Terran Young - Orientation Tour

I considered this tour a start of a journey, if you will. If you had asked me at my high school graduation if I saw my life headed in the direction that its in now, well, I probably would have said “yes.”  I have always wanted to do work that would bring about change in my community. I admired the ones on the front lines of the movement trailblazing and laying groundwork for the rest of us. That was the wide-eyed innocence of youth, appreciating yet glamorizing the struggle of activist and organizers and people trying to bring abut change.

 

Little did I know that life doesn’t usually go as planned. After what seemed like an eternity of personal struggle, hardships, loss, development and growth I found myself here, at Highlander Center wondering what in the world had I gotten myself into.

 

9 days was the longest I’d been away from home since my mother passed away. I don’t like being away for long but I felt good about it.

 

After 3 days at the Highlander Center we set out for our first stop. Our first full day theAppalachian Sustainable Development Conference was a bit rough for me. Not only was in a long day, but it was also the 1st anniversary of my mothers passing. However, I did meake it through.

 

For the rest of the week, we went to different locations. I was surprised to see so many cultural programs in rural areas. Looking at the other Fellows, I noticed that everyone was able to relate in some way, except for me. There was certainly a lack of cultural diversity in Appalachia.

 

There is a rich history surrounding the people of this region, yet I could not help but feel left out. Although my family has been in Appalachia for over a century I saw no representation of myself on this tour.

 

So I find myself on this internal journey to find myself and my identity in Appalachia.

Abby Huggins - Orientation and Learning Tour

For nearly a week of our orientation, App Fellows and Highlander staff piled into two vans, meandering from New Market, Tennessee to Grantsville, West Virginia, visiting all the host communities where Fellows will be living and working for the next year. On this Learning Tour we listened, observed, inquired, envisioned, laughed, cried, differed, and encouraged. Our adventure was widely educational as we grew in and complicated our understanding of geography, economy, community, each other, and ourselves. Upon returning, a friend asked me if we had a proper tour of Appalachia. My response was no. There are many Appalachias. This region, in its vastness, complexity, and diversity, will take a lifetime or more to see and know. But, I could confidently say, within a week’s time, our newly formed family of App Fellows saw a thought provoking representation of Appalachian Transition. We visited an array of places, both rural and urban, where folks throughout the region are collaboratively envisioning and creating opportunities in food, fiber, land access, media, culture, entrepreneurship, and natural resources. Our tour refreshed ideas, raised questions, and piqued curiosity as we saw projects on different scales, from local to multi-state. We wondered how all of these parts are interconnected, working towards something bigger than any individual project, yet all contributing through their own unique approaches and resources. We pondered the spaces where fellows, communities, and organizations can find common ground, support one another in work towards a rooted, vibrant, thriving Appalachia. I was encouraged and inspired to glimpse the projects that fellow App Fellows will be a part of. As I engage with my work in Hindman and Eastern Kentucky, I will hold in my mind and heart the work simultaneously happening in Southwest Virginia, East Tennessee, neighboring Kentucky communities, and West Virginia. I am excited and grateful to watch what unfolds in small and big ways over the course of the next year and beyond. I am honored to move into the tasks before me alongside a cohort of smart, compassionate, energetic peers who will offer mutual support along the way.

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ARABIC    1      : Mike Dixon shares insights with App Fellows on a tour of Hindman Settlement School. Photo by: Catherine Moore.

Caption 1: Mike Dixon shares insights with App Fellows on a tour of Hindman Settlement School. Photo by: Catherine Moore.

In reflecting upon the tour and the work we will be engaged in, two interconnected phrases keep returning to me. One phrase I remember from growing up in the Methodist tradition: “in essentials unity, in nonessentials diversity, in all things love.” The other a phrase I first heard from folks I knew in Grenada: “one hand can’t clap,” implying two or more hands are necessary to effectively make noise. As we traveled and listened to people throughout Central Appalachia on our tour, I heard a common thread of the necessity of working together amidst differences. In our communities, in our region, in our nation, we are surrounded by diversity in beliefs, politics, personalities, backgrounds, abilities, opportunities, ethnicities, nationalities, races, classes, genders, sexualities, etc. etc. etc. On this trip, I was reminded of the need to embrace common ground, to find those essentials that we are all working for, and to do so in a spirit of respect, with an attitude of love - dare I say, radical love: a love stronger than the bonds of oppression, a love that believes and moves towards collective liberation. And, what is beautiful, as we enter into this work, is that it is not alone. The work that came before us and will follow is intentionally collaborative: across histories, across passions, across methods, across mountains. Our collaboration is necessary. The freedom and justice we dream of together will take all of us, bit by bit, piece by piece. Daily, we are challenged to remember our work is both constant and interwoven, as civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer profoundly spoke, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

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ARABIC    2      : App Fellows crossing the Troublesome Creek at Hindman Settlement School on a tour of campus. Photo by Abby Huggins.

Caption 2: App Fellows crossing the Troublesome Creek at Hindman Settlement School on a tour of campus. Photo by Abby Huggins.

At the opening of our orientation, Elizabeth Wright reminded fellows and hosts that we are now a part of the history of Highlander. We join a legacy of folks who have dedicated their lives to transforming dreams of justice, dignity, and liberation into reality. Let us move forward together, boldly, lovingly, hands clapping in rhythm, towards a just Appalachia, South, nation, and world.

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ARABIC    3      : Viewing Pound Gap on the Virginia and Kentucky state line in our discussion about land ownership with Adam Wells of Appalachian Voices. Photo by Catherine Moore.

Caption 3: Viewing Pound Gap on the Virginia and Kentucky state line in our discussion about land ownership with Adam Wells of Appalachian Voices. Photo by Catherine Moore.

Brittany Means Carowick - Becoming, Together

“We’re either gonna live together or die together, but by God it’ll be together. There’s not much other choice.”

This sentence was said by Les Roll, of the Mountain Association for Community and Economic Development, during our AppFellows tour of Hazard, Kentucky. He was speaking about the decision of his community, Hazard, to come together to talk about tough issues. They addressed community development, such as what to do with their dying main street, as well as issues like persistent homelessness and the new highway. Everyone had different opinions about what the community needed, but they knew that at the end of the day, what they would become, they would become together.

This story got my attention because it’s the kind of work that I’ll be doing this year. Through the What’s Next, WV? initiative, the West Virginia Center for Civic Life (my host community) leads communities in conversation about what’s next for them. Often, these communities are post-coal or in other kinds of economic distress. They experience “brain drain” and an aging population. They also come together to plan how to become whatever they will become, together.

After talking to Les in Kentucky, a few days later we were in West Virginia talking to Betty Knighton, from the WV Center for Civic Life. She was talking about the “invisible roads” of civic infrastructure. If your town doesn’t have good civic infrastructure—a way to come together and discuss and evaluate ideas—what bearing does this have on your ability to be a good citizen?

That phrase struck me.  I jotted a note in my journal:

How can you be a good citizen when you’re not a citizen?

Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “citizen.” In our work at the Center for Civic Life, we talk about community members, residents, and mostly—citizens. What does it mean to be a good neighbor and responsible citizen? We use “citizen” as a simpler way to say “person who is entitled to a say about what happens in a community.” It breaks up the repetition of using “community member” and “resident” over and over again, and it indicates someone who is involved by choice, not just happenstance.

But today, I can’t ignore the secondary nature of that word. The legal, political meaning of “citizen” problematizes our definition of communities. It brings with it the association of naturalization, immigration status, permanent residency, and a host of other complications. I find that in today’s political climate, and especially with so much rhetoric around citizenry, I have hesitations about using the word “citizen” in the work I do for the Center.

I may be especially sensitive to this word because of my background. My graduate research involved communities of undocumented residents, and I also have many friends who continue to reside in the United States through various gray areas of immigration law. I feel like when I say something like, “the citizens of Parkersburg came together to talk about injustice in their town,” I am leaving out a group of people. Or, if I would say that an issue “affects all citizens of Wheeling,” then I am saying that it does not affect people who are not citizens. Or, that if it does affect non-citizens, it doesn’t matter, because only citizens get a voice.

This is an issue I grappled with during orientation, and then in the first few weeks on the job. One of my first tasks was to write a blog post about a recent conversation that the What’s Next, Wood County? group had held on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The conversation touched on many sensitive topics, and several community members were not comfortable with me using their names in the post. I tried to use “community members” and “residents” whenever I could—but it was hard. The conversation took place in a community that straddles state lines—so descriptors such as “West Virginians” were unavailable to me, and I found “both West Virginians and Ohioans in the Mid-Ohio Valley” cumbersome. In addition, some of the speakers were identified as being from other countries, and I didn’t know whether they were citizens of the United States or not. Through some fancy footwork, I was able to avoid getting too uncomfortable by using “citizen,” except in one instance:

“I can tell you exactly how many confederate flags there are between Marietta and the mall in Vienna,” said one citizen.

This quote came from a prominent black woman in the area. However, she was not comfortable with this quote being attributed to her for local media to distribute. She did not wish for her occupation to be revealed, so I couldn’t identify her that way.  I found myself suddenly unsure if I should call her “black” or “African-American”—and moreover, I felt that identifying her by her race alone would just reinforce the dividing lines that the conversation took place to blur.  What I saw as my only option was the word I was trying so hard to avoid: “citizen.”

These are the issues that weigh on my mind as I go into my year here with the Center for Civic Life. How can we be a good citizens when we aren’t even citizens, how can we use more inclusive language, and -how can we do it in a way that brings us together for the long haul? For what we are to become, we will become together.

Alice Beecher: Moving Past Cynicism and Into Community

As my car curves up the crooked gravel driveway that leads to the Highlander Center, the sun dips against the Tennessee Mountains like a melting copper coin. There is something energetic, almost sacred, about walking this ground, about the history of resistance embedded in this landscape. Every time I come to the Highlander Center, my internal cynic loses another inch of her grip on my heart. At Highlander, surrounded by brilliant thinkers and organizers, I find myself really believing that a better, more just, more resilient world actually is possible.

As I embarked on a tour of Central Appalachia along with the rest of the 2017 cohort of Appalachian Economic Transition Fellows, I realized that this faith in the possibility of change is essential to building a new, democratic economy in the mountains. In many movement and organizing circles, fatalism can be contagious. In my own history as a community organizer, I have too often felt mired by the weight of confrontation. I fixate on all the systems and institutions I want to tear down, rarely focusing on creating the community and relationships essential to developing the world I want to build up. The Appalachian Transition Fellowship gives young people an incredible opportunity to both learn from and add capacity to organizations doing the slow, confusing, and creative work of imagining the future of this region. From a star park in beautiful, rural Calhoun County WV to community radio and video production in Whitesburg, KY; from an aggregation of growers and food marketers in urban Kingsport, TN, to downtown revitalization efforts in Hazard, KY, the AppFellows host sites present a diverse and creative template for a new economy in Appalachia (and across the country).

In the years I have spent organizing in and around Appalachia, I have gone on many tours of a very different nature. Tours of abandoned mountain top removal sites and toxic prisons. Tours of company stores and fracking wells, oily water and artifacts left by miners who fought and died for their right to unionize. It goes without saying that the industrial development of this region carries a heavy history. It is only the fortitude of tightly bound and proud communities that can transform the economy of these mountains from one based on extraction and exploitation to one built on collective participation and the just distribution of wealth and resources, an economy that is owned by and built for the people who live here. Of course, what that looks like in real terms is complex. As we visited the various sites, it became clear that there is no silver bullet industry that will shift the economic landscape in Appalachia. Nor should there be. A diverse, community centric, and dynamic economic ecosystem is essential to challenging the monopoly on wealth and power responsible for the poverty that exists in these communities.

As an outsider, I decided to come to Appalachia because it is the first place I’ve ever lived that felt like home. A place where my neighbors ask me about my family history, where my friends are quick to pull my car out of the ditch in the road and give me free jars of homemade sauerkraut. While we were driving back to Tennessee, my friend and Highlander staffer Samir told me that the original Greek definition of the word “economy” was “to take care of home”. While I was not born here, Appalachia is my chosen home, and to take care of this land means to plant the seeds of a slow and diligent resistance. By building up alternative economic structures that will give Appalachian people agency over their health and livelihoods, we work to contradict a history of oppression and create collective power.

Brennan Zerbe - Dark Skies

“..because in any case it is deadly to return, in the helpless despair of a final effort to survive, and therefore in a redoubled helplessness and despair, knowing of no other way and knowing that there is no other way, that there can be no other way, it is deadly to return in the end to one’s parents’ house in one’s home town, one’s home land, one’s so-called final refuge.”  

-Thomas Bernhard

 

This is my first blog post for Highlander and the first blog I’ve ever written, and, by way of a caveat, I hardly ever engage with blogs and so questions of tone, style and degree of functionality remain pertinent.  I guess I’ll just let it unfold as organically as possible, or whatever.

Moving to Grantsville ended up being a bit more tedious and protracted than previously hoped- the car I bought had broken down,  I had to buy furnishings for the apartment as I had none, and the apartment had to be purged of all  its previously discarded office supplies: telephones, old floppy disks, fake plastic Christmas trees, scattered wasp remnants,  plaster,  legal tomes, various cords, all of the now useless technological and informational ephemera slowly accumulated in offices all over America.

The town of Grantsville is small, around 500 people live here, and though much of the original buildings show signs of dilapidation, the immediacy of the surrounding mountain is such that, every contour, every stone and precipice is easily discernible from my room, in a large brown reticulation,  you get the impression that you are living wholly within a nest.

 

I’m, just now, really beginning to understand the work I’m to do here.  Right now it consists mostly of seeking out and securing funding to match an ARC grant we a hope to get later in the year.  Roger has largely been an invaluable resource in articulating the political, financial and social hurdles we face.  I found out through him, that the park also houses a number of gas wells, wells which don’t contribute money back into the park, but use the park’s infrastructure to extract the gas.

The issue here, as it is everywhere, is where and from whom to ask for money, knowing that the success of any initiative undertaken, here, is, without any doubt whatsoever, prefigured in its dollar amount, and in the capacity of its proponents to ensure steady injections of cash whenever it starts to dwindle.  In contracting towns all over the United States, as the endemic sources of capital decline in the form of whatever industry propagated it to begin with, there can be no doubt about who holds the power over what remains. It is only in the form of non profit money redistributed from large and well monied industries outside of small towns which can address the banal but important infrastructural needs, easily (or not) addressed by the town itself, decades ago.  Here the money comes from gas or from the federal government, and the local government can control very little of it’s own municipality when it has been rendered irrelevant or innocuous by it’s lack of capital.

There are many people involved in the gas extraction: there are the people who own the mineral rights, the people who own the wells (of which there are multiple different owners),  and there are people who own land just outside of the park for the purpose of extraction.  The county owns the park but the park gets very little in the way of financing from the county.  It’s hard yet to say if this has something to do with some internal grudge, bureaucratic negligence or simply scarce resources.  All three might be at work.  

Roger and I talked a little about what it would take to solicit some of these folks for money from the park. He talked, smiling, about how some rely on the current infrastructure belonging to the park, that there is legal precedent to gently remind them of if they balk at donating to the park, but that they could argue their way out of any legal injunction through other means, but that really we wouldn’t want to roil the waters and spur any dispute.  Generally we are at the caprice of those with superfluous capital to donate, and until these benefactors are certain, we’ll have to busy ourselves in other ways.

Jenni RooP: Transitioning Tears - From Despair to Delight

My trip to the Highlander Center began with tears as I pulled out of the drive way and watched my husband, Brad waving good-bye with our German Shepard’s paw. On the hour and a half journey to New Market, TN., I couldn’t help, but think “What the heck am I getting myself into?” Joining the fellowship was a huge decision and, quite frankly, a leap of faith: at that moment, a very scary leap. I had no idea what to expect. I had never been part of a fellowship program or any type of group at all, really. The only thing I knew for certain was the stressful world of corporate monotony.

As I bounced up the gravel drive in my little car, the nervous tremors began. When I saw the first group of people emerging from the lodge, I avoided eye contact, smiled at the ground, whispered “Heeyyy…”, and kept on trucking inside to find my room….Oh goodness, it was like the summer camp I never experienced. We had room mates, community bathrooms, the whole nine. This was major culture shock for someone who obviously grew up under a rock. I took a deep breath, counted to 10, and reassured myself that I could totally do this. “Maybe it will help to get my things organized”…I situated my bags strategically around the side of the room that had yet to be claimed with luggage and pulled out my two comfort items: a shirt of my husbands and my daughter’s stuffed puppy named “Cuddles”.  A touch of home made this feel much better.

The first evening wasn’t so bad, especially since my mentor, Kathlyn, was there. Through the night, she was the buffer for my awkward and nervous personality. I met lots of new, very friendly folks, participated in some “ice breaker” activities, and had a wonderful dinner. Everything was going very smoothly….and then bedtime came and the Sandman took his sweet time showing up. Being away from my family at night was by far the hardest part of the tour. No bed time stories or good night kisses, no warm body resting next to me, no cold wet noses nudging me sweet dreams. Fortunately, when I did finally sleep, morning rose quickly and I was grateful for good, endless coffee and a beautiful morning view.            

As time went on and my timid nature became a distant memory, I grew ever fonder of the smiling “fellows” who I would be working with during the year. Never once did they complain, ever frown, or make me feel like “The elephant in the room.” I did that all by myself. Instead, they were friendly and always had a listening ear and great advice. I gained a healthy respect for this program and for all involved in this year’s cohort. Though we had a bumpy start due to the weather, once we got on the road, the true experience began. A long day in Tennessee at the Intersections conference on Monday became an adventure to Kentucky and then West Virginia the rest of the week, all places I have never visited before. I can’t speak for the others, but I sure did learn a lot about the wide world of nonprofits, fellowships, and other organizations involved in this work. This program has and will continue to provide us with a wealth of knowledge and grand adventures throughout 2017 and will likely be an experience none of us will ever forget, just as I will never forget the friendships forged from something that began with such dismal thoughts and homesick tears.

Now that I am home in Abingdon, Virginia, resting soundly in my own bed, accompanied by the sweet presence of my tiny family, I feel thankful. Daily, I find myself worrying about the fellows who are starting a new life in a new community. I hope they are able to call these places home for the year find comfort in knowing that they have one big support system backing them, no matter what: The Appalachian Transition Fellowship.

A Most Gracious Host (Community)

I’ve dedicated the past couple posts about the work I’m doing and now I’d like to touch just a little bit on what I think is one of the neatest things about my Fellowship experience: my host community.

(Despite what is an overall warm-and-fuzzy post, I’m not trying to win any favors here – and it wouldn’t do me much good. The pattern seems to be that even when there’s a rift, a difference of opinion, or any measure of frustration, people still find a way to work together. And that’s not something you see just anywhere.)

Most of my work happens in and around Perry County, a seahorse-shaped county in eastern Kentucky with a population of just under 29,000. The county seat and largest city is Hazard, my home for the Fellowship (and beyond?). Hazard itself has a population of something like 4,500, though both population numbers fluctuate with job availability.

The city and the county – not to mention eastern Kentucky as a whole – are abuzz with what we can generally call “transition work.” I would argue that at the center is a force. That force is the “staying spirit” – the want and urge and need to make a community that people can stay in and have their employment, educational, and social needs met.

Let me give you an all-too-brief look at some of what’s growing out of that “staying spirit” here in Perry County.

The first thing that comes to mind is our downtown revitalization group, InVision Hazard. I know that my good friend and fellow Fellow, Willa, would challenge the idea that downtown revitalization is the solution to our problems, but I do think it can be part of a solution – and not just if it’s successful. The most amazing thing about trying to revitalize downtown is how quickly it gives people a focus and a reason to come together. There’s something more tangible about the concept of downtown revitalization than “strengthening economies” or “rebuilding community.” Although a relatively new group, InVision has already hosted several successful events – including a “Haunted Harvest” for Halloween that brought as many as 700 people to downtown. But, skeptic Mae asks, what if we don’t walk away from InVision with a revitalized downtown? I will bet that we will still be better off because people came together to talk, to plan, to make, and to build – and that in itself is community revitalization.

 One of the first Invision Hazard steering committee meetings ]

One of the first Invision Hazard steering committee meetings ]

Closely related to InVision is our River Arts Greenway project. The concept behind this project is to get people outside AND downtown by developing a walk alongside our river (which may ultimately also result in more cleanup efforts for the river which may lead to more watersport tourism which may lead to more restaurant demand etc etc).  Accompanying this Greenway will be pieces created by local artists representing the area’s history, heritage, hopes, and future. It is a creative project that can help lead to greater interest in the arts, the outdoors, and the area.

  Drawing from an Artists Charrette for the RiverArts Greenway Design 

Drawing from an Artists Charrette for the RiverArts Greenway Design 

Another effort that, to me, indicates a way-to-stay search is the “food and agriculture movement” which is comprised of several initiatives including my own position, Farm to School, Farm to Table, Grow Appalachia, all the great work of the area Extension offices, and farmers’ markets. In the past decade or so, the “food movement” has exploded on a national scale and is often touted to perhaps be more of a panacea than reality proves, but it does offer its own piece of the solution to rampant diet-related disease and diminishing job opportunities.

  Farm to Table Coordinator, Jason Brashear, helps deliver local tomatoes to a Perry County school 

Farm to Table Coordinator, Jason Brashear, helps deliver local tomatoes to a Perry County school 

Real quick, while I’m thinking about local food, I have to give a shout-out to our Treehouse Café and Bakery in downtown Hazard for two reasons:

1.      It’s one of the few places to get lunch and dinner downtown

2.      If the walls could talk, they could tell you about the countless meetings over cupcakes and coffee to plan all the pieces of the “transition movement.”

  One of many community group meetings over dinner at Treehouse – this one about engaging more stakeholders in InVision efforts.

One of many community group meetings over dinner at Treehouse – this one about engaging more stakeholders in InVision efforts.

Eating and meeting at Treehouse and backing InVision, the ag/food initiatives, and so many other projects is the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, one of my hosting organizations. The Foundation is inspiring in that it promotes philanthropy not only in the form of monetary contributions – but also in “time and talent.” Their goal is to engage everyone in philanthropy and help them invest in their own community. Beyond their mission and their extensive involvement in so much that’s going on, they are also a delight to work for: watching and working alongside people who are trying to make a dream come true – and believe that you can too – is truly the best motivation. 

Check out Our Mountains' Episode 13 on YouTube for more information: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HutCqqbDaqY

 

Apart from these and the many other organizations and efforts I didn’t even mention thanks to space constraints, I would cite another indicator of the staying spirit: a turnover in the local government with the most recent elections.

  Audience of the Town Hall Candidates Forum for Mayor and Judge Executive. Photo by Robert Donnan

Audience of the Town Hall Candidates Forum for Mayor and Judge Executive. Photo by Robert Donnan

As with many small towns, Hazard has its share of long-term incumbency and a “that’s just the way it’s done” mindset. Our last mayor came into office in 1978 and had been there until he passed away in 2010, at which point his widow assumed office as the first female mayor of Hazard. My point is that thirty years of mayordom is a long time for anyone, living or otherwise. With this past fall’s elections, we witnessed a huge turnover in our elected officials. I can’t say for sure that I agree with all of the new officials’ visions and ideas (more research is needed), but the fact that voters decided, “Out with the old, in with the new” shows to me at least some sense of a readiness for change.

Now, I will absolutely acknowledge that in each of these efforts, there are certain people who are missing from the table. I don’t mean to claim that any one of these projects or efforts will solve all our problems. But I will assert that the work happening through each of these projects and the others I didn’t mention can be powerful, can be catalysts, and can possibly help make Hazard, Perry County, and eastern Kentucky be a place where people want to - and can - stay. 

- Mae Humiston



What is This Thing?

When the ReUse Tool Library opens this year, it will have about 550 items in its inventory. Most of those will be new, but around 200 will have been donated through the thrift store. The first step for a tool donation entering the system is to figure out what it is, who made it, and what it’s used for. All this is necessary for archiving the tool and determining its replacement value. Sometimes this is easy—a clear manufacturer name and model number plus a good internet connection means it’ll take just a few minutes to track down even the rarest object. Other times, we’re not so lucky. Often I know enough to guesstimate a few possibilities. Though just as often, I'm clueless. When desperate, we crowd source an answer from Reddit. In those situations I usually end up learning something. These tools are typically not widely used or have fallen out of fashion. Chances are they may never be borrowed from the library. But they can still tell us about the way certain activities can be accomplished and just how resourceful people can be.

Here are a few examples of some of the more interesting or esoteric tools that have come through my door.

 

Manufacturer: Lawrence Stationery Co.

Eyelet fastener pliers or leather punches were used, unsurprisingly, for punching holes and placing eyelets in leather. Made in New Haven, Connecticut, around the turn of the century.

Manufacturer: Oster

Model: Clipmaster 78150-013

A variable speed clipper approved for trimming horses, cattle, llamas, and goats. Might work on other animals. Figure we’ll give it a test run when my co-worker buzzes his head for the summer.

Manufacturer: Craftsman

Model: 9-4186

When drilling the hole for a dowel, a doweling jig helps guide the bit. Placing dowels are an essential part of creating joints in woodworking. Not sure what year it’s from, but here’s its instructions.

Manufacturer: Shelton

Model: Ratchet Versatool

The original combination screwdriver. Includes a Phillips-head and a wide and narrow flat-head. One eBay seller claims it was given away by the Lebanon Connecticut Business Association between 1902-1973. Based on its plastic components, I'd say toward the end of that range.

Manufacturer: Granberg Industries

Model: G-106 File-N-Joint

Any idea what this tool is called or what it’s for? It’s a file guide used for sharpening chainsaw teeth. Looks like a tedious process, but keeps you from having to purchase a new blade. Check out this video demonstrating how it’s done.

Manufacturer: Tec Imports

Model: Stickleback

A gimlet is a small hand-tool used for boring or drilling, usually into wood. This particular gimlet was made in Germany.

Part multi-tool, part Russian nesting doll, the steel and brass hammer breaks down into three different flat-head screwdrivers..

Manufacturer: Henry Disston and Sons

Here’s a pretty unique crosscut handsaw. The blade and the hardware were made by the Henry Disston and Sons company in Philadelphia sometime around 1917. The handle doesn’t seem be the original and looks to be homemade. The new design actually makes it hard to saw with….oh well.

Manufacturer: Henry H. Taylor Tools

This is a vintage (that is to say, patina’ed) set of wood graining combs. Wood graining tools are used to apply a grain like pattern in paints or glazes. These metal ones come from in Sheffield, England.

Manufacturer: E.C. Stearns & Co.

And finally, saw set pliers or a saw set tool adjust the amount a saw tooth bends away from the blade. This affects how the saw cuts and helps to keep the blade from binding.

Have any unique tool you’re proud of? Bring it by the ReUse Tool Library.

- Zach Swick

 

 

The Logistics of the Land

As noted by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), “Appalachia stands to reap substantial economic gains from the increase in foreign trade, especially with Latin America. However, failure to invest in the transportation infrastructure necessary to maintain the Region’s competitive stance and its ability to connect with the global supply chain will result in lost economic and employment opportunities.”   Appalachia has unfortunately always faced transportation challenges due to its geological makeup and sparsely populated areas.  

In the early 1800s, the National Road (aka Cumberland Road) was built by the federal government and connected the Potomac and Ohio Rivers.  In the mid 1800s, the rail system proved to be a giant leap forward for transportation, but it still left many areas in the region secluded.

Even still, after 1) the Good Roads Movement (formed in the 1880’s), 2) the auto trail system (early 1900s) and eventually 3) the highway system (1926), many of the roads in Appalachia were narrow, winding and composed of dirt or gravel. This turned them into mud during winter and dust in the summer. With only two lanes that snaked through the mountains or the valleys, they were slow to drive, unsafe and worn out.

The last major transportation project the country underwent was the construction of the National Interstate. Unfortunately, this served the cross-country traffic primarily and did little to assist those who lived in the mountainous interior. Effective progress was made in 1965, however, when the ARC created the Appalachian Development Highway System.  This development connected the region to the National Interstate, resulting in economic growth to the area.

n a food system value chain, there are suppliers, producers, aggregators, distributors and wholesale buyers. Today, food suppliers in Appalachia still struggle to get their products to market due to the burden of the increased and often challenging distance between them and the buyers. This distance usually requires an enormous investment in managing and operating the transportation necessary to connect these pieces in a value chain. Appalachia, however, has only a few of these pieces in place and food hubs like Appalachian Harvest in Duffield, VA, must assume the role as both an aggregator and a distributor.

All of these factors make it difficult to find independent long term financial sustainability; therefore, the most efficient way to obtain sustainability in rural Appalachia is to foster collaboration with other food hubs, farmers, and buyers that could leverage existing infrastructure and routes. Logistics are often cited as one of the key barriers to food entrepreneurs accessing large, lucrative markets for their products.   

Solving these issues is the primary purpose of my fellowship with Appalachian Sustainable Development and Virginia Tech.  With the help of my host communities, we will support entrepreneurs and expand market accessibility by providing greater access of distribution alternatives for Central Appalachian food producers, as well as foster connections with food markets to work on innovative strategies in order to open up new markets to the consumer.

 The author, Derrick Von Kundra

The author, Derrick Von Kundra

- Derrick Von Kundra

The Costs of Making, Using, and Discarding: MSW Series

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"One of the most fateful errors of our age is the belief that 'the problem of production' has been solved. Not only is the belief firmly held by people remote from production and therefore professionally unacquainted with the factsit is held by virtually all the experts, the captains of industry, the economic managers in the governments of the world, the academic and not-so-academic economists, not to mention the economic journalists ... This illusion...is mainly due to our inability to recongise that the modern industrial system, with all its intellectual sophistication, consumes the very basis on which it has been erected."

E.F. Schumacher Rhodes Scholar, Oxford economist,

and father of appropriate technology

Small Is Beautiful (1973)

 In some ways we really have solved the problem of production. For example, we can produce a lot of textiles, and cheaply. In 2011, worldwide fiber consumption topped more than 93 million tons. The scarcity of clothing that marked past ages is gone for many people. But this surplus comes at a cost: monetary, social, environmental. The World Bank projects that global urban solid waste alone will double between 2012 and 2025. Management costs of collected waste will grow from $205.4 billion to $375.5 billion. But the risks of excessive production and consumption go beyond the price tag for collecting and disposing of trash.

First, a word of caution about models—the results of studies and techniques like life-cycle assessments and economic impact analyses are not exact. The information we get is only as good as the models and data we use. These are complex situations with fickle figures and even the best model will produce unreliable results if given unreliable inputs. “Garbage in, garbage out,” as the computer scientists say; especially true in our case. So, sure, all models are wrong, but some are useful. And all the models indicate that there are serious economic and environmental consequences to extraction, production, consumption, and disposal.

Let’s look at plastics.  Last year a report was prepared for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) that tried to calculate the negative impact of plastics in the consumer goods industry on natural capital.  They came back with a global baseline estimate of $75 billion per year. As large as this figure is, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t include many factors—the end-product manufacturing stage, the opportunity cost to future generations by using non-renewable resources, microplastics in the ocean, etc.—due to technical difficulties, scientific uncertainties, and a lack of general consensus.

The report is also sector specific. At sometime in the last few decades, clothing switched from being mostly derived from renewable resources to non-renewable resources. Of all the textiles produced each year about 60% is synthetic, that is, petro-chemically based; that is, plastic. The rest is plant-based, mostly cotton. Three materials, acrylic, polyolefin, and polyester, make up approximately all of the synthetic fibers. Polyester is the majority material at 60%.  The UNEP estimates a conservative cost for plastics in the clothing and apparel industry at more than $4 billion. About half of that comes from greenhouse gas emissions. Making artificial fibers also releases water-borne emissions like dissolved solids, acids, iron, and ammonia. Production is chemically intensive. In fact, out of all chemical use worldwide, production of man-made fibers accounts for approximately 5%.

                So, we should just buy cotton clothing then? Problem solved? Well, no, that isn't really the answer either. Conventional cotton production is chemically intensive as well; 11% of all agrochemicals and 25% of all insecticides go into growing cotton even though, as of 2000, the crop only made up 2.4% of all arable land. Social and environmental effects of agrochemical use include: “fatalities, short term illnesses, increased medical costs[,]…the build up of pesticides in human and animal food chains,…[c]ontamination of drinking and ground water, the evolution of insect resistance/resurgence, pest/predator cycle disruptions, [and] biodiversity and soil fertility reduction.” Irrigation of cotton also leads to problems such as “eutrophication, salinisation, pollution, wildlife contamination, raising water tables and habitat destruction.” So the unrestrained use of a renewable like cotton isn’t a panacea. In fact, while production of polyester fiber is much more energy intensive than production of cotton fiber, cotton can have a larger ecological footprint in terms of productive area used. Plus, polyester is more durable so it can be used longer and is recyclable—recycling polyester is 84% more energy efficient and produces 77% less CO2 than creating virgin polyester.

Anyway, if these costs are significant, why don’t we account for them in our purchasing decisions? To answer that, we should consider that the recovery rate of industrial textile waste is 75% or almost five times the U.S. recovery rate for post-consumer textiles. Why is fairly simple. First, it's easier to reuse and recycle materials and products that are uniform and in large volume. A t-shirt factory can get a much better deal on the commodities market for truckloads of just t-shirt scraps than I can for a trash bag of mixed clothing. Second, manufactures feel directly the cost of textile waste. Anything that can't be sold has to be hauled away to the dump for an observable fee. In contrast, most American consumers pay for garbage services as part of taxes. For the majority of materials, whether I put a lot or a little trash on the curb does not have a direct economic effect on me.  There is little incentive to conserve, reuse, or recycle when those activities cost me more time and money than simply just chuckin' it all. What we have is the problem of a slow and nebulous connection between an action and its consequences. We have a feedback breakdown.

As such, these economic and environmental costs are classic examples of externalities and market failure. In this situation, there are two solutions: regulation and economic instruments. The first option is more commonly known. Governments impose regulations to influence behavior. However, economists are generally wary of government intervention. The second option, economic instruments, are market solutions that try to correct for market failures.  An contemporary example would be tradable carbon credits.

If economists generally agree that internalization of environmental externalities is desirable, why is so little of the impact of waste reflected in the cost of products? Part of the reason is that there still are some technical difficulties in calculating and monetizing environmental costs. But the major impediments are political ones.  Businesses' don't want higher production costs and consumers don't want to pay higher prices for products. Environmental effects of waste are typically long-term, diffused, and hard to quantify.  The effects of more regulated production and higher prices impact the bottom line now. Meanwhile, governments, the largest actors in the political area, are largely subservient to both businesses and consumers and not interested in slowing economic throughput. This lack of will makes any comprehensive environmental pricing reform in the near future highly unlikely.

                That isn't to say we should abandon attempts at political reform. On the contrary, policy-makers play a large role in inhibiting or promoting textile recycling and reuse. The only long-term structural changes will be new policies that internalize environmental and social costs. However, the challenges of managing wastes like textiles are occurring now and require near-term solutions. Luckily, there are some fixes that can be undertaken immediately. More on that later.

- Zach Swick