A World-Ecological Perspective on Socio-Ecological Transformation in the Appalachian Coal Industry

Ben Marley, Samantha Fox

Abstract


This article discusses the exhaustion of socio-ecological relations in the coalfields of West Virginia. We use the term socio-ecological to signify "the interwoven character and the indispensable unity of social and natural life" (Araghi 2009: 115). In particular we use classic literatures on labor history in the coalfields of central Appalachia and contemporary studies of mountaintop removal to think about phases of socio-ecological relations of the coal industry. We argue for the interrelationality of the social and the ecological in place of conventional eco-M arxist approaches which treat these as relatively independent units. This enables us to situate nature as an active component of capitalist developmental processes. We argue that the exhaustion of socio-ecological relations in the coalfields of West Virginia is an outcome of material practices within the phase of extraction using mountaintop removal, historical changes in the conditions of production in the coalfields, and of new forms of competition from other regions and energy sources. We find that the relative exhaustion of central Appalachian coal is tempered by favorable international markets and a specialization in metallurgical coal.

Keywords


world-ecology; energy; capitalist development; Appalachia; nature

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5195/jwsr.2014.556

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Copyright (c) 2015 Ben Marley, Samantha Fox

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