Environment
6:30 am
Mon August 13, 2012

Filmmaker Presents Ideas for Developing Post-Coal Appalachian Economy

A filmmaker in North Carolina is working on a documentary that juxtaposes the coalfields of Appalachia with those of another area: Wales. He’ll present some of his findings for revitalizing a community after coal at a meeting this week.

Tom Hansell’s documentary “After Coal” won’t be finished for another year or two, but Hansell has already done some of the shooting, in both Wales and Appalachia. This week, he’ll speak at the quarterly meeting of the Alliance for Appalachia—a group of environmental organizations from Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee.

Coal was mined in Wales for decades, but the industry began declining about 30 years ago. Hansell says since then, communities have rebounded in various ways he thinks could apply to the Appalachian coalfields, too.

“There’s no silver bullet. It’s not a simple solution,” he said. “If you look at Wales since 1988, they have lost population. They certainly have a much cleaner environment and there are coal mining communities that have survived. In fact, the majority of the coal mining communities have survived.”

For example, Hansell points out that Appalachia’s current approach to tourism is very seasonal, but in Wales they began focusing on holding professional development retreats and workshops year-round.

“And the idea of using this professional development idea may be a path to creating more sustainable businesses,” he said. “And they also had a very careful business plan and had several years of financing lined up before they jumped in. And they also had a commitment to hiring local people.”

Hansell estimates his documentary will be finished by 2014 or 2015.