Courage and Hope as Imperative Ecological Virtues in Appalachia: A Case Study Approach

Student Author(s)

Lauren Madison

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Steven Bouma-Prediger

Document Type


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America’s Appalachian Mountains are marred by the presence of devastating poverty and wounded by ecological wrongdoing, both arguably symptoms of a pervasive culture of coal that has its roots in over one hundred years of mining. Coal culture prevents Appalachia from thriving economically, evident in the region’s perpetual state of poverty. But what is also becoming obvious is the harm being done to the ecosystems of Appalachia and to public health because of the practice of mountaintop removal (MTR). In the face of such challenges as a polarized political process, the power of the coal industry, and widespread cultural support in favor of this strip mining, it is not easy to oppose MTR. Those individuals who choose to take action against MTR are in most need of possessing the ecological virtues of courage and hope. Such audacity on the part of politicians and activists implies the belief that there is some better future worth fighting for. In this way, the virtue of courage implies the presence of the virtue of hope as well. To those looking to end the practice of MTR, hope is recognizing the difficulty of the task at hand, but rather than despairing at its overwhelming magnitude, taking heart in the possibility of justice in Appalachia

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