As time moves on and Appalachia with it, there are many changes that I believe will come to the region. Most of these changes have already begun, or at in their final stages, and will be complete within 20 to 50 years. Energy reliance on renewable sources, and like fusion power, will reduce the demand for coal. Along with the advancement of robotics this will be the final nail in the coffin for coal mining as an employment opportunity for the region. Additionally, I hope that further environmental protection pushes will end mountain top removal in the region. Expansion of parks and increasing awareness of the regions history could draw more tourism, however this will not be enough to satisfy the demands of many of Appalachia’s inhabitants, so many will likely leave the area, perhaps to return some day, perhaps not. Overall, however, the culture of the region will be preserved as part of the same sort of efforts that will likely spell MTRs undoing.
Sometime in the next 50 years, I believe that an event similar to the devastation of the great depression or the Civil War will likely occur in the United States, as it has proven to at least once every century since settlers first came here. How this sort of event will affect the Appalachia of the future will likely reflect the way Appalachia has dealt with such events in the past. A mix of dependency and self sufficiency, along with the overcoming nature of Appalachians, should allow Appalachia to weather such an event well enough. Some areas will be more damaged than others, but overall the region should fair better than many places in the US.
After such an event, or perhaps somewhat before, and most definitely after coal has met its end, I personally see a slow process of development beginning in Appalachia and slowly growing momentum. Hopefully, the atmosphere of the region will be perfect for small businesses and industries which could grow and expand from a tiny beginning, and allow the region to thrive better without the systemic oppression of the extraction industry companies of the past.
Another industry that may effect Appalachia, particularly those that I believe may leave the region, will be the space industry. With cheap space travel becoming a reality, colonization and utilization of space’s resources may someday be a reality. While this portion is utterly speculative, considering the massive time frame of 50 years, it isn’t unlikely that some Appalachians will become pioneers of a new sort in the future, and possibly bring their culture and spirit to a new horizon not fully explored yet, but one that would need their strength and overcoming spirit to conquer. Really, I think this is a spirit that America and the world as a whole needs more of these days, and a spirit that I hope in the future, will reach even further from Appalachia than it has in the past.