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Sustainability in Kentucky
I n the end, sustainability entails much more than merely talking the talk. Activists encountered this message time and again at the Campus Community Partnerships for Sustainability Conference in Berea, Kentucky, from April 21 to 23. In fact, with academics, organizers, and do-it-yourselfers from around the country in attendance, it proved impossible to theorize about a green lifestyle without making hands-on connections to landscape and community.
The setting for the weekend afforded an inspiring backdrop. Since the founding of its Sustainability and Environmental Studies (SENS) program in 1999, conference host Berea College has been steadily building an international reputation as one of the greenest campuses this side of the Atlantic. Just down the quad from the conference, its eco-village, living machine, greenhouses, and permaculture plot hummed away in their usual, ecologically avant-garde way.
But the rest of us have a lot of work to do yet. On Friday night, keynote speaker Pat Murphy, executive director of the Yellow Springs, Ohio-based Community Solution, juxtaposed an historical overview of U.S. energy policy with a dire warning about the health of our global climate. Ultimately, his statistics point toward a central question facing Americans. “The final result [of all these forces] is going to be a very low energy way of living,” he says. “We are going to get there violently or we can get there peacefully.”
But even a peaceful route requires forethought and cooperation. “I’m going to talk on the hope side of the equation,” announced Michael Shuman on the following Earth Day morning. His talk offered hopeful strategies for crafting a vibrant, locally-owned America. Shuman, an attorney and economist from St. Lawrence County, New York, had just authored a book, Going Local , in which he studies how small business owners are taking back control from large corporations like Wal-Mart.
Participants then split up into workshops to brainstorm possibilities and acknowledge roadblocks to sustainability. Joshua Bills, co-coordinator of the Kentucky Solar Partnership, outlined practical options for powering homes and buildings with solar power. While solar may be growing exponentially as an alternative technology, he cautioned, that shouldn’t be the only kind of solution we consider. Others, like Justin Maxson, president of the Berea-based Mountain Association for Community Economic development, proposed a more sustainably minded state level economic policy: “We need an economic vision that incorporates local economies and regional development models,” he suggests. In working toward that vision, Kentucky should invest in local processing capabilities and foster a spirit of local entrepreneurship, rather than offer tax incentives to multinational corporations.
“We are living an unsustainable story,” said Daniel Greenberg, president and founder of Living Routes, an Amherst, Massachusetts educational program designed to teach students about environmental ethics by placing them at “ecovillages” around the world. Current programs feature trips to places like Auroville, India and Findhorn, Scotland. According to Greenberg, this emphasis on “community scale, appropriate technology” is a critical component of any sustainable vision.
That night, some 300 participants convened for a dinner of home-cooked regional specialties from local farms. In his address to the guests, Berea College President Larry Shinn emphasized his willingness as an educator to craft a thoughtful, “upstream” curriculum that recognizes a collective responsibility to future generations.
Tricia Feeney, a Berea alum who followed Shinn’s speech with a powerful one of her own, served as a literal embodiment of that “upstream” attitude he had alluded to. Since graduating in 2005, she has spent the last year documenting the effects of mountaintop removal mining on Appalachian water resources and the communities that rely on them. “What are we leaving Appalachia if we’re taking the coal, killing the people, and leaving the waste behind?” she asked the crowd, encouraging everyone to challenge the state of Kentucky’s reluctance to engage mountaintop removal as a social justice issue.
Indeed, if sustainability was the overarching theme of the conference, then mountaintop removal quickly became its most pressing concern. Assuming no new environmental restrictions, this practice of strip mining will have destroyed over 6 percent of Appalachian forestland by the year 2012. Residents of rural Appalachia are currently suffering from mercury and selenium poisoning of their streams and soils, not to mention debilitating social effects on their municipalities and economic livelihoods.
After a Sunday of practical workshops on biodeisel production, solar panel installation, and native plant gardening, attendees gathered at the Union Church in downtown Berea to hear Berry and other notable Kentucky authors speak out on mountaintop removal. All of the writers in attendance have pieces in a new collection entitled Missing Mountains : We Went to the Mountaintop But it Wasn’t There . The book offers a smattering of fiction, poetry, and essays addressing both the ecological and psychological effects of this practice on the land and people of Appalachia.
“The word sustainability doesn’t mean much to folks around here,” says Maxson. “But a lot of folks are struggling to meet their basic needs, to recognize the value of protected mountains, clean water, and high quality soil. And that’s the rub.” Thus the conference may be just the thing to jumpstart awareness and community cooperation, in Berea and beyond: “The more conferences that relate to local contexts, the better,” he stresses. “There’s a lot more to be done.”
Mike Ives is a student at Middlebury College in Vermont. His last article, “The Road to Detroit,” appeared in the November 2005 issue of Z .
Z Magazine Archive
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; firstname.lastname@example.org; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; email@example.com; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.