The 100-year capitalist experiment that keeps Appalachia poor, sick, and stuck on coal, Gwynn Guilford, Quartz (30 Dec 2017)

…part of coal’s legacy in central Appalachia is that, as with their economic opportunities, individuals often don’t have much control over whether they are healthy or not. Between drugs, poverty, social isolation, and lack of educational opportunities, there is any number of hazards that can derail, or even end, a person’s life. … The media and lawmakers are increasingly drawing connections between economic stagnation and destructive behaviors like opioid abuse and other “deaths of despair”

shared on 03 Jan 2018 by Andrew Dai

The article details at length the methods by which coal companies and complicit lawmakers extracted the economic future along with the mineral wealth out of Central Appalachia over the course of a century and the severe effects on the environmental and human health of the area. With labor and property laws on their side and lax enforcement of existing regulations, coal companies subjugated generations of working-class miners to lives of suppressed wages and little-to-no opportunities outside mining, resulting in a near complete dependance. All subsized by the taxpayers and residents.

This really reminded me of an article I read recently by Hanna Rosin in published in the September 2013 edition of The Atlantic titled Murder by Craigslist. It details the chilling crimes of a serial killer (himself a working-class middle-aged white man) taking advantage of the vulnerabilities of other white working-class men.

Rosin writes:

I was initially drawn to the story of the Beasley murders because I thought it would illuminate the isolation and vulnerability of so many working-class men, who have been pushed by the faltering economy from one way of life—a nine-to-five job, a wife, children—into another, far more precarious one: unemployed or underemployed, single or divorced, crashing on relatives’ spare beds or in the backseats of cars. At what other moment in history would it have been plausible for a serial killer to identify middle-aged white men as his most vulnerable targets?

But what I discovered in the course of my reporting was something quite different. As traditional family structures are falling apart for working-class men, many of them are forging new kinds of relationships…

Christians often talk about a “God-shaped hole,” a need inside us that can be filled only by faith. But perhaps we share a “family-shaped hole.” When the old structures recede for men, they find ways to replace them with alternative attachments, bonds with one or two people that offer the warmth and intimacy typically provided by a wife or significant other. If anything, these improvised families can prove more intense because they are formed under duress and, lacking a conventional domestic routine or a recognized status, they must be constantly tended and reinforced.

A tragically common theme throughout these pieces is the viscious descent and effects of the opiod crisis in these areas and others around the country. The New York Times has recently published an excellent series covering the opiod crisis and the industries and businesses involved titled Addiction Inc.