East Tennessee State University’s Chair of Environmental Health, Phil Scheuerman, has written an article for Now & Then: The Appalachian Magazine entitled “The Environmental Health of Appalachia and the Role of Environmental Health Programs at ETSU.” His article provides an overview of some of the environmental challenges facing Appalachia and the role that ETSU has played in addressing them. He writes, “Rural environmental health is focused on the same issues [as urban areas] but with some important and unique characteristics. . . .Many of the technologies used to reduce environmental exposures in more densely populated urban areas are not practical. Water treatment, wastewater treatment, food storage, and workplace exposures require technologies that work at a small scale with lower costs.” To address these unique challenges, ETSU established the environmental health program in 1965 as a natural evolution from the Public Health Sanitation School which had been started in 1957. According to Scheuerman, “ETSU’s [program] became the first nationally accredited program in 1969, and in August 1971 it awarded the first master of science in environmental health degrees to twenty-one students. In 1977 it became the nation’s first accredited graduate environmental health program.”
In the same issue, Katie Baker, a doctoral candidate in the community health program, celebrates her own Appalachian heritage with an article entitled “Bread and Butter Pickles: A Green Southern Treat.” Of her father, Katie writes, “Growing up in Tennessee, he worked on a sharecropper’s farm.” In the article, Katie’s father, Joe Baker of Greeneville, theorizes about the popularity of bread and butter pickles: “Poor people generally ate the cheaper cuts of pork and beef, and as a condiment, bread and butter pickles were a great advantage. . . .In the 1950s and 1960s, pickling and preservation were still the main way of carrying summer produce into the winter.” Katie’s research on bread and butter pickles originated in a class she took at ETSU, “The Foodways of Appalachia.” She closes the article with her aunt’s recipe.
According to ETSU Public Health Dean Randy Wykoff, “One of the great pleasures of studying public health in Appalachia is the fact that there is no clear line between heritage, culture, and tradition on the one hand and health outcomes on the other. We live in a region of incredible beauty, art, music, and diversity, and a region where we are trying to take the very best of our history and apply it to building a better future.”
The articles were published in the summer 2011 issue of Now & Then: The Appalachian Magazine, with the theme “the Greening of Appalachia.” According to Fred Sauceman, editor of the magazine, “Now greening—be its meaning political or environmental—has become common parlance not only among back-to-the-landers and twenty-first-century incarnations of [the 1960s counterculture] but in corporate boardrooms, too. What was once revolutionary is now routine. And as several writers point out in this issue, what is now embraced across the country as trendy and progressive has really been going on in Appalachia for a long, long time.”