Central Appalachian Folk & Traditional Arts: Comprehensive Plan

The Central Appalachian Folk and Traditional Arts (CAFTA) Survey and Planning Project is a project of Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation in cooperation with the Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network. The project included a 15-month study of folk and traditional arts in the central Appalachian regions of Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia.

This Comprehensive Program Proposal (CPP) is a product of the Central Appalachian Folk and Traditional Arts (CAFTA) Survey and Planning Project, a project of Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation (MAAF) in cooperation with the Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network (LiKEN). This CPP serves as a roadmap for a multi-state grant-making program designed to increase the understanding, recognition, and practice of the living folk and traditional arts practices present in central Appalachia.

(click image below to view the PDF report)

Central Appalachian Folk & Traditional Arts: Final Report

The Central Appalachian Folk and Traditional Arts (CAFTA) Survey and Planning Project is a project of Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation (MAAF) in cooperation with the Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network (LiKEN). The project included a 15-month study of folk and traditional arts in the central Appalachian regions of Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia. This report includes a summary of project activities and research methods, as well as a presentation of findings based on CAFTA’s specific learning objectives. Summarizing trends and identifying opportunities, this document guided the creation of a comprehensive program proposal for a multi-state grant-making initiative designed to increase the understanding, recognition, and practice of the living traditions currently present in Central Appalachia.

(click image below to view the PDF report)

LiKEN publishes report about heirs’ property in Kentucky, Georgia, and Alabama

LiKEN has completed a study that evaluates the efficacy of a major law that seeks to protect families that own heirs’ property.  Heirs’ property is created when land passes without a will to two or more descendants who become “tenants in common”. This kind of “tangled title” can make families vulnerable to predatory land grabs. Across the Cotton Belt of the U.S. South, heirs’ property correlates with low wealth and land loss in African American communities and is common in other regions with entrenched poverty (Central Appalachia, the colonias in southern Texas, and Native American communities).. 

As an effort to help preserve family wealth and reduce the likelihood of forced sales and inequitable land grabs, the Uniform Partition of Heirs’ Property Act (UPHPA) was drafted in 2010. It has since been passed in 18 states and introduced in seven others. In 2012 and 2014, Georgia and Alabama, respectively, passed the UPHPA. The act was introduced in Kentucky in early 2021.  

LiKEN just completed a 10 month study to see how well this law has worked in Georgia and Alabama, and what its benefits might be in Kentucky. The full report can be downloaded here.

Our findings (click here or the image below to view full size PDF)

We welcome your suggestions and hope that if you are interested in learning more about this project, please contact Carson Benn cbenn@likenknowledge.org. If you are an heirs’ property owner, you may assist this research by agreeing to an interview with one of our researchers, or by making and sharing your own photographs and video recordings.

This research was supported by funds from the Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center.

Social Innovation & User-Experience Design

Request for Proposal

To develop popular education materials about pipeline safety

Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network (LiKEN) is seeking a social innovation and user-experience/user-interface design contractor (individual or firm) to develop a creative series of digital and non-digital, on-line and off-line education and engagement products, materials, and prototypes. These products, materials, and prototypes will utilize existing gas and hazardous liquids pipeline safety information, education, and public outreach materials that have been collected during research projects conducted over the past twelve years by Pipeline Safety Coalition (PSC)

The contractor will be responsible for facilitating ideation, design, prototypes, user-testing, and final product and material development using environmental justice and public health models of prevention principles and approaches. These principles and approaches require a commitment to understanding and working with local community experiences, different types of existing knowledges, perceptions of risk, and institutional and informational power imbalances in order to ensure that all products, materials, and prototypes are developed and disseminated in information rich, culturally relevant, and broadly inclusive and accessible formats. 

The design focus will be on collaborative and integrated, iterative processes to assist in meeting the challenges of both designing and disseminating a series of products and materials that can be immediately used by local communities as well as a series of prototypes that will be available to organizations, local communities, researchers, educators, and designers for future development. 

The design contractor will report to and work closely with LiKEN and core team members from both PSC and Arizona State University (ASU). The contractor will be expected to collaborate with a cross-sector Advisory Group composed of local community residents, pipeline industry personnel, federal government staff, and educators. All designs and prototypes produced will be user-tested in at least two rural and urban low-income and/or digitally isolated communities in Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, or Pennsylvania. The distribution and disposition of final products and materials and the prototypes from all design work will be coordinated with ASU’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society (SFIS) and the Civic Futures Lab.


The estimated contract period will be 9-10 months.

RFP sent: 11/08/2021

Responses due: 12/03/2021

Send any questions to: Simona Perry, sperry@likenknowledge.org 

Send proposals to: Simona Perry, sperry@likenknowledge.org

Total Project Budget: $100,000

Available for Design Services: $50,000 – $60,000

Expected delivery date: 9/30/2022


Organizational background

LiKEN is a not-for-profit link-tank for policy-relevant research to steward place, culture, and land. From its formal incorporation in 1990 under the name of Kentucky Environmental Foundation (KEF), the organization has evolved into a link-tank (now called LiKEN) connecting wide webs of communities, scholars, practitioners, and government agencies.  From the beginning, LiKEN’s work has been about building collaboration across sectors— linking grassroots community mobilization and popular education, with the best available science while working closely with government agencies.  

Type of audience for this proposal

The primary audience for this design work will be communities living in rural and urban low-income and/or digitally isolated parts of Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania where natural gas and hazardous liquids pipelines are located. Part of the contractor’s work will involve conducting a community analysis of at least two of these communities in which LiKEN and partners already have relationships to better understand the local pipeline safety context, information seeking behaviors, cultural and linguistic and other barriers to information seeking and acquisition, and establish realistic outcome expectations around increased awareness, increased engagement, and greater access to different types of pipeline safety information and knowledge. 

Design objective: Pipeline Safety KEEs

The objective of this design work is to design, prototype, conduct user testing, and develop a set of innovative and locally relevant knowledge guides, educational resources, and engagement toolkits on pipeline safety information and knowledge (“Pipeline Safety KEE content modules” or “Pipeline Safety KEEs”) that are specifically for local communities in both rural areas and in lower-income urban locations within Qualified Opportunity Zones (QOZs) in Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania, USA. Due to budget and time constraints this is considered a pilot design and development project, with future plans for continuing this design and development work under the guidance of organizational and research partners. 

The outcomes from this project are expected to strengthen, support, and broaden public awareness, access to information, and local community engagement around the safe operation of rural and urban gas and hazardous liquid pipeline networks across the United States. 

Present state of information

The raw materials and basic information of the Pipeline Safety KEEs are currently in the form of digital powerpoints, webpages, pdfs, surveys, technical reports, image files, maps, and archival files that were collected and created over the past eleven years through PSC’s outreach, education, and research activities on community pipeline safety. In order to meet the information gaps and challenges of delivering relevant, timely, and accurate pipeline safety information that involves complex laws and technical knowledge to rural and urban low income and digitally isolated communities, these raw materials will be provided to the design contractor in three categories:

1) Pipeline Safety Public Information and Communication Knowledge Guides: current and emerging research and information about pipeline safety topics of importance and interest to the public, tips and best practices for the public in communicating their pipeline safety concerns, and how to locate accurate and current information on pipeline safety from trusted and reliable sources.

2) Basics of Pipeline Safety Public Education Series: public education and training resources about gas and hazardous liquids pipeline infrastructure and safety concepts, regulations, and policies. 

3) Pipeline Safety Public Engagement Toolkits: tools to get the public engaged in pipeline safety within their own community, including creative ideas about how to develop, incorporate, adapt, and customize pipeline safety best practices into existing local community planning processes.

These raw materials will serve as the Knowledge, Education, and Engagement content for the design of the Pipeline Safety KEEs. 

Types of products and materials expected

To ensure the accessibility of the KEEs to everyone regardless of internet access and technology available, it is important that the design of all guides, resources, and toolkits be flexible enough to be used via several different formats or distribution channels: 

  • Non-digital (e.g., posters, letter-sized print materials, postcard-size print materials, etc.)
  • Digital off-line (e.g., CDs, USBs, videos, etc.)
  • On-line (e.g., story maps, website portals, web pages, etc.)

Once user-testing (via two community design workshops) is complete and further refinements made towards the end of the project, it is anticipated that there will be KEE modules (based on the three categories of raw materials designated above) that will be fully tested and ready for public use immediately and KEE modules that will still require further prototyping and testing. 

Both the pilot-tested public-ready KEEs and the prototyped-only KEEs will be made freely accessible to everyone through a publicly available information repository for use by communications experts, social innovation designers, and local communities across the United States. This repository will be housed at Arizona State University’s (ASU) School for the Future of Innovation in Society (SFIS) and the CivicFutures Lab. The goal of the pilot project is that all KEE Modules, whether fully tested and ready for use or still at the prototyped phase, be made widely and freely available for immediate use to rural and low-income communities and for further development as open-source content and designs. All KEE Modules will be developed with a central focus on creative outreach and education, improving transparency and access to information on pipeline safety, increasing public understanding, and strengthening the depth and quality of public participation and engagement in the safe operation of pipelines in and around communities of concern today, and into the future. 

Outline of project activities & deliverables

Project activities are divided into three chronological task areas:

Task 1. Design and Develop Content for KEE Modules

Task 2. Prototype of KEE Modules and Community Testing

Task 3. Finalize and Launch of Pilot Pipeline Safety KEEs

Design contract Deliverables that should be considered within these three task areas: 

Deliverable 1 (Task 1) County Selection & Community Analysis (with LiKEN and Advisory Group)

Deliverable 2 (Task 1) Testing & Evaluation Plan (with LiKEN and Advisory Group)

Deliverable 3 (Task 1) Initial KEE module prototypes for review by Advisory Group

Deliverable 4 (Task 2) Modified KEE module prototypes, products, and materials 

developed after community design workshops (workshops co-facilitated with LiKEN and ASU)

Deliverable 5 (Task 3) Final KEE module prototypes, products, and materials for dissemination to communities and roll-out with ASU and Advisory Group

Deliverable 6 (Task 3) Plan for dissemination and communication of KEE prototypes, products, and materials  

We anticipate there will be at least three virtual LiKEN-facilitated meetings of the Advisory Group and design contractors, and two in-person community design workshops in two different states (either Georgia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, or Arizona) organized by LiKEN and co-facilitated by LiKEN or ASU and the design contractor. 

Design dissemination details

All final content from this pilot project will be digitally housed at ASU’s Civic Futures Lab where it will be freely available for anyone and become a focal point for on-going community-engaged and academic research related to the public understanding of technology and science and energy infrastructure. The design contractor will be expected to work directly with the ASU partner to decide on appropriate platform(s) for housing and making accessible all products, materials, and prototypes developed from this project.  

Budget details and criteria for selection

The budget for this design is not to exceed $60,000. The criterion for selection is the most favorable offer from the vendor who can demonstrate they have completed similar work to this RFP within budget and on time. Vendors that can offer additional expertise in environmental justice and public health models of prevention approaches, linear projects, risk education and outreach, and/or collaborative design in rural and low-income urban communities, will have an advantage. All invoices for this project must be billed before 9/30/2022.

Respondent requirements

Please incorporate the following in your proposal response:

  • Your professional and/or company background.
  • If applying as a company, provide the names, qualifications, and roles of top members of your team who will work on this project.
  • Provide examples of your completed work that applies most closely to this RFP in terms of: 1) scope, 2) creative approach, 3) collaboration approach, 4) types of community engagements and ethics, 5) budget, and 6) timeline.
  • Describe in detail your approaches and ethics related to collaboration with clients and historically and geographically marginalized and/or disadvantaged communities that make you stand out from the competition.
  • Describe in detail your approach to designing and developing creative solutions to communicating complex or technical information that make you stand out from the competition.
  • Provide an estimated number of days to complete each activity/deliverable outlined in the RFP and the rate and/or fee per deliverable. 
  • At least one reference from a community or user group you have worked with.
  • At least one reference from a client you have worked with.

Where to send proposals

All respondent requirements and complete proposal materials should be sent to Simona Perry via email, sperry@likenknowledge.org,  with the Subject Line “Pipeline Safety KEEs Design Proposal”

RFP & Project timeline details 

RFP sent: 11/08/2021

Questions from respondents due to Simona Perry, sperry@likenknowledge.org: 11/17/2021

Answers to questions sent to respondents: 11/19/2021

Responses due: 12/03/2021

Finalists selected: 12/07/2021

Winner selected: 12/10/2021

Estimated project start: 12/15/2021

Final UX deliverables: 9/30/2022


Thank you for your interest in responding to this RFP with a proposal for the Pipeline Safety KEEs. We look forward to your response!

Addressing Climate-Forced Displacement in the United States: A Just and Equitable Response

By Julie Maldonado

The climate crisis is ravaging communities nationwide and disproportionately affecting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, who are losing their homes and livelihoods due to more severe and frequent storms, rising seas, erosion, flooding, extreme heat, wildfires, and various other climate events. These communities are further disenfranchised through inadequate and inequitable public policy responses to our climate crisis, including extreme weather events, which further exacerbates and even creates the unfolding, accumulating disasters.

To motivate action to advance community-led solutions to climate-forced displacement in the US, the Legal Justice Coalition (facilitated by the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee and the Lowlander Center) and the Rising Voices Community Relocation & Site Expansion Working Group issued policy recommendations earlier this year. The set of recommendations is designed to guide policymakers to address the shortfalls of official current responses to the threat of climate-forced displacement but also challenges them to launch a concerted effort to respond to this urgent crisis. At the heart of these policy recommendations is the need to center the agency, leadership, and self-determination of frontline communities in addressing climate-forced displacement.  

The policy recommendations for both Congressional and Executive Action include the need to: 

  • Increase resources for frontline communities
  • Grant government funds directly to communities
  • Make FEMA more equitable
  • Establish a just response to support adaptation-in-place and/or relocation
  • Create a human rights governance framework

The US Government Accountability Office identified that “unclear federal leadership is the key challenge to climate migration as a resilience strategy.” Currently, there is no lead federal agency tasked with managing and coordinating the federal government’s climate crisis response, nor is there dedicated funding to support community relocation efforts and/or adaptation measures to prevent communities from forced relocation, instead of adaptation in place. 

As detailed in the full policy brief, while the need for dedicated funding for adaptation in place and relocation is clear, it is critical that government programs and policies and the process of disaster planning, response, and recovery should go beyond only financial support for material upgrades to homes and infrastructure. The entire process must account for the true costs to a community, including loss of sacred sites, cultural values, burial sites, health and social well-being, and other intrinsic values—which frontline communities, and in particular Indigenous Peoples, experience when separated from their ancestral lands and subsistence way of life. This is why it is even more imperative that Tribes and community representatives are included in disaster planning at the state and federal levels.

The federal government should establish a governance framework for climate-forced displacement that protects the rights and dignity of communities and provides them with financial resources and effective support. This process calls for a better partnership between science and governance grounded in principles of justice, and for that partnership to jointly explore pathways that put relocation in the context of a larger set of adaptation measures to better understand the tradeoffs across these options over time.

To achieve a response to climate-forced displacement in the United States that centers justice and equity, the UUSC and Rising Voices-Working Group coalition offers a summary and topline recommendations, along with the full policy brief

This coalition of community leaders, legal advocates, researchers, and allies invites you to join in urging our elected officials in the Biden Administration and in U.S. Congress to center equity, justice, and human rights in addressing climate-forced displacements in the United States. 

Please refer to the initiative webpage to read the recommended policy solutions and to sign-on. We looking forward to working with you to #SupportClimateJustice. 


Julie Maldonado, Associate Director

Julie Maldonado is a cultural anthropologist and serves as LiKEN’s Associate Director. As part of this role, she is Co-Director of the Rising Voices: Climate Resilience through Indigenous and Earth Sciences program, in joint partnership with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research/National Center for Atmospheric Research (UCAR/NCAR), and is the lead for the LiKEN-produced PROTECT film, in partnership with Paper Rocket Productions. She also works with the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals to facilitate and support the development of tribes’ climate change adaptation planning and vulnerability assessments. Julie is a lecturer in the University of California-Santa Barbara’s Environmental Studies Program and for Future Generations University. She is also a founding member of the Culture and Disaster Action Network (CADAN). 


Bridging the Rural / Urban Divide — watch the recorded first session & enroll for next 3 sessions!

Develop the skills you need for our changing world
Masters of Applied Community Development

Rural-Urban Divide Webinar Series


Watch the recording by clicking the button above and send it to someone who might be interested in joining for Part 2 and beyond! Register Below for Part Two.

Rising Voices 8: Finding Community Amidst a Pandemic

By Jackie Rigley

I became a research assistant for LiKEN in January of 2020 and I was looking forward to attending Rising Voices 8 in April. Then, March came along and the Covid-19 pandemic unraveled any plans of an in-person workshop. I was disappointed that I would not get to experience the Rising Voices workshop; however, a few weeks later, we got news that the workshop was going to be held virtually.

At the Virtual Rising Voices 8 (VRV8) Kickoff event in April, I did not know what to expect. The program began with a series of videos from fellow Rising Voices participants introducing themselves and their homes. It was refreshing to see new faces and places as I had been sheltered at home for a month. Host Kalani Souza immediately lifted my spirits with his energetic introduction and storytelling superpowers. Conversational topics highlighted Indigenous community experiences not only related to the pandemic, but also topics such as food and water systems, climate variability, and other adaptations to the present challenges. Although many difficult experiences were shared, there was always recognition of the resilience of Indigenous communities. Rising Voices members exemplified a strong faith in one another and effort to help whenever possible. The Kickoff event introduced me to a warm and welcoming community and left me reflecting on everything that had been discussed. 

Thus far I have attended Rising Voices workshops focused on energy, phenology, community relocation and site expansion, and water. Each workshop has expanded my understanding of these separate issues, but also reminded me of the common themes among them. The collaboration of Indigenous and Earth sciences is at the heart of each conversation. Members of Rising Voices recognize the need for this partnership in addressing climate change and climate events. However, in order for this collaboration to thrive, the way that Indigenous Knowledges are valued more broadly must change. Indigenous ways of knowing are often misunderstood and disregarded by Western scientists in the United States and beyond. Indigenous communities have held the wisdom of adapting to climate variability for thousands of years prior to Western colonization; they are key knowledge-holders for climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. 

Ultimately what stands out to me in my Virtual Rising Voices experience is the intimate community shared by its members. No matter your background, Rising Voices welcomes you with open arms. Each opinion is taken seriously and respected. Even in the virtual space, the personal connection felt significant. I’ve met various family members and pets of Rising Voices members. It has been a blessing to meet people that I share values with, and to truly feel like a part of the Rising Voices family. I have encountered many role models through this experience. On top of being a place to share knowledge, Rising Voices is also a safe space to share emotions and personal experiences. We celebrate one another’s successes and empathize with each other’s challenges. My first annual Rising Voices workshop has been enlightening and inspiring. I look forward to participating in this event for years to come.


Jackie Rigley, LiKEN Research Assistant

Jackie graduated from the University of California-Santa Barbara (UCSB) in Winter 2021, majoring in Environmental Studies and Sociology. She grew up in Chicago and going to school in California piqued her interest in protecting the natural environment. She is a board member on the UCSB Coastal Fund, which allocates funding to various projects involved in protecting the Santa Barbara coast environment. She studied abroad in Southern Chile where she had the opportunity to conduct research related to sustainable tourism. She is passionate about environmental justice and the power of community resilience in the face of climate change. Outside of school she loves exploring Santa Barbara, cooking, and painting. She is really interested in changing how cities are developed. She wants to work in Urban Planning, and help build more resilient, sustainable, and humane communities. Jackie is also interested in learning more about fighting climate change on a local, city-wide level.

Searching for Connection in a Time of Distance

Article and Images by Sarah Morairty

I feel that I am not alone in saying that at this point, I am completely lost. We are all no longer able to live the lives we were accustomed to. Our existence, in a way, has been utterly and irreversibly altered. These social distancing protocols have imposed a whole new twist to life, and one that none of us saw coming or were remotely prepared for. During this time of distance and confusion, we are all looking for something to feel connected to.

Generally speaking, our daily lives typically consist of activities and things that give us purpose, whether they be exercising, owning a pet, working a 9-5, going to school, etc. I feel that we as humans are always trying to find our individual purposes, a feat that was hard enough before this crisis. Now, social distancing has added an even more difficult complication. Every day, we have to wake up and figure out how to translate our old lives into a new, more restricted one. Every day, it seems we are presented with another unforeseen consequence of the virus: some are losing their jobs, some are losing loved ones, loved ones are dying alone, healthcare workers are working at maximum levels, students who are graduating in spring aren’t able to have graduation ceremonies, the list goes on. For some, the worst consequence is that they have to be locked inside all day with only themselves and their thoughts.

Amid all this negativity, though, there are beautiful phenomena blooming out all around us, both figuratively and literally. In the figurative aspect, social movements of caring and helping each other are growing. Social media has been a never-ending venting/therapy session where strangers from all around the world can find support and validation from each other. People have become more understanding and compassionate. On the literal aspect, with the retreat of human activity, ecosystems around the world are making comebacks and beginning to thrive again.

Nature continues to move forward, even when it feels like our world has come to a halt. I find this inspiring and beautiful. It seems like many people, including myself, have been looking towards nature for a sense of comfort. Us human creatures have this subconscious yearning for connection to other beings and life, a biophilia that drives us to continuously seek these connections. We are all creations of Gitchi Manitou, the Great Spirit, and our Earth Mother. We are all connected and have large impacts on each other, and now is the time where this is being made very clear.

I urge us to look toward our communities’ teachings and Earth Mother for guidance. The medicine wheel has brought some organization into my newly unorganized life. I learned from one of my elders to use each section to represent an area of my health and well-being: spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental/intellectual. Each week, I make sure to keep track of the things that I have done to maintain each section. When one area is lacking, I can take more time to fill in the holes. In this way, I am ensuring that my well-being is holistically being cared for. 

Yellow flowers on green stems. Large  brown bee on one of the flowers.

Right now, we are in the time of spring, ziigwan, the yellow section of the wheel. In my tribe, it is a time of renewal and new beginnings. Just as the land is awakening and creating new growth, we can utilize this shift from COVID-19 to grow and start anew. While we cannot go out and do all the things we used to before, there is much to see around us. Go outside and look at all the fresh growth. Flowers are blooming, bees are buzzing, spiders are spinning their webs, squirrels are scurrying amongst the trees. Take advantage of the clearer skies and look at the sunsets, the stars, and moon. Enjoy the beauty that each day brings.

This period in our lives is difficult and even painful at times. But we mustn’t let the negativity consume us, lest we all become windigos1. Stay kind to your neighbors, to your environment, and to yourself. I wish you all the best in this challenge of reinventing ourselves and our futures.

1A windigo (there are different variations in spellings from tribe to tribe) is someone who has become overwhelmed with greed, selfishness, and/or negativity and has thus turned into a wicked monster. It is a warning tale of my tribe against these negative characteristics.


Sarah Morairty, LiKEN Research Assistant

Sarah is a recent graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in American Indian and Indigenous Studies. She is part of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. She is a passionate activist for the rights of Mother Earth and marginalized communities and has research interests in sustainable development, climate change and its impacts on communities of color, traditional approaches to land and resource management, economic and political approaches to the transition towards a green society, food sovereignty, cultural preservation and protection, and institutionalized marginalization. She wants social and environmental justice for all, as well as a healthy and positive future for our children. As she says: “In the words of my ancestors, ‘Maamawi mashkogaabawiyang’; together we stand strong. Let’s build a better world together.” 

The Rural-Urban Divide: How We Got Into This Mess, How We’ll Get Out

(image by Future Generations University)

A Future Generations University Webinar

LiKEN invites you to join Anthony Flaccavento, with guest speakers Kathy Cramer and Erica Etelson, on four free webinars in June hosted by Future Generations University. Please join us in taking a deeper dive into the rural-urban divide, how we got into this mess, and how we’ll get out. 

To Register for the Free Webinar 
7:00 – 8:00 PM EDT
Tuesday, June 8th, 15th, 22nd, 29th, 2021
More information about the series.

More about the webinar series: The rural-urban divide is deep, widespread, and it is getting worse.  Liberal people from cities and suburbs think most rural folks are ignorant, racist, uncultured, stuck in the past, and their communities heading towards oblivion.  Many in the countryside view urban people, academics, and the government as elitist, contemptuous of rural ways, and dismissive of the people living and working there.  While race and racial resentment play major roles in this polarization, the divide between urban and rural is perhaps the most poorly understood component of our divisions.  And it’s killing us and dividing all of us, enabling the richest people and biggest corporations to dominate our democracy while the great majority of us fight amongst ourselves.  How did we get here and how do we begin to overcome the rural-urban divide?  More to the point, what role have people who espouse a fair and just world played in exacerbating the divide, and what must we do differently?

LiKEN and Appalachian Voices are proud co-sponsors of this Future Generations University webinar.

How Have Disinfection Byproducts Impacted Eastern Kentucky’s Drinking Water?

By Sarah Birnbaum 

New research shows that failing infrastructure causes significant contamination of drinking water in many Eastern Kentucky water systems.  One kind of contamination is disinfection byproducts, which result from the mixing of organic matter and chlorine-based disinfectants during the water sanitation process. Improper maintenance of infrastructure is the main culprit for these violations, as there may be leaks in pipes or low water pressure that can permit organic matter to mix with chlorine, causing these byproducts to form. When consumed or inhaled, disinfection byproducts can yield adverse health impacts, including increased risk for certain cancers in addition to an increased risk for cardiac birth defects. The University of Kentucky, Martin County Concerned Citizens, and Ricky Draper (LiKEN Community Engagement Coordinator) recently completed collaborative research in Martin County that found elevated disinfection byproduct levels, with 47% of samples being above the EPA maximum contaminant level (Pratt 2020). Additionally, 99% of residents have had issues with their drinking water including, but not limited to: odor, color, and taste.

To continue this research, I examined disinfection byproduct levels of adjacent counties in Eastern Kentucky through the Kentucky Drinking Water Watch website.  Data analysis demonstrated trihalomethane (THM) was the most frequently elevated disinfection byproduct, often exceeding the EPA maximum contaminant level. Additionally, it was discovered that two other nearby counties hold similar violations to Martin County: Wolfe County (22 violations 2009-2019) and Boyd County (41 violations 2009-2019), bringing up concern for possible disinfection byproduct exposure for residents that reside in these areas. Overall, Martin County still holds significant disinfection byproduct violations, (33 violations 2009-2019). This research has provided a step to address water contamination in Eastern Kentucky and help identify where new infrastructure is likely needed to combat disinfection byproduct contamination. Hopefully, in the near future, Eastern Kentucky residents will have access to clean, safe drinking water free of disinfection byproducts. 


white woman with brown eyes and long straight light brown hair. Smiling. Wearing a white shirt.

Sarah Birnbaum, LiKEN Research Assistant

Sarah is a senior at The University of California, Santa Barbara double majoring in Environmental Studies and The History of Art & Architecture planning to pursue a career in Environmental Justice. Within the realm of Environmental Justice, she is especially interested in sustainable community development and public health. Outside of school Sarah enjoys hiking with her German Shepherd, doing yoga, and cooking new meals. She has been excited to be a part of the LIKEN team, having the opportunity to learn from community members, in addition to having the ability to share her knowledge and passion for Environmental Justice with others.