Rural System's


Sustaining a superior rural system   

   Welcome to the Home page of EarthQuilt !

EarthQuilt is just a planning place on the Internet now. It is proposed for consideration for use and encouragement as a project of the Appalachian Coalition for Just and Sustainable Communities.

It's a dreaming place, one for sharing, studying, pondering the past and struggling to see the future. It's a place where there is a belief (that works) that when people link up in some way ... almost any way ... they can be the stronger for it if their motives are positive. Quilt is centralizing activity, structure, and means for linking special people around the world. It is primarily for those who have undergone and are facing severe marginalization in social, economic, environmental, and cultural terms. We do not know the other people and their groups around us ... or certainly not those who may come. Quilt is a way of forming a new community of people corresponding, linking up, just gaining the feeling of being in a union with other people and small groups. Such unions often can have very positive consequences.

We do not know what Quilt is or will be. It is a creative thing, an ongoing activity. It's for groups of people in trouble, usually landless, and struggling due to past conditions and activities or now stressed by pending conditions and forces. We're forming Concepts, suggesting where we have been and are likely to go. We're apolitical as a group but realize that governmental and agency actions (or lack of it) are often part of your difficulties. We're looking for alternative or new personal and strategic action.

We'll attempt to provide through this web site, in addition to the above:

This is not a membership group. It's an electronic organization ... unknown before and still being invented. Its a community changed by an electronic revolution. Possibly more intimate than sitting with a person, it changes the idea of personal distance, of personal space, and that a modern relationship can be as real with a person in Clairfield, Tennessee, USA, as with one in Indian Neck, Virginia, USA, or one in Kulasekaranpattinam, Tamil Nadu, India. A person or a small
Nodes are at the vertices or corners of the triangle. Lines represent single, one-way communications. The blue surface symbolizes the interactions, real and potential.The variable line at the bottom suggests expected difficulties but those that can be overcome.
group of people around a computer is called a node. A few nodes are connected by the Internet and e-mail. They form a triangle... but really all of the surface within the triangle and we call that a panel, like a triangular piece of cloth that is sewn into a quilt. We keep the groups small, but they can grow in any way. We think groups of four nodes can be good for several reasons.

While some people in the group are really interested in and even make quilts, this is not an organization for people who love to sew or love the warmth and historical dimensions of the wonderful bed covers and wall hangings also called quilts

It's called Quilt which, as a crazy-quilt bed covering shown here, symbolizes coverage, linkages at the corners, a world opportunity space, conservation of energy and recycling of materials, but also personal warmth and good feelings. It is about regaining and caring for the productive mantle of Earth where we live. It is for communities struggling for their existence and improved quality of life for their people. This is a new kind of community with groups as well as individuals within each group electronically linked to provide a new form of help and cooperation ... both locally and more broadly, maybe world wide. Quilt is a proposed international community made possible by the Internet.Your comments and advice are requested.

A community is hard to define. You just know it when you are within it. Until then, a tentative definition is:

all of those people having a spiritual or cultural relationship with an area or a concept, concern for quality of life within an area, or significant common physical or economic interests. A community may be a neighborhood, an apartment complex, people in a multi-county area, people affected by a project, or people very interested in a limited topic such as controlling soil erosion.

A large number of issues are faced by the people of struggling communities. They seem to be the same world wide but that does not make them go away. Knowing that you are not alone with a singular, apparently unsolvable problem, might be of some help. The positive issues for participants in the Quilt can be cast in terms of gaining means and power to overcome and address the many problems. The issues are increasing community participation, encouraging team work, gaining funds for studies, and making any research that is done highly relevant to the community. Social and economic disparities and problems, such as poor housing, health problems and health care, high unemployment, low attainment of educational qualifications, low socio-economic levels, even some drug-use, are at work in our areas and families. Key environmental issues include high intensity rainstorms and flooding, erosion, groundwater (and thus well-water) affected by mining and pollution, and shifting employment in mining and natural resource fields. Surface mining has declined with the decline in market for high sulfur coal in the area. Open surface mines remain. Health problems along with unemployment and limited education create other related problems affected by the limited, difficult road system. Fossil fuel shortages for transportation to schools and employment loom as an old but increasing problem.


It helps to look back and telling stories of the past and remembering them is a good thing and often helpful (especially so we do not repeat past omissions, oversights, and activities). We like to concentrate on the future. We cannot take back the last step, redo yesterday. Strangely, we hear "we learn from history that we do not learn from history." We keep wrestling with such a statement today, working for tomorrow and plenty of high quality tomorrows for us and others.

Some groups have have found value in developing a local history and local knowledge base. This action may include: seminars-workshops, an art competition, interviews, field visits/discussion, participatory field work with students, newsletters, radio station activity, maps, posters, house visits and personal discussion, and presentations at schools. Using regional resources (not necessarily site specific) such as using archives, historic photographs, manuscripts, home photographs, and museums will be encouraged Special email contributions will be arranged. This knowledge will be made available to the elements of the Quilt as it is gained. This will be possible via the Internet as at no time previously. Knowledge will be gained and misinformation made available to the community, stakeholders, and future generations. Cultural benefits accruing from such a knowledge base include forming a Quilt archive on environmental, cultural, social and economic knowledge. Information will ultimately be used to build models, prioritize rehabilitation work, and to develop management scenarios, using a balance of environmental, economic, social and cultural factors.

New Stuff

Quilt looks at emerging technologies, management philosophies, and development strategies that are leading rural and inter-urban regions back to health and in some cases growth. We hope that it can provide a unique educational opportunity as it offers a comprehensive look at the trends, issues, and technologies, and emerging enterprises that will be at the vanguard of Rural System and regional health and growth.

Maybe Quilt is a new "county" fair, a lecture, an experience, or an advertising event, or some of all of them. It recruits members for the Rural System enterprises, suggests alternatives, provides motivation and connections, and works toward synergistic arrangements. It offers for sale special regional products and crafts, especially those of the enterprises. It observes reactions to new or potential products and services. Perhaps it can create or enhance markets.

The Internet now influences every aspect of life and it will increasingly do so. It can provide the people of the Quilt new entertainment, access to health information, education, information employment opportunities and overall well being. It can share histories. It can connect people, allowing neighborhoods to emerge, a whole functional community to develop. Perhaps there are financial aids that can be developed for starting profitable or essential projects.

Here are some things (some people like lists) that we can do together when the Internet is used carefully, not abused, and treated with the respect of a helpful friend for the future:

  1. Geographic information system maps and images can be displayed for printing or other use
  2. E-mail will be readily used (with reduced costs and increased worldwide contacts)
  3. A vast knowledge base become available (see the search engines listed in Giles' paper)
  4. Economic enterprises can be discussed and some developed.
  5. Species specific plans for wildlife management can be used
  6. Educational tours can be offered (with pre-tour study guides, what to bring, etc.)
  7. A health club can be formed with prizes, insurance rate gains, etc.
  8. The Old Codgers might become a pleasing activity with this area as the start-up place
  9. Floats , poems for children and adults needs development
  10. The Fog Drip concept (songs and music) originated here and can be developed
  11. Monthly reports of the number and percentage of homes that are composting may be interesting...and eventually become an important hobby, exercise, and local humorous competition
  12. Favorite links can be shared
  13. Extra garden produce can be announced and made available
  14. Child care or baby-sitting may be announced (needs as well as available)
  15. Steep-Gardens (in mountainous areas) may become a specialized project with many participants
  16. Superior food recipes can be offered and the electronic cook book may become a national favorite with thousands of hits ... eventually advertisers will want to sponsor it . Sales of spices may be next.
  17. Lawn care ( local) can be offered by youths after school (local use of Quilt)
  18. Pet-sitting (while you are visiting) may be of interest and help may be available
  19. News of local events (parades, etc.) is a natural
  20. A list-serv for all people living in the area seems desirable, at least a long e-mail address list
  21. Awards and school progress can be praised
  22. Car and bicycle repair and emergency service may be offered
  23. Inexpensive local advertising for enterprises can surely be arranged
  24. A new exercise club can be formed with daily exercise suggestions provided over the Internet email or web site and a reporting mechanism (and contests and awards for participants)
  25. News of relatives and visitors can be made within easy reach
  26. Keeping track of local flower blooming dates, leaf fall, etc. (called phenology) can be a pleasing activity, well handled over the Internet
  27. Genealogy is of interest to some people. Special groups may form and resources may be shared. Cemetery records are of historical interest and records easily lost. This may be an alternative place for such local and specialized information.
  28. Local history may be integrated with library and school records and extra student resources provided the schools.
  29. Almost all of the ideas and planning efforts displayed as "Airport Acres Neighborhood" can be used (where Bob Giles lives and has been developing a web site for the 90 homes in
    A sketch of general systems theory, a pattern for thought, analysis, planning, and development and creative explorations
    his neighborhood) can be edited and integrated into a local web site. These ideas can aid in local planning (He recommends taking out all of the materials about noisy airplanes but thinks that most of the other material fits well with local needs and with his ideas about general systems work.)

Quilt has as its un-hidden objectives to present options for

Node 1

The Woodland Community Trust - Marie Cirillo

Staff of Quilt provided the Pivotal Strategy and a more refined Business Plan for a similar organization which attempts to address needs of the people of Clearfork Valley of Tennessee and Kentucky, USA (about 6000 people within 12 communities)


The Trust is within Campbell County, Tennessee, the Clearfork watershed. The Clearfork Valley straddles Tennessee and Kentucky and is the watershed of a tributary of the Clearfork River in the Upper Tennessee River basin. About three to four thousand residents of the Valley live along the slopes and river banks in clusters around the unincorporated communities of Fonde, Pruden, Hamblintown, Clairfield, Buffalo, Eagan, Roses Creek, Tackett, White Oak, Little White Oak, Duff, and Morley. Much of the area is within Campbell County, Tennessee (Baldwin, 2001). Many residents get their mail delivered to the Clairfield, Tennessee, post office. The river runs through these towns.

Join me,
my mountain sisters and brothers,
as we dance through our journey
and move toward our future.
The people of the area have a once-beautiful and clean stream that can, they think, be restored. It is subject to flash flooding, as are other streams within the area. We believe our daily loads of pollutants exceed total daily maximum daily load (TMDL) limits but we do not yet know this. TMDL means the maximum amount of pollution a stream can receive without violating water quality standards and still maintain a healthy aquatic life population. Finding out the condition is part of this study.

The Operating Community of Concern - The Community-Based Organization The people of the Valley have, for over a century, depended on a single coal economy. What started in the late 1800's had, by the mid thirties become the most populated area in a two-county mining area in Tennessee. Within an 80-year period, the bigger companies and bigger machinery has reduced this same place to "the Valley of Despair" according to an article in the Nashville Tennessee written in the 1960šs. The area around the 14-mile stretch of highway that brings residents together is noted as one of the most distressed within the Appalachian Region. About 90 percent of the people have now left the area and absentee owners own 90 percent of the land. Children, educated locally, are transported to a nearby high school e.g., Jellico, Tennessee, when they become of age. Significant changes in the environmental laws related to the quality of coal that is mined and sold, in mining technology, and in international economy together drastically reduced local employment.

In recent years, dominant corporate interests have diversified by adding gas, oil and timber to their activities. Local people, most of whom do not enjoy jobs in these industries, are attempting to revive an entrepreneurial spirit. Refusing to retrace the difficulties and perceived injustices of the past, leaders are struggling to bring together the long-term concerns of the people of the region, their interest in a high quality environment, and the needs of the children.

Believing that they are left as political and economic misfits in a growing industrial society, the people of this Appalachian rural area remain constant in moving beyond survival into a desired condition emerging from their rural mountain values. Pieces of a puzzle are maneuvering into position within the framework of a new public space in an isolated rural Appalachian Community. This new space is becoming the Clearfork Community Institute and will be a strategic component of a collaborative composed of the Woodland Community Land Trust (formed in 1977) and the Woodland Community Development Corporation. Supported in its mission by other members of the collaborative and local youth interest, the old red schoolhouse in Eagan is being transformed. The Institute in the schoolhouse of the thriving Blue Diamond coal camp is adjacent to the stream that we propose to study. Nearby is The Trust's property, Eagan Mountain, 400 acres of mountain woodland, an element of the Clearfork watershed, and Designated as the outdoor classroom to the Institute (Cirillo 2000). The Trust (that makes land available to residents) gives meaning and opportunity to the Development Corporation and the emerging Institute. The Institute is opening new possibilities to residents of the above-listed unincorporated communities nestled between Pine and Cumberland Mountain within the headwaters. Together the people, an intergenerational effort, envision a future with a meaningful livelihood for their children, and they work toward a sustained community with a renewed spirit-culture.

The Trust and its colleagues are now working with the community toward mutual understanding and definition of "community-based research" whereby the community sets the agenda and both college students and local youth agree on ways to engage in studies that benefit the community. The project highlights and expands on the existing collaboration of three non-profits within this very small, isolated, rural, Appalachian community. They can work together and draw on large, diverse resources to look at the importance of education to the natural environment and to the kind of jobs that can be sustained from the environment.

Collaborators and Supporters

The seeds for small, diversified, non-profits were planted in the Clearfork area in the 1960s through government and churches from outside the community. Government funds faded with changes in central administration. The Woodland Community Land Trust, through its project coordinator, now must work to sustain the collaborative with the Woodland Community Development Corporation and the Clearfork Community Institute. Grants are being sought. The Community Institute has long standing affiliations with university groups (Notre Dame, University of Tennessee partnership program, Berea College (Entrepreneurship and the Public Good), Vanderbilt University (Center for Health Services), affiliated churches (Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopal continue their commitment), Sisters of St. Joseph, Federation of Communities in Service (Mountain Sisters). These local and regional churches, through a sustained ecumenical spirit, grants, and personal work, have supported the people's organizing efforts. Undergraduate students from some of these schools and several local colleges visit, work, and learn each summer and will become part of the project. The Institute has worked with these youths and their college and university partners (e.g., through the Just Connections organization) as well as with faculty and students of the University of the South and retirees from colleges and government (e.g., TVA). Efforts toward restoring the Clearfork Valley into a healthy community have become visible. The people within the area are struggling to hold a positive spirit, move past perceived injustices (Gaventa 1972) and misallocations, and find a way to build a healthy community starting with its wonderful stream that is symbolic of clean, high-quality mountain life.

See the Community essay.

Node 2 Tamil Nadu, India - Geetha Xavier Louisnathan

Find out about the recent effects of the Tsunami on these people!
Geetha, while at Virginia Tech, initiated discussions with Anawim Trust working with rural communities of Tiruchendur Taluk, southern India, Tamil Nadu. There, most of the village people are landless and survive by providing unskilled labor for daily wages. That Trust and its work now has extended to 40 villages.

Their Level-2 Objectives

  • To enhance the capacities, particularly of women in rural communities, toward betterment of their health and socio-economic status
  • To initiate and support community income-generation through skills training and self-employment activities
  • To enable members of the rural community to identify local concerns and collectively seek locally appropriate solutions
  • To support rural community activities for the protection and management of the coastal ecosystem
  • To support sharing of experiences learned from community-based initiatives to promote mutual learning among village community people.

Their activities:

  • Planting saplings in gardens
  • Creating kitchen gardens
  • Creating a forestry program and floriculture program
  • Raising environmental awareness of the effects of their practices
  • Developing herbal gardens and collection centers
  • Developing programs to " to enhance the complete human potential of the rural communities" including leadership development, teaching methods, active non-violence, health issues, solution to village problems, vocational skills, computer skills, legal education, group dynamics, environment, and social issues.
  • Providing credit for women to set up their own small businesses and providing management advice
  • Small businesses included: goat rearing, thatch making, grinding, tailoring, tending small shops, vegetable vending, producing and selling special plant products

Other programs include

  • cultural education (by songs, street plays, entertainment)
  • cleaning campaigns (plastics, waste, etc.)
  • eye sight screenings
  • immunization
  • public meetings
  • rural sanitation
  • rainwater harvesting
  • rejuvenating wells
  • identifying potable water sources
  • developing especially healthful food sources (Spirulina) developing compost through vermiculture

We are hopeful that correspondence may begin in a list serve or blog. Until then, correspondence can begin with Giles and it will be posted on the Note Board.

Maybe we are no more than an online forum, group discussion, etc. Maybe we are "Blogging" on the Net. A blog (from web-log) is basically a hi-tech journal to which we all contribute that is available on the web. The activity of updating a blog is "bloggin" and someone who keeps a blog is a "blogger." Blogs are essentially free-form online journals that may be low on graphic design, but are usually high on personal opinion and insight. Blogs are typically updated daily using software that allows people with little or no technical background to update and maintain the blog. Postings on a blog are almost always arranged in cronological order with the most recent additions featured most prominantly.

Node 3 - The Tamrakar Project

Node x - Perhaps information about your group and that for corresponding will appear in this space soon.

How We Go About Things

As we try to" get it all together" and to harness some of the power of the Inernet, we test a systems approach to our work individually and within groups within the area. As part of such an approach, we know we have to go after information or inputs for making decisions and taking action. The Internet now offers an alternative for getting information to do good work to people who have difficulties getting to major libraries.

We seek to work with advocates of community-based, place-based research,

We shall be developing Quilt and providing useful links to people who share our interests and concerns. We hope that you will develop nodes and will contact us so that you can be listed and made part of the interactions.

We shall explore export topics with the Virginia Department of Agriculture

We'll be as cooperative as possible with Just Connections, Inc. whose mission is to invigorate grassroots democracy among residents of distressed mountain communities by creating and using models for participatory research and service. Just Connections encourages self-sustaining communities that offer equitable access to resources for local residents. Support for Just Connections is provided by the Appalachian College Association. We are grateful for the ideas and leads from Roy Silver on behalf of Just Connections.

See Quilt Concept

See Quilt Links

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Perhaps you will share ideas with me
about some of the topic(s) above at

Maybe we can work together
... for the good of us all
... for a long time.

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