Futures Scenario Project
According to Jim Dator, in the field of Futures
Studies there are 4 generic possible futures:
continued growth, collapse, disciplined society
and transformation. The rest of this study will
focus on what the future could possibly be for
Appalachia if it becomes a disciplined society in
the next 30 years. In the year 2009, people are
noticing that something needs to change—the
region doesn’t need certain areas to continue to
boom while others head toward total collapse.
Achieving a Disciplined society, or sustainability, is
what the majority of this research is going to be
What will Appalachia look like in 2039?
Appalachia, a land where people have a
tender kinship with the earth, has endured many
things the last three decades. It is the year
2039, and while many things have changed in the
past 30 years, it has still sustained its basic way of
life. Appalachia still has the same limitations, and
the majority of America has a distorted view of
what Appalachia and its mountain people are
really like. The region’s problems from years
before still haunt the Appalachia of today; small
cities and towns revolve around a single
industry, drug abuse is a prevalent issue, and a
majority of the people are impoverished.
Old systems take time to over-haul, especially
when years of a certain way of thinking and
doing things are embedded in the culture of
these people. While many things have
remained the same in the region, over the years
technology has developed and the globe’s view
on certain issues have drastically changed.
These viewpoint shifts have sparked a culture of
people aware and willing to help the
environment in our capitalistic society.
Appalachia has moved away from only “King
Coal” and has focused on other alternative
sources of energy.
Phase One: 2009-2019
2009/2010- The current economy is the worst it has been
since The Great Depression. The U.S. economy hasn’t gone
backwards since WWII but is now doing so and causing great
consequences. Billions of dollars have been lost in
businesses, and many people have been left hungry and/or
homeless. The International Monetary Fund declared the
situation as “ the deepest global recession since the Great
Depression.” The IMF predicts a 1.3 percent shrink in the
global economy for 2009.
The downturn of the economy is going to leave people all
around the globe unemployed. The Appalachian region is
already below the curve compared to the rest of America
when it comes to poverty and unemployment figures—
poverty rates are sometimes twice as bad in Appalachia as
the national average. This dire economic situation will be felt
most in a region where people are already poor and have
great difficulty finding jobs.
Phase One: 2009-2019
2011-2013- Because of the global recession, the world has had to focus on
alternative ways of doing things they have grown so accustomed to
throughout their lifetime. People are learning to reduce spending to shrink
the amount of cash flowing out of their wallets. With this mind set has
also come environmentally friendly practices. An energy crunch is
happening and people around America are taking the
“reduce, reuse, recycle” attitudes to heart. To save money Americans are
being inventive and frugal and are becoming more conscious of their
wasteful habits. This leads to a nation that opens up to the idea of “Green
In 2012, President Barack Obama will be elected for his second term.
Building upon his last 4 years in office, and embracing the attitudes the
majority of the current population, he continues to push the “green
movement”. He wants to “reset capitalism” so as it puts the environment
at the center. This practice will shift environmental costs to the
producers, rather than the rest of society. Obama wants to ensure
companies can’t structure their “operations so that any upside gains
accrue to their owners while the risks or costs get shifted onto society as a
whole”. Obama also will commit to adopting a transparency for
environmental companies. Adequate information about economic actors
will have to be given, and public officials will also ensure that disclosures
of this information is complete and accurate.
Phase One: 2009-2019
•In Appalachia, some things are transforming. Because Obama
has embraced the Green Movement, the EPA is continuing
crackdowns on environmental groups—including coal
companies. If coal companies want to continue to stay
alive, they will have to research other ways of doing business
whether it be by coming up with a “clean coal” alternative, or
some other alternative energy sources. President Obama wants
the nation to be committed to change, as we “have the
resources to change”. He speaks of creating “green jobs” and
believes that “no single issue is as fundamental to our future as
energy”. According to Obama, America’s dependence on
foreign oil is one of the most serious obstacles our nation has
faced. He believes it drives prices up as we are at the mercy of
international corporations.This is one of his primary motives of
pushing the “Green Movement”. Appalachia sees that, and coal
companies are figuring out their next move.
Obama speaking about energy and
Phase One: 2016-2019
2013-2016-The Green Movement has continued to sweep the nation. People are proceeding
with their green efforts with a common purpose. Obama has put more money than ever in the
American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan. This has enabled scientists, businesses and workers
to move forward. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan places a down payment on the
economy and initially put 460,000 people to work with clean energy investments. It has doubled
the capacity to generate alternative energy over the next couple years.
This Plan has spread to Appalachia. With the EPA crackdowns on environmentally negative
activity, restrictions on surface mining have expanded. This has increased costs and crippled the
coal industry in the region. Before the “Green Movement”, coal production was at an all time
high while the number of mining jobs was at an all-time low.
Hard times on the coal industry mean hard times for
the Appalachian people. With whole towns based
around the coal industry, everyone is hurting. Elites in
town are even feeling the effects of a stifled
economy, but still are holding their ground because
they benefit from the coal industry. They are also
awaiting the election of the new U.S. President.
A democratic President is elected and upholds the
plans Obama set forth. The President continues the
Green initiatives and motivates people once again to
remain focused on being Green. Continued pressure
by the national government has the coal industry
researching other alternative energy sources to
become involved with.
2019-2021-With the American people focused on Green
initiatives, the jobs that were being researched and planned for
during the Obama administration are finally coming in full swing.
Green Jobs and Alternative Energy are becoming the fastest
growing energy sector. People in America are being retrained to
obtain a “green job” and the American people are finally going
back to work—getting things back to normal.
Watch: What Is a Green Job? Video-
video 28 seconds-1:30
The coal industries in Appalachia did not expect the switch to more
alternative energy sources to happen so fast; they haven’t planned
for it. Coal companies are losing profits and cutting salaries for
workers while laying others off. The rest of America is going back to
work but Appalachia, being a single industry region, triumphs and
fails according to the coal company.
Laborers and families are having to leave the region to seek out
work and other opportunities.
•2021-2025- Coal companies have buckled down to find
solutions to their problems. While they are not going to be able
to change the attitudes of the people, they must evolve into
what the people want, and what is going to make them money.
•Coal companies are shifting. They are no longer only coal
companies—they are energy companies. For example, Hazard
Coal Company is now Hazard Energy Company. These energy
companies are investing in wind turbines and solar panels to
put on reclaimed strip mine land and on mountains that were
previously used for mountain-top removal mining. These newly
made energy companies are reviving the Appalachian region.
People are getting jobs to install and maintain these new
systems, and Appalachians are moving back to the region
because more opportunities are available.
Brief Description of Solar Panels
•Solar Panels use renewable energy from the sun and are a clean and
environmentally friendly way of collecting energy. While they may cost
money, they will create jobs for many Appalachians that will in turn put
that money right back into the regional economy.
•Solar Panels are arrays of Photovoltaic cells that harvest sunlight and
convert it into electricity. It is an infinite resource, and provides no ill
effects to the environment.
Brief Description of Wind
•A wind turbine is a machine that takes wind (kinetic energy) and
turns it into mechanical energy. The mechanical energy can then
be turned into electricity. Just like solar panels, wind turbines are
using a natural renewable resource and they are environmentally
Phase Two: 2019-2029
2025-2029: In the year 2025, newly turned “Energy
Companies” have caught up with the Green
Movement. The green industry in Appalachia is
booming and is supplying more jobs now than the
coal industry was when its “boom” ended. Coal is still
being utilized, however, the energy companies are
now also focusing on coal, solar and wind sources for
Energy companies now have even more control over
the Appalachian region than coal companies did.
Most people’s job in the Appalachian region are tied
up somehow with the Energy Companies. The Energy
Companies are able to expand because of high
demand for new energy equipment (solar
panels/wind turbines), thus creating even more jobs.
Phase Three: 2029-2039
2029-2039: With the recent success of the Energy
Companies, they are even more committed to hiring
scientists and personnel to stay on the cutting edge of new
technology, thus starting a tech revolution. More effort is
being put into the thought of geothermal energy and the
money it could bring to the company. Geothermal energy
uses the heat from the earth to produce energy. The heat
from the earth’s mantle rises through the crust and this hot
water and steam can be extracted and used. The energy can
create electricity. Geothermal energy is just another facet of
what the energy corporations want to incorporate. They have
mastered the field of coal, wind, and solar energy and
incorporating geothermal energy is only going to expand
their role in the Appalachian Community.
In 30 years the Appalachian region went from one in a dire economic situation, to a
one that has recovered with a vengeance. People were without jobs and the
stubborn coal industry controlled the lives of many Appalachians during the tough
economic time. Elites and Coal Industry big wigs controlled the city and made the
most important decisions for the people. Everyone is connected, and only those on
the “right side” really benefitted.
With Obama’s push for more Green Initiatives came a change for America.
American’s were becoming more environmentally conscious and Green Companies
were profiting. Coal companies were losing money and cutting back on employees
and overhead costs. Mountain people had to move out of the region to find jobs
and opportunity. The already poor Appalachian region was hurting, and on the
verge of collapse.
When America began relying on alternative sources of energy as well as coal rather
quickly. The coal industry was struck by surprise and had to act fast. All of their
resources poured into research of alternative energy sources, and soon enough coal
companies turned into energy companies. Former coal companies began to master
and manufacture wind turbine and photovoltaic cells. This opened up a window of
opportunity for the Appalachian region. Things were looking up—especially for the
energy companies. People coming back to the region were getting jobs with the
energy company. Since no other real development had taken place, the energy
company was the center of the city again, and had a large amount of control on the
decisions being made by politicians.
The energy companies are booming so much that they are able to
expand. With that is the thought of investing in another type of
energy that is sometimes overshadowed by solar and wind
energy—geothermal energy. Geothermal energy would give energy
companies another leg to stand on, even furthering their reach in
the Appalachian region.
Drugs are still a problem in the region. When the economy took a
turn for the worse, and it seemed like Appalachia may
collapse, more people than ever turned to drug use. No new
systems are in place to combat this problem than were 30 years
The stereotype of Mountain People of Appalachia is still in place.
When Appalachians moved to other parts of the country to get
jobs, they took their accents, and slower way of life with them.
They lived with family, thus, their crowded homes, or big groups of
Appalachians together perpetuated the stereotype.
The Appalachian region went from being on the verge of
collapse, to booming. However, the same limitations that were in
place 30 years ago are still prevalent today in 2039.
I went about my project in a little bit
different way than most other students. I
really focused on telling a story—
especially one that could be easily
explained to anyone, no matter what
their experience with this subject is.
I know I am a little under the word count
even with two pictures and two
videos, but I felt like adding in more
would be useless babbling on my part.