About our Programs + Projects
Our programs and long term projects are determined by the on the ground reality of neighbors, economies and watersheds in Appalachia, the town and the region. We work with local communities to determine needs that we can help to fulfill, and build long term plans that advance the mission of the collective. With interns and volunteers working with a long term vision together with local communities, we hope to reenergize a sustainable economy in Appalachia. We are always looking for interns to help out with existing and new projects.
The water monitoring initiative is a key priority because water quality has recently become a major flashpoint in the fight against destructive methods of strip mining. In light of a recent guidance by the EPA, data on conductivity levels – used to approximate levels of heavy metals — in impacted streams can be used to affect an understanding of a permit’s narrative water quality standard and, ultimately, the outcome of the permit. With quantifiable waterway health data, SAMS can provide regulatory agencies with the evidence necessary to prevent new surface mine permits, evidence that these agencies are often unable (or unwilling) to obtain. Water monitoring is about keeping community watersheds healthy, but also engaging citizens in monitoring their communities’ waterways and taking action to protect their most valuable resource, water. Since June of 2010, SAMS members have been monitoring their watershed for conductivity and pH. SAMS works to broaden the impact of this program, by continuing to arm community members with the capability to gather data, keep their own records, and take regulation into the their own hands toward the goal of preventing illegal mining and identifying waterways that legally require cleanup.
We’ve recently been working with community members to identify local graveyards, determine their GPS coordinates and register them with National Graveyard Registry. Interns working on this project would maintain a GIS map of registered and threatened graveyards and develop campaign outreach materials to involve community members and effectively communicate campaign’s successes. By registering graveyards, we will be able to prevent them from destruction by surface mining projects.
Skills and Interests: Hiking, backwoods recon, ability to use GPS, GIS mapping, ability to work with people and listen effectively.
Working for Environmental Justice in Southwest Virginia requires a lot of research. From tracking new and existing mining permits to connecting the dots between health and environmental degradation, compiling and understanding data is a necessary and time consuming piece of the work. The Research Intern will work local grass roots groups to identify research needs and pursue them in a way that builds future capacity for gathering data.
Sustainable Communities and Appalachian Community Economics
RReNEW supports the work of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards and other grassroots groups that promote sustainable, diverse, and healthy economic development in the historically coal-dependent areas of Southwest Virginia. Interns working on this program are expected to help organize events, meetings, workshops and other projects that help catalyze an economic transition that is community based, environmentally sustainable, good for workers and socially just. Research, seeking funding, accounting, business development and developing economic alternatives are all part of the activities interns may be engaged with in this program.
Air Quality/Dust Control Monitoring
Working with existing campaign to control dust in coal camp communities. Utilize existing data from recent studies to put pressure on state officials to create significant changes. Strong emphasis on supporting residents’ voices to organize and work for change in their immediate communities.
The Youth Organizing campaign has the goal of creating a network of youth in the area working on regional environmental issues and with hopes for a sustainable future. Youth Organizers seek to support the work being done in the region by offering trainings, summits, and networking. Another goal of the campaign is to connect local youth to the grassroots organizing happening here in the coalfields.
All social movements produce media to help organizers reach community members and SAMS is no different. RReNEW interns created It Takes Unity, developed web content for SAMS, and work on countless organizing materials. In the future, we want to support the development of a newsletter and more regular web content.
One of our goals for the RRENEW Collective is to provide an example or model of residential sustainability. We work to create a more sustainable living space at the Henry Street Volunteer House, and seek out projects that further this goal. From Gardening to renewable energy, efficient water use to resource recycling, we seek to utilize appropriate technologies and sustainable living systems to minimize our own, residential impact on our local environment. We hope to create a low-impact high-functioning space where we can live out our ideals, learn from our neighbors, and share what we learn along the way. The intern working on this program is expected to design and implement residential sustainability systems at RReNEW’s Volunteer’s house(s), to further develop the program to include educational projects that share sustainability techniques and technologies with our neighbors and community, and to identify partnerships through which to facilitate an exchange of skills, resources, and support.