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CEO Brandon Dennison Reflects on BBC Interview

This past week I had the surreal experience of doing a live interview with BBC World News. I did this on zoom from my garage. How classic 2020 is that?

The interview was in conjunction with The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres delivering a major address which identifies climate change as the U.N.’s number one area of focus for this year and beyond. “Our planet is broken,” Guterres said on BBC. He describes human treatment of the environment as a “suicidal” war on nature. “Nature always strikes back, and is doing so with gathering force and fury,” he said while citing flooding, fires, droughts, and hurricanes. The objective, said the UN secretary general, will be to cut global emissions by 45% by 2030 compared with 2010 levels.

People in coal areas who read this must surely feel a mix of emotions. We know the planet isn’t healthy right now. Our hollers are flooding at unsustainable rates. Our gardens aren’t doing well with all this weird weather. Our roads aren’t holding up to the wild temperature swings.

Yet coal is what we know. We’re scared for our future. We can’t help but ask, “does ‘cutting emissions’ equate to ‘cutting coal jobs?’”

In my interview, the host asked something to the effect of, “so people in West Virginia see themselves as part of the green revolution?” My answer was, “Well not fully, no not yet.” We haven’t yet fully realized the opportunities available to our region. When we’re scared, we close in. We’re just trying to get by. But it’s time to overcome our fears and embrace a new and better economy. There are opportunities right here and right now for entrepreneurs having the courage to seize them. It’s time to open our minds and hearts to new possibilities. We are more than just one thing.

The interviewer pressed me on Trump policies. But the policies of one administration versus another are beside the point. What’s best for us, and what do we need to do to not just survive but actually thrive? These are the questions on my mind. And I’m seeing encouraging answers throughout Appalachia. While we might not be getting much support from the top, there is a true bottom-up movement to see this place realize it’s full potential.

Hopefully my interview gave the world a glimpse of some of the good news here in our region. To all of you helping to inspire a new day in Appalachia, thank you and keep it up! To those who are still scared and afraid, I understand. But take heart, we are more than one thing. And we can be leaders in the new economy.

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