a better place for all. Our solution spotlights will allow you to experience transition in action. We’re planning to visit a technology development center and a permaculture farm among others. Stay tuned for those dates! Surveys will be distributed at our events, but you can also share your thoughts with us here.
Our next Youth Assembly for Just Economic Transition is on February 19th from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the University of Pikeville on the 6th floor of the Record Memorial Building. If you have questions or need help finding the location, feel free to reach out!
The Young Kentuckian is a blog of the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition where youth share their work and ideas for Kentucky's bright future.