By Cara Cooper, KSEC State Organizer
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people tell me that renewable energy is great, but it just doesn’t work in Kentucky. What a joke. We know it does work and is already putting people to work all across the Commonwealth (just check out some of the awesome solar installations through this interactive map).
Caption: Renewable Energy is already working in all regions of the state. From left to right: KSEC members educating Senator Reggie Thomas about renewables in Murray, KY, Solar panels at the KY National Guard in Frankfort during a KSEC Energy Future Tour, Solar panels recently installed at the KY Coal Mining Museum in Benham, KY (see these at our Solution Spotlight event on June 10th)
For me, investing in growing the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors seems like plain ol’ good sense. Kentucky has a rich history of being an energy leader and providing electricity to power our country. As the coal industry dies we can continue to be energy leaders by making the transition to cleaner sources like solar, wind and micro-scale hydroelectric.
Not only can this emerging industry help to protect our natural resources, communities’ health and lessen the impacts of climate change but it can also create thousands of good jobs that our state needs. (According to a study done several years ago, with a number as low as 12.5% of our electricity coming from renewables we could create 28,000 net new jobs!).
If you are a young person, wondering how you will stay in Kentucky after graduation and find meaningful employment, or someone who’s family has been a part of the energy industry here for generations, renewable energy and energy efficiency jobs could be a good place for you and something you could feel good about doing.
Join us for our 2nd Solution Spotlight event (as a part of our ongoing Solutions Tour) to meet folks who are already hard at work building this emerging industry in Eastern Kentucky and learn more about what it’s like to work in the new energy sector and what it takes to get a job doing this work.
By Caci Gibson, Eastern Kentucky University
I am new to KSEC, but I don’t feel that way after the Spring Summit. As a delegate, I started my year-long term late; my introduction was to help plan the Summit. I can’t deny I was nervous leading up to last weekend. I barely knew anyone and I was going to be sharing space with them for three days. What if they didn’t like me? What if I didn’t like them? What if I decided KSEC wasn’t the place for me? What if our plans fell through?
By Friday evening, my nerves had disappeared. Everything came together when we came together; we adapted and moved forward even when plans needed to be adjusted. Through collaboration, conversation, and reflection I learned more about myself and how I want to spend my time. As it turns out, KSEC is the place for me.
Nearly one week later, I’m still processing my feelings. The Spring Summit had two workshop tracks: environmental education and environmental activism, with the goal of expressing the importance of both. This gave me an insight into environmental activism that I haven’t had before. Environmental education has always been important to me and I have planned to pursue a career in the field for as long as I have known it was a possibility. I knew I’d figure out the details later (which really meant that I wasn’t quite sure where I was supposed to be). Activism always seemed like a foreign concept. In my mind, it was a narrow path that was open only to those with encyclopedic knowledge of the legal system and a willingness to delve into politics. Environmental activism and environmental education always seemed like separate fields, although they did support one another.
On the other hand, activism had always been in the background of my life. Growing up in Bell County, I connected deeply with my Appalachian roots. With the decline of the coal industry, I share a sense of anger and loss with my peers, family, and neighbors. For many of us in this region, the only way forward has only ever been to fight - a sense of resilience and solidarity deeply ingrained into my culture. As a result, I have always felt compelled to pursue a better future for Eastern Kentucky.
After reflecting on the Summit, I would express a more nuanced view that environmental activism and education are the same path - one that is broad enough for people with diverse histories, methods, and goals. Activists are educators, lobbyists, community organizers, politicians, concerned citizens, and more. Educators, in the same regard, are not limited to a singular mold. Educated citizens become activists when they feel empowered to advocate for themselves and their communities. With this realization, I feel like I’m one step closer to concisely answering the question “What do you want to do?” I am excited to be more involved with KSEC and to learn skills that will prepare me for work, both as an activist and an educator.
The Spring Summit left me feeling like I was part of a community - a community that is diverse, resilient, and hopeful. Now more than ever, I feel empowered to seek out opportunities to be a force for change. I look forward to attending Catalyst (KSEC’s summer training program for aspiring organizers) this summer as another opportunity for growth and perspective. In the meantime, I am exploring what my personal activism will be.
By Cruz Avendaño Dreyfuss, Centre Environmental Association
Activists set lofty goals for the world and work hard to attain them. They get educated and use their knowledge to further their causes. It’s exhilarating. It’s exhausting. Students set academic goals and (hopefully) study hard to achieve them. They get educated and use that new information to better their future. This can also be exciting. This is also exhausting.
Perhaps you’re not someone who wakes up after their nightly two hours of sleep and walks a mile to the first of three daily jobs. Perhaps you stayed up late doing homework and are tired because you slept five hours instead of your usual seven. From a Utilitarian point of view, your situation is easier than that of someone who works three jobs on two hours of sleep. Even if you’re tired, you (in this scenario) slept a whopping five hours while someone else barely managed two. But life can feel difficult even when it’s comparatively easy. And when someone’s “easy” life feels difficult, that person may feel weak, or as though they should ignore their struggle in order to alleviate someone else’s.
This can be beneficial, to an extent. If, while hiking with your friend, you stub your toe on a rock, that hurts pretty bad. If your friend steps in a hole and breaks their ankle, you can probably power through that stubbed toe and help evacuate your friend.
But the toe still hurts. It probably reminds you every step. You can ignore it for a while, but if you never take a moment to check on how it’s doing, it can get more and more severe. If left untreated, your stubbed toe could become a missing toe, and now the severity of your situation is getting closer to that of your friend’s.
You deserve to check up on your stubbed toe before it falls off.
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!
As 2016 Comes to an End, Young Kentuckians Are More Dedicated Than Ever to Creating an Environmentally Just and Sustainable Commonwealth
By Cara Cooper, KSEC Organizer
Thinking back over 2016 gives me lots of feels. Especially in light of the powerful and scary events that have been taking place over the past couple of months.
It is clear that our government is not going to be our savior in the fight to resist corporate greed and environmental destruction and that it is up to us, standing in solidarity with indigenous communities, communities of color, LGBTQ+ communities, and other marginalized folks to create our own solutions. Watching the militarized police force at Standing Rock brutalize indigenous people trying to protect their clean water and sacred lands for the sake of fossil fuel interests is scary. Watching appointment after appointment of anti-social justice, climate deniers to the White House is terrifying. It speaks to a turning point in our country and in our movements.
But I can’t help but feel hopeful, too, looking at the hundreds and hundreds of KY Student Environmental Coalition members dedicated to justice and our collective future. I don’t want to put faith in elected officials anymore, I want to put my faith in you.
Here are the 2016 Statewide Highlights
Not only are we working on state-level issues, our student members are doing amazing things on campus, too!
A few 2016 Campus Highlights
The Young Kentuckian is a blog of the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition where youth share their work and ideas for Kentucky's bright future.
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