Transition in Action: Lyndsay Tarus, The Alliance for Appalachia

The follow is the first interview of our new series, Transition in Action. This one comes to us from Lyndsay Tarus, the Economic Transition Coordinator at the Alliance for Appalachia. The Alliance for Appalachia – which is based in Knoxville, Tenn. – is “a regional alliance with the following goals: Ending a devastating form of coal mining called mountaintop removal coal mining; putting a halt to destructive coal technologies; and, creating a sustainable, just Appalachia.”

Lyndsay Tarus

  1. Who are you? And what’s your role at your organization?

Hi! I’m Lyndsay Tarus and I call Appalachia home. I support the work of The Alliance for Appalachia’s Economic Transition Team by coordinating projects and facilitating discussions around community-led transition efforts in our region. I am currently working on a research project to explore federal programs aimed at bolstering economic development initiatives, especially programs that address the toxic legacy of coal mining by remediating environmental issues and supporting redevelopment projects.

  1. What does Just Transition in Appalachia mean to you, and what’s your vision of it in Appalachia?

First and foremost, for me, a Just Transition in Appalachia is one where everyone has equal access to clean water and a clean environment, where individuals are empowered to make their own decisions based on their own definitions of success and well-being, and where no one need be afraid to speak to what they believe in.

  1. How does your organization advocate for/work for/connect with Just Transition work in the region?

We believe that community organizing and leadership development are at the heart of this work, and that systemic change is only possible when oppressed populations work together and create the political will for change. As such, when we set out to explore solutions to our region’s toxic legacy of coal mining, which threatens our health and prohibits economic development, we follow a model that both informs, and is guided by, our many stakeholders throughout the region. Our coalition aims to lift up the voices of community members, to build power locally in order to create systemic change necessary for a truly just and sustainable transition.

  1. Can you share a compelling example of Just Transition in Appalachia from your perspective?

The most compelling examples of Transition in our region start with the impact of grassroots efforts that are rooted in environmental sustainability and long-term, holistic visions of an ecologically healthy Central Appalachia. At the Alliance for Appalachia, our work is built on the belief that mountain people are experts of their own lives; as we integrate this belief in every aspect of our work, we’re shifting the narrative away from helpless and distressed, to powerful and proactive. Seeing local initiatives influence federal level programs, give reinforcement to our work and strengthens our regional voice.