In 1995, South Africa’s new government set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a lynchpin of the country’s journey forward from apartheid. In contrast to the Nuremberg Trials and other retributive responses to atrocities, the TRC’s emphasis on reconciliation marked a restorative approach to addressing human rights violations and their legacies. The hearings, headed by Bishop Desmond Tutu, began in spring of 1996.
Residents of the Appalachian coalfields share a history and heritage, deep connections to the land, and pride in their own resilience. These same residents are also profoundly divided over the practice of mountaintop mining. Looking beyond the slogans and seemingly irreconcilable differences, however, can reveal deeper causes of conflict.