A Daughter Of Coal Country Battles Climate Change — And Her Father’s Doubt

Ashley Funk plans to move back home to southwest Pennsylvania to work on environmental projects in a place where climate change and the local economy are intertwined. Stephanie Strasburg for WBEZ hide caption

toggle caption

Stephanie Strasburg for WBEZ

Ashley Funk plans to move back home to southwest Pennsylvania to work on environmental projects in a place where climate change and the local economy are intertwined.

Stephanie Strasburg for WBEZ

The economy in southwestern Pennsylvania has been hit twice, once by the collapse of big mining and steel employers, and again by the environmental destruction that accompanied those industries.

It’s a part of the country that voted heavily for Donald Trump.

Ashley Funk grew up an hour outside Pittsburgh. The area feels kind of left behind with buildings named after mining companies and polluted ponds turned fluorescent, alarming colors.

By the time she was in high school, Ashley was a full-blown climate activist. She even joined a lawsuit against the state of Pennsylvania, alleging it had not done enough to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

A version of this story first aired as part of WBEZ’s climate change project “Heat of the Moment” — an initiative made possible with support from the Joyce Foundation, which is also among NPR’s financial supporters.

Her beliefs put her at odds with her own family. Ashley’s father, Mark, describes himself as a “coal burning farmer.” During the primary season, Ashley was supporting Bernie Sanders and her father was an ardent Trump supporter.

It seemed like the two couldn’t agree on anything. But when they start talking about local, natural gas jobs that have been popping up in southwest Pennsylvania, there is some common ground.

Article continues after sponsorship

“Our area has been neglected since the collapse of the steel industry, the collapse of the coal industry, and finally something’s coming back, and I think that’s giving people hope,” Ashley says. “But I am nervous; in order to make money people exploit the environment.”

Her father now agrees that bringing life back to the local economy can’t come at the cost of the environment.

“I agree 100 percent,” he says. “I seen it. And I tell you the truth, I remember coming into Pittsburgh, that was the very early ’70s, you’d drive through the tunnels, and it was black. … I remember that. We can’t let this place go like it was before.”

Use the audio link above the hear the full story.

Read More at NPR News

Get more stuff like this
in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

3 Exercises for a Stronger Pelvic Floor (and Lower Abs)
15 Stretches You Should Do Every Day
Surprising Reasons Some Women Can’t Lose Weight
Scale Stuck? How To Get Over That Weight-Loss Plateau
Beauty queen uses platform to bring attention to rare genetic disorder
The Inspiring Way This Fitness Blogger Flips the Script On Negative Self-Talk
School crossing guard, 91, marks 50 years of service
Fearing disease, Kenyans burn animal carcasses as drought deepens
Scale Stuck? How To Get Over That Weight-Loss Plateau
Always Hungry? This One Ingredient May Be to Blame
The Salad Trend You Didn’t Know You Needed
Leonardo DiCaprio Invests in Sustainable Seafood Line
A 10-Day Silent Meditation Retreat Was the Hardcore Mental Detox I Needed
7 Unique Poses to Take Your Yogi Game to the Next Level
This 15-Minute Yoga Flow Will Help You Get Deeper Sleep
This Invigorating Yoga Flow Is the Best Way to Get Energized