Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC) is celebrating its 35th year as a “statewide citizens’ organization working for a new balance of power and a just society.” As part of our series, Transition in Action, KFTC member Steve Boyce shared his thoughts on Just Transition in Appalachia.
Who are you? And what’s your role at your organization?
I’m Steve Boyce, a member and supporter of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. I also served as Chair for two years and was on their Executive Committee for eight years. I actually didn’t get involved until after my retirement. I walked into a Saturday morning session of their annual meeting in Jabez in 2004, and it was a role out of their proposed tax reform. In that accidental encounter, I was struck by the quality of their work. Those are still the main ideas of tax reform in Kentucky and a good example of KFTC sticking with something over time. You go back and look at your life and the major happenings that have shaped your life and it’s amazing how they hang on such slender threads. I feel lucky to have worked with KFTC on some of their issues.
What does Just Transition in Appalachia mean to you, and what’s your vision of it in Appalachia? One response to Just Transition is that it’s economic development in Appalachia that does not harm the land or the people’s heath, and that is motivated and driven from within. While outside assistance can help, the core of the movement—the motivation and the ideas—has to come from within the communities in Appalachia.
A crucial part of a Just Transition vision for Appalachia is that young people growing up there have reasons to want to stay and be there, ways they can make a living that they feel good about and that don’t hurt the land. It can’t just be about reemploying coal miners. It has to be about the younger generation finding the means to stay and make their lives there, and reasons to want to do that.
How does KFTC advocate for/ work for/ connect with Just Transition work in the region?
KFTC connects to Just Transition work in the same way they’ve worked to connect with other issues since the beginning of their history 35 years ago. They work to identify what matters to people in the commonwealth. They try hard to listen to their members in these communities: what’s their vision for a better life, what are their ideas, what do they want to change, and what do they need help with? This is central to the way KFTC has worked from the beginning. They listen, and they listen some more, and they think together about ideas for the region.
Can you share a compelling example of Just Transition in Appalachia from your perspective? While it’s small in terms of geographic scope, Benham, Kentucky, where the local power board is working to introduce energy efficiency measures in older homes, is a powerful example of Just Transition. It stands out for the mix of people who are involved in trying to think about a problem and aspects of the solution. At the center are a committed group of people who live in Benham and see a way to improve their lives, and they’ve worked with groups like MIT, KFTC and MACED—groups who have the technology or the strength of convening people to work away at a problem. It’s a small but really good example of a Just Transition project that has a lot of potential to be replicated all over Kentucky.