As we’ve learned, Appalachia has gone through development without growth. Because of our government’s lack of support throughout the past few hundred years, the mountain region has only grew slightly. There are some parts of Appalachia that look like they’re stuck 20 years in the past. Sadly, this is all too common, but people still embrace it. That leaves a very tough question to ask “Where will Appalachia be in 50 years?”
As we explore this question, we have to think of what Appalachia was like during different times. In the 90’s did Appalachia seem like it was in the 70’s? Or, in the 80’s did it seem like it was stuck in the 60’s? You get my point. As someone who grew up in the mountains, Christiansburg, I know what it is like to have slow progress. I remember watching cable when I was young and seeing what cities and suburbs had to offer. Christiansburg never had the fancy stores or restaurants, usually. We didn’t get our first Walmart until the late 90’s and we didn’t get a Target until the early 2000’s. I would see commercials of things like new toys or cereals that would be hitting shelves elsewhere, however it would take months for our stores to receive them.
So with that being said, Christiansburg is now a little bit bigger. We gained big restaurant chains, corporate businesses have grown and the over all population has gotten a lot bigger. However, this is mostly due to Virginia Tech being seven miles away. The professors that move here with their families, or the large amounts of traffic that come through for school events and football games have helped local economy. But, this is only one town in Appalachia. Towns that have less attractions to them seem to be less developed.
So, in short, where will our region stand as far as development and growth in the next 50 years? Well, there is a lot that it comes down to. Will our government help rid the environmental issues, like mountain top removal that hurt towns and their citizens? Will the government help build programs that would help boost local economies? Or, would the citizens of different towns like nothing to change? There’s a lot of different questions leading to different results for the future of Appalachia.
As for me, I believe that in the next 50 years Appalachia will begin to see a little more progress than prior years. As our nation grows in population, I would think that more people would start moving into less developed areas and forcing them to grow. The only scary part is that it could take away from local color and the Appalachian vibe of these small mountain towns. Personally, I would hope to see more towns develop a lot like Blacksburg, where the local economy and community plays a key role. I would hope to see more towns having small festivals that demonstrate and express the Appalachian tone and values.
Overall, this is a tough question to ask, because there’s various different ways it could go. Hopefully the things that will happen in the next 50 years will tend to the needs of the land and it’s people. That’s at least what I hope for.