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Ohio State University Extension


Ohio Coal Communities

Ohio Coal Communities Project

A group of faculty, staff and students at The Ohio State University interested in documenting how the coal industry has shaped Ohio’s history, culture and economy, and how ongoing changes in the coal industry will impact Ohio communities moving forward.

(Team photo by William Sharp) From left: Tom Dugdale, Director/Actor OSU Theatre Dept.; Kathryn Finneran, PhD Student; Shown in mirror is photographer William Sharp; Gwynn Stewart,MS, Community Development Educator IV OSU Extension; Dr. Jeffrey Jacquet  and Dr. Jeff Bielicki/OSU

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Community Case Studies:


(Artwork by Michael Schmidt, Visual Artist/Animator Mt. Union University)

Coal Team PresentationCoal power plants & Published Works:

The Ohio Coal Transition: Pathways for Community Resilience Presented by:
Gwynn Stewart, MS, Community Development Educator IV, The Ohio State University Extension (Noble County)
Jeffrey B. Jacquet, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Environment and Natural Resources & Affiliated Faculty, Sustainability Institute The Ohio State University

  • 2022 Intersecting Energy Cultures Working Group (In Partnership with The Pomerene Center)
  • Reclamation of Agency in the Ohio River Valley: Towards an Eco-Crip Theory of Critical Trauma by Kathryn Jane Finneran

    Year and Degree- 2022, Master of Science, Ohio State University, Environment and Natural Resources.
    Abstract: As much of the world transitions away from coal energy, communities across the globe grapple with the industry’s retirement and legacy. In the United States, this problem is most acute in the Appalachian region, a place that has been systemically disabled by the coal industry in just about every way possible. It has been environmentally damaged, politically, and economically subordinated, socially re-constructed, culturally maligned and mythologized and ultimately, medically compromised. Residents there are much older than the rest of the country, and experience disproportionately high rates of disability, illness, poverty, infant mortality, low life expectancy and addiction. This disablement of Appalachia is often explained by scholars through a combined structural and cultural mechanism forced onto the region to uphold the dominance of a few wealthy, often absentee, land-owning elite. This mechanism requires inequality and is curated through stereotypes that often transform into internalized self-perceptions as a means to shift blame away from the industry and onto Appalachians themselves, cementing regional disablement in psychological abuse. Insights from a combined critical disability justice and environmental humanities framework in the form of an eco-crip theory of critical trauma can be utilized as a useful and applicable lens for detangling how the social construction of Appalachia complicates the ongoing coal transition, and likewise extends understanding of the eco-crip theoretical framework. Utilizing 48 key informant interviews with coal industry workers, elected officials, and community leaders, this study seeks to center the historically wounded nature of three case study communities in the Ohio River Valley experiencing past, present, and future coal facility closures. An eco-crip theory of critical trauma asks us to look beyond “a cure” for these places and towards radical acceptance and inventive solutions that transform despair into causative and creative power. This framing can help confront normative assumptions of worth and productivity and move to assert agency and autonomy in a region that has been so deeply paternalized and constrained by the logic of transnational extractive capitalism.