I?d like to introduce myself and talk a little about what I?ll be doing to help the Center broaden our engagement in the debates involving the Appalachian region ? and ask for your help. I?m Dan Radmacher, former editorial page editor of The Charleston Gazette and The Roanoke Times. I started a new job as the Center?s Communications Director in early April.
If you’re reading this blog, then you most likely have some understanding of the value of our work, which has focused largely on litigation to ensure that coal companies, power plants and government officials comply with state and federal regulations meant to protect the health, communities and environment of the people of Appalachia.
The Center brings more legal and environmental expertise to bear on these issues ? and does so to greater effect ? than just about any other organization out there. What we haven?t been as good at is communicating with our supporters and the public at large.
Part of my job will be to better engage the dedicated and involved citizens who have supported us in the past. As important will be broadening the Center?s reach outside of Appalachia.
We will continue our successful legal battles to help stop the worst abuses, but we recognize that the fight for Appalachia cannot be won in the courtroom alone. This is a battle for the hearts and minds of the people of this region, and those outside it who enjoy the benefits of cheap electricity without considering the unseen costs. We need to engage in the court of public opinion as well as courts of law.
As I said in my final column in The Roanoke Times before coming to work for the Center, ?The debate is about coal, climate change, state and federal regulations, the fragile economies of states like Kentucky and West Virginia, and the mountains, rivers and forests of Appalachia. It involves complex, emotionally powerful issues involving people’s jobs, their health, their homes and their children.?
You already know that coal is cheap only because so many of the costs associated with it ? the destruction of mountains, forests and streams, the contribution to global climate change, the obliteration of communities, and on and on ? are borne by the people of Appalachia or society at large rather than those who produce it or generate electricity from it.
Altering that dynamic ? ensuring that the costs of coal are no longer externalized while the profits are reaped by a privileged few ? will require more than legal settlements and landmark court victories. The political climate, in Appalachia and elsewhere, must change.
The Center wants to do more to help bring that change about. We will be undertaking several major initiatives in the coming months to broaden our reach in the debate. Our website will undergo a complete transformation to make it more accessible and useful for concerned citizens (this blog is a bit of a bridge to that new site). We?ve launched Facebook and Twitter pages to broaden our outreach in the social networking community. We?ve started working on informative programming, including video and audio podcasts, to help educate people about the issues challenging the region. We?re investing in our capacity to get our message out regionally and nationally.
Keep an eye out, too, for an announcement in the next month or so about a new name for the Center. As we approach our 10th anniversary in September, we decided we needed a change there. The Appalachian Center for the Economy & the Environment just doesn?t trip lightly off the tongue. It?s long and cumbersome. The initials don?t even spell anything interesting. ACEE. Our new name will roll out with the new website.
As we undertake these new initiatives, we can use your help and your involvment. We don?t have the resources of a multibillion-dollar industry to support our efforts.
If you haven?t already, sign up to receive periodic alerts and other messages from us at the ?Sign Up/Contact Us? link on our home page or click here to add yourself directly to our e-mail alert list. Our first monthly newsletter will be going out in the next week or so. Sign up now so you don’t miss it.
You can make a secure, electronic, tax-deductible contribution from our website ? just click on the ?Donate Now!? button on our home page ? or send a donation to us at:?P.O. Box 507, Lewisburg, WV 24901