EU referendum date concerns and a major coup as Wales lands Aston Martin
The announcement by the Prime Minister that the EU referendum will take place a few weeks after the Assembly election is exercising many within the political bubble in Wales,
They rightly fear that the real issues at play at the Assembly election will be drowned out by the dominance of the debate surrounding whether we should remain or leave the European Union. Politicians from all parties point out that as 85% of the people of Wales consume their media from London based outlets many might not hear the policy and political discussions that are being held regarding the future of the economy and business support here in Wales. David Cameron visited GE Aviation in Nantgarw last Friday to highlighting the link between EU membership and jobs.
His legacy will be closely linked to a Remain vote, and its clear that the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign will be focusing heavily on the economic unknowns of Brexit. He will have to balance different views within this own cabinet, while Andrew RT Davies has announced he was going to vote to leave the EU.
Related content : Why Andrew RT Davie is backing Brexit
The leader of the Welsh Conservatives knows that the growth in UKIP support in Wales ahead of the referendum may cost his party dear in the Assembly Elections, but he is going to come under real pressure here to make the economic case for Wales leaving the EU. The date of the referendum is manna from heaver for UKIP, who may pick up between 4 and 10 seats at the Assembly Elections.
They are taking votes from Labour, but seats from the Conservatives, as they are more likely to win list seats that constituencies. The business community in Wales will need to turn their attention to working with UKIP, who may have 2 places on any future Enterprise Committee at the Assembly. Their manifesto will talk about reducing subsidies for renewable energy and other areas of business support, re-introducing grammar schools and technical colleges and promoting trades .
The Welsh Government will be buoyed with the announcement that iconic car maker Aston Martin has chosen St Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan, as the site of its second manufacturing location. This will also be welcome news for the Vale s sitting Welsh Labour AM and Finance Minister Jane Hutt, who although increasing her majority in 2011, faces tough opposition from the Conservatives to hold the seat. A potential 1bn City Deal bid for the Swansea City Region has also been revealed, aiming to secure 39,000 jobs, which will focus on technology, energy and ultra-fast broadband infrastructure.
Related content : Sir Terry Matthews on a city deal
The news comes as Cardiff Capital Region also outlined its planned 1.28bn City Deal to UK ministers, with a view to securing an in principle-agreement in time for George Osborne s Budget next week.
Digital technology remains a key growth area for the Welsh Government, as Business Minister Edwina H
British car maker Aston Martin has confirmed that it plans to manufacture its new luxury DBX crossover vehicle in Wales, the UK Government revealed on Wednesday. St Athan in Glamorgan has been selected as the location for Aston martin s second manufacturing facility, which is said to reinforce Wales position as an innovator and leader in the automotive sector. The investment by Aston Martin will see the creation of 750 high-skilled jobs and support a further 1,000 in the supply chain company s new luxury DBX crossover vehicle will be manufactured at the site in an investment that will directly create 750 high-skilled jobs and support a further 1,000 in the supply chain.
Construction of the new Aston Martin facility at St Athan is expected to begin in 2017. The site covers approximately 90 acres and will re-purpose some of the facilities currently used by the Ministry of Defence, transforming the three existing super-hangers at MOD St Athan. Full vehicle production is expected to commence in 2020 and the site will be the sole production facility for a new Aston Martin crossover vehicle. An Aston Martin concept crossover vehicle named DBX was first exhibited in early 2015 and is said to demonstrate the company s intention and direction for this fast-growing luxury market segment. Demand is reportedly growing in markets such as China and the US for crossover vehicles and the company anticipates that more than 90% of those manufactured at its St Athan facility will be exported outside of the UK.
Stephen Crabb, Secretary of State for Wales, commented:
Today s announcement is an enormous boost for St Athan, for Wales and for the British car industry. It is a genuine example of a one nation achievement, with both the UK and Welsh Governments working together to attract this prestige manufacturer to Welsh shores.
This decision has reinforced Wales position as an innovator and leader in the automotive sector. It also shows the strength and competitiveness of our manufacturing sector, and the high-end skills base that is driving our economy forward.
St Athan will present a wealth of opportunities to Aston Martin. I look forward to seeing the Super Hangar transformed into a major manufacturing base, and seeing Wales underlining its important contribution to the renaissance of the UK automotive industry. Prime Minister, David Cameron added:
Aston Martin is an iconic British brand and the decision to invest here shows real confidence in our economy.
With our economic strengths and easy access to European markets, the UK automotive sector is thriving.
It is one of the biggest in Europe and the most productive and Aston s creation of up to 1,000 new jobs in Wales and the West Midlands is welcome news.
Climate on the Mind: A Series
The mind fights the
body and the body fights the land. It wants our bodies,
the landscape does, and everyone runs the risk of
being swallowed up. Can we love nature for what it
really is: predatory? We do not walk through a passive
landscape. The paint dries eventually. The bodies
decompose eventually. We collide with place, which
is another name for God, and limp away with a
Siken, War of the Foxes
I called Kathy Selvage because someone had told me she could explain what it was like to lose a mountain. Near her home in Wise County, Va., in the name of the seams underneath, summits are lopped off and King Coal shoves his arms in up to the elbows. Selvage, 66, has watched these ridges atrophy for decades.
It s a dead zone, she tells me. You re not only being harmed physically. You re being harmed spiritually. That intimacy with the mountain is gone.
Mountaintop removal, it s called; a type of surface mining. Mountaintop removal: a euphemism that whispers of the passive voice. Who removes the mountains? From whom are they being removed? What else are we removing?
It is no secret that times are tough in coal country. For many of the people of West Virginia, of eastern Kentucky, of southwestern Virginia, poverty has always been a synonym for existence.
The physical health tragedies of mountaintop removal mining towns have been deeply, grimly reported elsewhere. People are poor. People are sick. You have heard the stories of what the king has done to the land, the towns, the body. Now we are beginning to learn something new: He is also at work on the mind.
Selvage knows about the intimacy of the mountains because she has spent a life living in their shadows. Around the turn of the millennium, she founded Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, a community organization dedicated to halting the destruction caused by surface mining and improving the quality of life in the region. Most recently, she was a caretaker for her mother, who passed away last year. In many ways I grieve for her, she says.
But I associate the loss of the mountains with grief, too. That probably sounds rather strange, but I think of them as one and the same. I mourn them both. 1
Before our conversation, Selvage sends me a photograph of herself in which she s standing in front of a No Trespassing sign. High-waisted blue jeans and an orange t-shirt, both faded; she is gripping the sign with her right hand. Behind her: stone, cinder blocks, sand, cement. There is a steely stare at the camera. When I ask her about the photo, she explains: The homeplace where I grew up is under all that rubble.
Homeplace; one word.
Kathy SelvageMarian Steinert/Evening Star Productions, 2010
There are two things that come up in nearly every conversation I have with people from or familiar with mountaintop removal towns. The first is a strong, immutable sense of place a connection to the region and to the mountains that this journotourist from pancake-flat Minnesota has little chance of grasping. Selvage s stories of her childhood are of barefoot stream-wandering, of crawdads and minnows, of fruit trees at the neighbors.
They are stories of trips to the mountaintops, berry-picking; of owls, pheasants, and quails. To have all that demolished, taken away, geographically eradicated? It is one of the most disturbing things. It was the death of the mountain, Selvage says.
The homeplace where I grew up is under all that rubble.
The second thing that comes up in these conversations is the use of rape metaphors for what the coal companies have done to the land.
Over the past decade, mental health professionals and epidemiologists working in Central Appalachia have begun to translate these feelings of spiritual violation into cold, hard research: statistics and case studies bearing academia s wax seal of approval. Studies that say the violation is real.
In 2012 and 2013, for example, two independent teams of researchers published a pair of articles in Ecopsychology, an academic journal that covers the niche field wedged between its namesakes. The studies painted a new picture of mountaintop removal s public health crisis: not as one of asthma and cancer and birth defects, but also as one of substance abuse, anxiety, insomnia, and clinical depression.
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Compare a mountaintop removal county to another coal-mining county in the region. Even when adjusting for educational status, for socioeconomic outcomes anything that could potentially skew the results symptom rates of clinical depression are significantly higher in mountaintop removal mining areas than in other coal-mining areas in the region. This is to say nothing of the elevated rates compared to non-mining towns.2
Whatever the reason, people living in mountaintop removal counties are more than one-and-a-half times as likely to exhibit at least moderate depressive symptoms, compared to those in non-mining counties. In a non-mining town in the region, we might expect around 10 people out of 100 to have moderate to severe depression.
For mountaintop removal areas, that number is closer to 17 out of 100. The numbers start to add up when you consider that about 2 million people live in the area.
The studies painted a new picture of mountaintop removal s public health crisis: not as one of asthma and cancer and birth defects, but also as one of substance abuse, anxiety, insomnia, and clinical depression.
Of course, in many ways, studies like this confirm what many residents of Central Appalachia already know: The death of the mountain cuts and scars the people living at its feet. Scars are just easier to see when they re on the lungs.
The more traditional biological issues make more sense, offers Michael Hendryx, an author on the 2013 Ecopsychology study. Hendryx was director of the West Virginia Rural Health Research Center from 2008 2013 and is now a professor of applied health science at Indiana University Bloomington. As he points out, it s easier to imagine how something like coal dust might be associated with something like asthma. Depression, on the other hand, is less tangible and not something easily pinned to the aluminum and silica in the air.
But it s not about air pollution or water quality. For depression, says Hendryx, it seems to be more about the destruction of the environment. It s that psychological impact of watching mountains blown up and roads destroyed and communities wither away and jobs disappear and politicians lie to you every day about what they re doing.
Hendryx s idea isn t a new one. Around the same time that Kathy Selvage was founding Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, an Australian philosopher named Glenn Albrecht was coining a term that would help describe these feelings of environmental loss and place-based distress.
For Albrecht, solastalgia was to be contrasted with nostalgia: the pain and yearning that stem not from the passing of better times, but from an altered environment. Albrecht developed the concept whose name derives from a combination of the Latin word for comfort and the root for pain after witnessing the psychological impacts of open-pit mining on local communities in New South Wales. Where surface mines go, solastalgia follows.3
Paige Cordial, a clinical psychologist in southwest Virginia and lead author on the other Ecopsychology study5, explains the idea like this: It s homesickness, but you haven t left home. You re homesick because the landscape has changed around you. Since its inception, the term has also been applied to survivors6 of natural disasters, as well as to Ghanaian farmers7 and Inuit communities8 faced with changing climates and landscapes. Cordial, who has run the Central Appalachian circuit originally from West Virginia, she went to undergrad in Kentucky and grad school in southwest Virginia has also documented anecdotes suggestive of posttraumatic stress disorder in mountaintop removal towns. Frequent blasts and unpredictable floods could, for some, be acute and severe enough to lead to PTSD, she writes.
She cites the story of West Virginian anti-mountaintop removal activist Bo Webb9, who has also spoken out against the psychological effects of surface mining. I know first hand the mental effects of shell shock, said Webb in a 2011 interview10. I witnessed it and experienced it in Vietnam. It is evident to me that people living beneath and near this terror are experiencing much the same. In their publications, Hendryx and Cordial both zeroed in on solastalgia to help explain the apparent disproportionate spikes in depression rates in surface mining towns. You can t really go home, says Cordial and that displacement begins to fester. Her doctoral dissertation focused on the psychological impacts of mountaintop removal mining.
She recalls the words of one of her interviewees: Everything just seems so strange. Like a moonscape. Everything that used to be so beautiful: Now it s just like walking on the moon.
Biologically, it s not entirely clear how the death of a mountain and the birth of a moonscape wind up translating into clinical depression. Certainly, it s infinitely more complicated than the previous sentence suggests. It would also be irresponsible to suggest that all or even the majority of those living in mountaintop removal towns respond this way. Appalachia is already a region painted in broad strokes: as what photographer Roger May recently described as the last bastion of America that s sort of generalized, lumped together, and made fun of. Adding depressed to the celebratory hillbilly stereotype does nobody any favors.11
But for those susceptible, epidemiological evidence does appear to suggest a relationship between mountaintop removal mining and poor mental health and well-being. And at the very least, it s easy to build a word model of why this might be true. This past October, for example, a team of researchers at Emory University and the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites published a paper spelling out the logic of environmental degradation and mental health outcomes.
The causal web is one of rupture of place bonds, culture change and loss, and altered community and family dynamics, all of which the public health scientists demonstrate previous research has linked to anxiety and depression.1213
It s the kind of logic that rings true to Kathy Selvage. You re not just destroying the land, she says. You re destroying the people. You re not just eradicating the mountain; you re eradicating a community and its peoples history along with it.
Take a map of the United States and dip your thumb in red paint. From northeast Mississippi all the way to southern New York, smear the color in a lazy Simba stripe, taking care to nick the Carolinas. This is Appalachia. Now mix in a little black to your palette; darken it up. Starting in eastern Kentucky, hook right and dash your thumb upwards through the southwestern tip of Virginia and on into West Virginia.
This is mountaintop removal country.
But your map shows more than guillotined mountains: The hot spot in the middle is the peak14 of a distribution of disadvantage, measured along just about every metric one can measure. On the average, Central Appalachia has more people below the poverty line, greater unemployment, and lower incomes than the rest of the region which already has more people below the poverty line, greater unemployment, and lower incomes than the rest of the country. Broad strokes, yes, but pigmented with statistical truth.151617
Undoubtedly, this economic stress (solastalgia notwithstanding) lends itself to poorer mental health. If finger-painting has for some reason triggered a touch of inner-child idealism, though, and you now imagine that your blobs show a proportional concentration of mental health professionals to match the need, you re wrong. Because you ve also painted a heat map of one of the most poorly mental-health resourced regions in the nation.18
Previous work by Hendryx has shown that 70 percent of rural Appalachian counties have a shortage of mental health care workers a percentage significantly higher than that of rural counties elsewhere in the same states. A 2009 nationwide study also concluded that many Central Appalachian counties were among those with the highest unmet need for mental health professionals. Seeking out care in coal country is simply harder than it should be.1920
That s assuming you actually want to seek the care out in the first place. But that would imply that the broader rural American stigma against mental health treatment doesn t exist.
Of course, it does; and it doesn t make the picture any prettier. (This is where the pancake-flat-Minnesota native can relate.) Talking about mental health isn t something one tends to do in the area. Let s say you go to a counselor, says Cordial.
Everyone knows your car. That s a problem, she says, because many people still think that only crazy people see counselors or psychiatrists.
In practice, all these swirling structural clouds make the state of the region s mental health care something of a threefold perfect storm. Economic and environmental stressors lend themselves to higher incidences of drug abuse, anxiety, and depression; a dearth of mental health professionals leaves the need unmet; and the stigma against mental health treatment, combined with what has often been described as a certain fatalism of Central Appalachia, means that plenty of people aren t interested in seeking out the few available resources in the first place.21
It gets worse. Start drinking your paint thinner or something.
In practice, all these swirling structural clouds make the state of the region s mental health care something of a threefold perfect storm.
Compared to healthy people living in rural areas, rural people in poor mental health are also more likely not to be insured. But where Kentucky s number of uninsured fell from 20.4 percent pre-Obamacare to 9.8 percent in early 2015, for example, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin announced in January of this year that the state will be dismantling its health insurance exchange. Obama-blaming is big in the region. Coal-blaming is not.222324
Master of Public Health Carley Hartings organizes volunteers and records in the fairgrounds office. Thousands sought free medical, vision and dental care at the Wise County Fairgrounds during the Remote Area Medical (RAM) Clinic on Saturday, July 19, 2014.
2014 was the fifteenth year for the event. Pat Jarrett
Coal is still big here, but it s going down fast, says Cordial. That makes people even more hesitant to talk about its negative effects.
When an industry s history is as embedded in a region s as coal s is in this one, turning on the industry when it s in decline would be a little like not calling for help when your stepdad goes into cardiac arrest. Truly conceptualizing the grip that King Coal has on his Central Appalachian subjects is probably outside the scope of this article. Know that it is real and that it is a stranglehold.
You have this extractive industry that takes what s valuable and removes it, says Hendryx. Almost all of the wealth leaves. It s the definition of a resource curse.
When I first called him up to ask him about his research, Hendryx immediately noted that he didn t begin his work with an axe to grind. That s a salient point, because the researcher has come under heavy fire from the coal industry for his publications. Just last year, one company spent considerable resources and filed a lawsuit to force West Virginia University, where Hendryx was previously based, to hand over thousands of documents related to his research. On the phone, he is a dispassionate shade of incredulous. Of the mining and public health connection, he says, It was just what I found. 25
Says Cordial: And don t forget that coal companies have given a lot of money to universities in the region.
There are many interests aligned in trying to pick up your map and white it all out; aligned in convincing you to forget these sentiments and these stories and these data sets; in embracing that collective amnesia toward Johnson s failed war on poverty.
It s like that joke that says when you spin the country record backwards, the wife and the dog come back. Except, of course, it doesn t work that way. The mountains are still dead.
Selvage recalls her mother seeking solace on her family s porch over the years, where she would sit each morning with her Bible, alternating between reading and looking out over the landscape. She should have had that right, she says. Then the coal trucks came, and with them their dust and the departure of the mountaintops. That solace left with the peaks.
And maybe there is nothing to be done about the loss of the mountains. It took 400 million years to build them. They re not coming back overnight. Depression, too, is something that is managed, not cured.
The erasure of stigma takes decades. Poverty doesn t just evaporate. No: Progress isn t a word on many lips here. It s hard to stand on the shoulders of giants when we keep cutting their heads off.
Originally trained as an auditor, Selvage is all business when she talks about the future. I have never seen a place that has cried out for a strategic plan more than the coalfields of Appalachia, she says. Because if we are depressed and unhappy and stagnated and don t know what to do, then we are not going to appreciate progress. At least until we have something by which to measure it.
For the rural mental health sector, though, progress is something that can be measured. Progress looks like the expansion of mobile health services. It looks like the expansion of telemental health services, which in turn requires the expansion of broadband access. School-based programs.
The development of consistent reimbursement systems for telehealth. Keeping homegrown mental health professionals like Paige Cordial in the region. Maybe there is nothing to be done about the loss of the mountains, but maybe there are new mountains to raise.27282930
Hope is a complicated word for Selvage, but when she feels it, it s tucked away in the promise of knowledge creation; in recognition of the problem, in serious planning, in entrepreneurship, in reversing the brain drain she sees in the region. I do believe that there s hope for Appalachia, but I don t believe it can transform itself, she says.
We have fired this nation. We have lit this nation.
What now can the nation do for us?
More stories in this series:
An outroduction to Climate on the Mind. Grist video explains the link between spikes in heat and spikes in violence. Grist chats with writer and neuropsychologist Aaron Reuben about dirty air, brain disease, and environmental justice.
- ^ Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (www.samsva.org)
- ^ Compare (online.liebertpub.com)
- ^ contrasted (grist.org)
- ^ Rana Xavier (www.flickr.com)
- ^ study (www.academia.edu)
- ^ survivors (journals.cambridge.org)
- ^ Ghanaian farmers (www.liebertpub.com)
- ^ Inuit communities (www.sciencedirect.com)
- ^ Bo Webb (grist.org)
- ^ interview (blogs.alternet.org)
- ^ described (proof.nationalgeographic.com)
- ^ paper (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- ^ causal web (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- ^ peak (digitalscholarship.unlv.edu)
- ^ more people (www.arc.gov)
- ^ greater (www.arc.gov)
- ^ lower (www.arc.gov)
- ^ lends itself (psycnet.apa.org)
- ^ Previous work (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- ^ study (www.oregonhwi.org)
- ^ a certain fatalism (www.jstor.org)
- ^ more likely (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- ^ fell (www.economist.com)
- ^ announced (www.npr.org)
- ^ last year (www.wboy.com)
- ^ biotour13 (www.flickr.com)
- ^ mobile health services (thehealthwagon.org)
- ^ telemental health services (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- ^ broadband access (www.kyforward.com)
- ^ School-based programs (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- ^ Donate now to support our work. (grist.org)