American Climate Corps: Building more climate-resilient WV communities

Nadia Ramlagan

A Biden administration program, the American Climate Corps, aims to hire and train 20,000 people in conservation, climate and clean energy jobs.

Still in the early stages of development, groups in Appalachia said the program could potentially steer a significant number of young people in the region into well-paying jobs.

Mark Swiger, coordinator for sustainability initiatives at the West Virginia University Extension Service, explained the Climate Corps specifically looks to invest in rural community development and resilience.

“In West Virginia, we’ve had a lot of flooding,” Swiger pointed out. “Some training in disaster relief and in rebuilding communities to be more resilient, those are the kinds of things that come to mind for me as opportunities that may emerge from this.”

According to the group Appalachian Voices, mountaintop removal mining has already destroyed more than 500 mountains encompassing more than 1 million acres in Central and Southern Appalachia.

Annie Regan, director of digital communications for ReImagine Appalachia, said not only could the initiative bring jobs to a region hard-hit by the opioid crisis and unemployment but participants would also receive paid training, opening the doors to opportunities for employment in both the public and private sectors.

“Of course, we want younger folks to have these jobs, too, and to have pathways to apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs and working with our unions,” Regan emphasized.

The Climate Corps is modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Depression-era program launched by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to alleviate high unemployment among young men. The White House said the Climate Corps will attract people from diverse backgrounds and disadvantaged communities to work in climate-related industries.