For years, we’ve watched our young people leave West Virginia. The children of our friends, whom we’ve watched grow up, head off to college or a job opportunity, and they don’t come back. Now, their parents—our friends and neighbors—are entering or nearing retirement, and asking one another: Are you going to stay in West Virginia? It’s remarkable how many say no, or give a long sigh and shrug that says, “I don’t know.” It’s not that they have somewhere else calling them. It’s the politics.
Earlier this year, Cathy Kunkel announced her candidacy for West Virginia’s second Congressional district in the U.S. House—running as a Democrat, and, if she secures the nomination, challenging Congressman Alex Mooney (R-West Virginia) in November 2020.
Rockwool’s controversial arrival to Jefferson County was made more contentious upon news in late July that the Danish insulation company hired state Delegate Paul Espinosa (R-Jefferson) as its public affairs manager. After all, it wasn’t just any delegate, but precisely the one supposed to represent tens of thousands of constituents who do not want the company to build an insulation plant across the street from North Jefferson Elementary School and burn 92 tons of coal and 1.6 million cubic feet of fracked gas per day.
To me, the fight against the Mountaineer Gas pipeline and the Rockwool factory are not just related battles, they are both part of the same long struggle I’ve been part of for the past three years.
Polluted air and water, mass extinctions, depleted fisheries, shrinking forests, rising temperatures—humans are making a mess of the planet. But all is not lost (at least yet): “Solutions” is the theme of this year’s American Conservation Film Festival.
Coal is the word on everyone’s lips right now, especially in West Virginia. What began as a thriving solution for powering America so many years ago has become an unsustainable industry that has been steadily declining for several decades.
Scientists propose naming a new epoch in time the Anthropocene—the Age of Man—dating from the time human activities began having global impacts on Earth. A mini-retrospective of films on that theme by local environmental filmmaker John Grabowska screened at the National Park Service Centennial Film Festival at the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) in Shepherdstown on February 25.
In the second installment of this two-part series, The Observer looks into what it’s actually like to fight a major wildfire out West by speaking with two Jefferson County natives who make a living working with the National Park Service.
In this two-part series, The Observer looks into what it’s actually like to fight a major wildfire out West. We got inside the heads of two Jefferson County natives who make a living working with the National Park Service—but who also have to pick up and leave their lives as soon as they get the call to head out West and battle a monster fire.