Archives for February 2017
There appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel for the people of McDowell County, West Virginia. This county is the poorest county in one of the poorest states in our nation. The collapse of the coal mining industry precipitated its economic decline. It is a land of broken promises and abandoned dreams. In 1960, President Kennedy campaigned in McDowell County promising aid to West Virginia (see video below). When President Johnson declared “war on poverty,” it was Appalachia he had in mind. In 2016, Jim Justice won the governorship of West Virginia with his agenda to restore coal mining jobs (see video below). Last April, I spent an entire day photographing this rural Appalachian county.
- Population has declined from 100,000 to 19,000
- 46% of children do not live with a biological parent
- The death rate from drug overdose is eight times the national average
- Only one in three adults are in the labor force
- Among the lowest life expectancy in the nation
- High incarceration rate
The neglected homes and vacant stores scar the natural beauty of the rolling hills of Appalachia. There are graveyards of rusty, deserted machinery and abandoned coal mines. My personal preference for street photography is to include people in my images. I like the interest the human element offers. As my day progressed, the lack of human activity was eerie. I imagined being a lone survivor in the quiet of my surroundings. Do you agree that the very absence of people makes this series of images compelling?
NEGLECTED HOMES (slide show)
McDowell County, WV_5-4-2016_ 20s
McDowell County, WV_5-4-2016_ 9s
McDowell County, WV_5-4-2016_ 10s
McDowell County, WV_5-4-2016_ 19s
McDowell County, WV_5-4-2016_ 13s
DESERTED MACHINERY (slide show)
McDowell County, WV_5-4-2016_ 25s
McDowell County, WV_5-4-2016_ 23s
McDowell County, WV_5-4-2016_s
HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL COSTS
The debate over reviving the coal mining industry is controversial. The economic devastation to the coal miners is crippling. This segment of the population relies on coal mining to provide for their families,but the health and environmental costs are monumental. Below are listed a few of those costs:
- Reduction of life expectancy of miners
- Black lung disease
- Congestive heart failure
- Asthma, Bronchitis, etc
- Combustion of coal releases carbon dioxide and causes global warming, Sulfur dioxide causes acid rain, hydrocarbons cause smog, mercury and other heavy metals causes serious health problems
- Pollution of land, streams, lakes, etc
Below is a compelling video explaining the health and environmental hazards of coal.
Is the revival of the coal mining industry and restoring jobs worth the health and environmental consequences?