Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Michael Shuman Speaks - We Should Listen

2009 Is Here, So Is Sustainable Glasgow!

It is really pretty amazing how far we have come in about four months of actively trying to ignite this movement. Thanks to John Rogers and our intrepid intern, Lauren Ray, we are now a corporation. We have an address and a PO Box, we have a bank account, we have preliminary Bylaws and a skeleton of a Board and officers. Thanks to David Downing, we have a working logo, we have reserved a URL ( and we are in the process of designing a real web site, stationary,etc. We even have some preliminary funding worked out from the EPB and TVA. Sustainable Glasgow, Inc. is for real!

Lauren has a pretty long list of "next things to do" in order for us to start making progress on our first projects which will begin to impact our local economy and our desire to enhance the quality of life here in Barren County. Now is the time when we need to double-down on our efforts to have a semi-permanent year-round retail place for local producers to sell their products to local consumers, and to arrange for garden plots to be available on public lands this growing season.

Something else that might interest readers of this blog is the upcoming 2009 Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Conference and Trade Show. For some reason I woke up early this morning and heard a news story on this on WCLU. After a bit of web research, I discovered this link to information about the conference and the Kentucky Farmers' Market Association. I have made arrangements for Lauren to attend the conference so she can network with the association and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture folks. I am sure she would love to have some other SG members come too! Check out the link and plan to attend if you can.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Localism Article in USA Weekend

In case you missed it, the USA Weekend supplement to the Courier Journal had a great article on localism. Here is a link to it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Obama and the Hope For Better Food Policy

Thanks to John Rogers for a lot of things relative to the organization of Sustainable Glasgow, but most recently we owe him thanks for sending us this article from the New York Times. I have to admit that I too was very disappointed with Barrack Obama's choice of Tom Vilsack at Secretary of Agriculture. As the article points out, he is not the worst possible choice, but he is far from the best. Overall, it seems clear that the Obama administration has so many problems in its plate as they take office, that reworking our farm policy and food policies will not be any where near the top of the agenda.

All the more reason for us to get to work trying to solve the problem locally, and that is what Sustainable Glasgow will be doing in 2009. We have an ambitious agenda, but one that is doable with the dedication of our team and the cooperation of local government. Stay tuned to this very spot for updates on that agenda coming very soon!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Food for Thought...or How to Reduce Waste

This is a great article about a family in California who have reduced their waste to nearly nothing by buying smart, recycling and planning ahead...Just another "sustainable" principle in action........

It may inspire others. I know I am going to work on this as a goal for 09....


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Great Community Band Concert

I feel compelled to post a note of praise for our own local Community Band. They performed their annual Christmas concert on Sunday at the Plaza Theatre. It was really, really good. I have always been impressed by their performance but I can tell you that they have improved on that and this performance was outstanding.
There is something special when the performers are all local volunteers who have nothing to gain but the pleasure of performance for the community. I was really proud of them. The greatest pleasure that I have had in experiencing live performance has been in many of our local productions, this one included.

What a great LOCAL asset!
Kudos to the Community Band!

Don't miss their next performance.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Meeting tomorrow

Let me remind you again of our meeting tomorrow, Thursday, December 18. For those of you attending for the first time, we meet in the vacant storefront below Alexander Law Office on the East Public Square, downtown.
I will have it open at 6:30 so that we can get our meeting started fairly promptly at 7:00 AM.
Continental breakfast, coffee and orange juice will be served.
All are welcome and invited and encouraged to attend.
We look forward to seeing you there. Let's get geared up for a great new year with an abundance of exciting possibilities.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Upcoming Meeting- Thursday at 7am!

The next regular meeting of Sustainable Glasgow will be Thursday, December 18th at 7am in the vacant space below Alexander Law Office on the square.  Continental breakfast will be provided.

The tentative agenda is as follows:

1.  Minutes of Previous Meeting

2. Legal Matters- John Rogers/Lauren Ray
Presentation of by-laws (to be approved)
Process for electing officers

3.  Logo Discussion- David Downing

4.  Operations- Lauren Ray
How Can Glasgow Help?
IDEA Perspective- Dan Iacconi
City of Glasgow Perspective- Mayor Pickett
Barren County Fiscal Court- Judge Greer
Other Local Initiatives- David Downing, others

5.  Next Steps
Discussion of membership fee/benefits
Contribution levels/benefits
Establish criteria for being a "local" business

6.  Technology Demonstration
Basics of Blogging

7.  Adjourn

And in case you are wondering who I am and why I am posting on this blog...
I am Lauren Ray and am originally from Glasgow.  I graduated from WKU in 2006 and then ventured off to Charleston, SC where I worked in real estate for a little over two years.  I have just returned to Glasgow on my way to Nashville and am very interested in helping the members of Sustainable Glasgow achieve a local, sustainable economy in the Glasgow/Barren County area.  I would love to hear any of the ideas and/or suggestions you have for the group.  You can always leave comments on the blog or you can reach me at

Hope to see you all at the meeting on Thursday!



Thursday, December 11, 2008

Amen Brother

This link to an article in today's New York Times makes an excellent point. The time has come to end the Department of Agriculture and replace it with the Department of Food.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The New City Sign Ordinance

It is with great pleasure that I share with you the new City ordinance dealing with random signs placed within our fair city. This copy came from SG member, Linda Wells, who also worked tirelessly to get this finally passed. Now, let's all volunteer to help the city enforce this! I am going to start sending the enforcement folks (I am pretty sure that would be Larry Baldock plenty of pictures of signs on the road right of way right now. I think I counted four within the short drive between my office and my house! Cleaning this mess up will go a long way toward making our community more attractive and enjoyable to live in.




THAT, WHEREAS, the City of Glasgow is re-focusing its efforts to enforce the placement of signage throughout the City for both safety and aesthetic concerns; and

WHEREAS, the City’s existing Ordinances do not sufficiently address the matter;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT HEREBY ORDAINED by the City of Glasgow as follows:

Section No. 1. This Ordinance shall not apply to any sign located on the property to which it relates, but shall apply only to off-premises signs as defined below.

Section No. 2. The following definitions shall apply for the purposes of this Ordinance unless the context indicates or requires a different meaning.

A. "Directional Sign." A sign conveying directions to a premises other than the premises on which the sign is located.

B. "Outdoor Advertising Display." Any advertising display identifying, describing or illustrating, and which directs attention to a product, person, business, service or sale.

C. "Special Events Signs." Signs or advertising displays which relate specifically to a scheduled special event. Special events shall be defined as not to exceed thirty (30) days.

D. "Signs." Any type of sign described in subparagraphs A, B and C above, as well as any other publicly displayed placard, banner, board or marker bearing information, or advertising.

Section No. 3. No sign shall be erected or placed on any right-of-way, whether it is a City street, way, or alley, or a State highway, which specifically includes the placing of a sign, by any means, upon any street, sidewalk, curbing, or upon any utility pole, tree or post along and adjacent to the streets and alleys of the City.

A. However, any licensed real estate agent or real estate auctioneer, after first obtaining express permission from the Code Enforcement Officer, shall be permitted to place an auction sign within the City’s right-of way, so long as the sign is removed within twenty-four (24) hours of the conclusion of the auction sale. This exception shall not apply to any other rights-of-way but City rights-of-way.

Section No. 4. No sign shall be erected or placed in such a fashion or in such a location as to obstruct the flow or view of traffic.

Section No. 5. Special events signs shall be removed within five (5) calendar days from the final day of the event and all special events signs shall contain the event date on the sign itself.

Section No. 6. No directional sign or outdoor advertising display shall be erected or placed in any residential zone, with the exception of real estate signs advertising the sale, rental or lease, and signs relating to home occupations, which are governed by §158.078 of the City’s Code of Ordinances, or signs for permanent identification for the dwelling (i.e., house number).

Section No. 7. All signs as defined herein shall be kept and maintained in a good state of repair.

Section No. 8. With the exception of billboards, which may only be erected adjacent to the rights-of-way of U.S. Highway 31-E, Kentucky Highway 68-80, Kentucky Highway 90, and the Cumberland Parkway pursuant to §111.20, et. seq., of the City’s Code of Ordinances, all signs, as defined herein, shall not exceed six (6) feet in height and ten (10) feet in width, inclusive of all mounting apparatus, unless another Ordinance, relating to a specific application or circumstance, provides otherwise.

Section No. 9. So long as it complies with all other provisions of this Ordinance, and so long as it is constructed and placed with the express permission of the property owner, a permanent, off-premises, free-standing, directional sign or outdoor advertising display relating to a business, or grouping of businesses, whose offices, stores or facilities are at another location, may be larger that the dimensions set forth in Section No. 8 above, but shall not exceed twelve (12) feet in height and twenty (20) feet in width and shall comply with all other applicable planning and zoning regulations. All permanent, off-premises, free-standing, directional signs or outdoor advertising displays shall be constructed with substantial, permanent, weather-resistant materials.

Section No. 10. Any sign located, or left remaining, in violation of this Ordinance shall be immediately removed by the City’s Code Enforcement Officer, or his designee, if the sign’s removal may be accomplished by simply pulling it from the ground or removing it from a pole, tree, post, etc., and any such sign shall be temporarily retained at the City Landfill for a period of fourteen (14) days to allow the rightful owner an opportunity to reclaim it. After fourteen (14) days, the sign shall be disposed of at the City Landfill. In the event the sign is affixed by a more permanent means, and its owner can be readily identified, the Code Enforcement Officer shall notify the owner, in writing, of the violation, and further notify the owner that the sign must be removed within ten (10) days from the receipt of the written notification and it shall be assumed that the notification is received within five (5) days from the date affixed to the notification. If the sign’s owner cannot be readily identified, or if the sign is not so removed by the owner within the prescribed time period after written notification, the Code Enforcement officer, or his designee, shall remove the sign by all necessary means and the owner, if readily identifiable, shall be liable to the City for the costs associated therewith, including the cost of labor.

Section No. 11. Any person violating this Ordinance shall be deemed guilty of a violation and shall be fined, upon conviction, not less than fifty dollars ($50.00), nor more than two hundred fifty dollars ($250.00), with each day that any violation or failure to comply occurs, or is continued, constituting a separate offense.

Section No. 12. The provisions of this Ordinance are severable. If any provision of this Ordinance or its application to any person or circumstance is held invalid, such invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications of this Ordinance which can be given effect without the invalid provisions or application. Further, this Ordinance is intended to be read in harmony with other Ordinances addressing similar matters and the provisions of this Ordinance supersede prior Ordinances only to the extent that they directly conflict with one another.

Section No. 13. This Ordinance shall take effect upon its passage and publication according to law.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Santa stops early in Muhlenberg County

If you didn't see this morning's Courier Journal (and at the rate their fortune is declining that might soon include everyone), this article is cause for celebration in Muhlenberg County and it could be cause for celebration right here in Barren County as well . . . if our elected representatives put two and two together. I know this is not particularly about our initial goal of a sustainable local food economy. But it is all about a sustainable overall local economy.

As we all have discussed, one of the biggest problems with Glasgow's economy is the amount of money we generate, but then allow to leak out of circulation to other communities and corporations. Perhaps one of the largest leaks is the "in lieu of tax" payments that are a part of your electric bill from the EPB. This matter was pretty fully addressed recently in the Glasgow Daily Times at this link , but this new great fortune for Muhlenberg County makes it even more interesting.

Here is what I mean. Since the inequity in distribution of these payments by TVA is based upon the Commonwealth of Kentucky's problematic law which distributes the monies based upon where TVA owns property instead of where the power is sold, and since one of TVA's largest investments in Kentucky is in Muhlenberg County (Paradise Steam Plant, the one made famous in the old John Prine song, Paradise), large amounts of money collected through your power bill in Glasgow wind up being sent to Muhlenberg County as a result of this wacky law. Up to now, few state legislators were willing to change that law because of the horrible impact it would have on Muhlenberg County. Well, now they are rich and perhaps it is time for a reckoning.

If our state representatives reading this blog will take the hint and get this leak fixed by converting Kentucky's TVA in lieu of tax distribution formula to send the money back to where it is collected (like most other TVA states do), suddenly about $1 million per year will stop leaving Glasgow's economy. Instead it will be returned to our schools and governments who actually consume TVA power. That amount of money would go a long way toward our sustainability.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Twittering is Sustainable

Articles like this one from today's Courier-Journal clearly point to something . . . the way we communicate with each other and the way movements sustain themselves is completely changing. When giant newspaper empires like Gannett cannot keep their business solvent when they are the dominant newspaper in a large metropolitan area, we all must realize that the world is changing and that chaos reigns. However, in chaos there is opportunity.

Since our movement is brand-spanking new, we have no legacy systems to deal with. Further, we are born in a place and time that is endowed with the currency of the new media economy -- ubiquitous broadband. I propose that we use this currency as the core of our methods to unite the people attracted to Sustainable Glasgow into community that gathers data, shares information, and coordinates responses in a near organic manner. While this blog and web site is a reasonable beginning, we can do much, much better.

To that end, I am hoping all SG members will start using Twitter. You can see a bit of how Twitter works on the left side of our web page under the heading "Twitter Updates." If you will become a little adventurous and click on the link below that heading where it says "Follow Billy Ray on Twitter" you will be coached to sign up for a Twitter account and start following me. Once you do that, I will be notified and I will also take the option of following you. This is how this new phenomenon of social network grows organically and exponentially. Once we are all following each other then each time any of us has an idea or a notification for the group, then that person will use their internet connection or their cell phone and issue a "tweet" which the rest of us will immediately receive. That's how it mimics an organism like us; when one touches something hot, that message immediately gets relayed to the brain and then all other cells in the body know about it and they coordinate a reaction!

I am planning on putting a demonstration of this and other social networking technology on the agenda for our next meeting. Hopefully, ahem, one of our interns will be there to demonstrate this technology which that generation is already quite expert at using. If we are going to change the world, starting with Glasgow, we must learn to use the media currency that is going to survive our present economic meltdown.

Monday, December 1, 2008

December 1 Update

Just a bit over two weeks until our December meeting and things are really popping! We have just over seventy folks now who have asked to be members of our listserv. Over the last week, this web site has been visited by over three hundred folks. The buzz about our movement is palpable. So, this post is about things we need to ponder before we meet.

Name/Logo Issue. By far the most popular post on the blog is the one about our logo. There seems to be a consensus for the logo on the upper left position but many would like to see it altered by placing the recycling arrows inside the little rooftop. I hope David is reading this and will give us something like that to review. Another bone of contention is the tag line and the lack of reference to Barren County in our chosen name. I have an idea that might address these issues. How about developing a number of tag lines that can be used depending on the application for the logo. Some have suggested the tag line might be altered to say Fueling Glasgow's Economy With Barren County's Bounty. I like that just fine and it really says it all about what we are about. Bounty does not just mean foodstuffs, it can refer to our talent, our resources, or our businesses, as well as our agricultural products. Another way to embrace the totality of the county would be to use something like for our URL. Further, if other tag lines are developed with "Barren County" in them, we could always use a tag line with the logo that embraces the fact that we are about a sustainable economy for the region, not just for the benefit of the residents of the 42141 zip code.

Legal Stuff. By the next meeting we should have a state approved corporation, but then we need to immediately get to work on By Laws, the structural underpinnings of our movement, which will lead to decisions about a Board, Officers, dues structure, etc. Be thinking about you ideas for foundation beliefs of our movement.

Funding. Its not a lot, but the EPB did approve my proposal to provide some seed funding to get SG moving so long as TVA approves SG as a real economic development entity for our community. I don't think that will be a problem and, so long as they approve, they will match the EPB's contribution, dollar for dollar, up to $10,000. So, we have that going for us as well as our plan to start signing up members and asking for a modest annual membership fee.

Interns. I have my eye on a couple of recent graduates, one with a degree in marketing and one with a degree in both History and Political Science. One is Haley Crow and the other is my daughter, Lauren. We just moved them back to Glasgow after a two year stint in Charleston, SC. They don't plan to stay with us in Glasgow for long, but while they are here it would be nice if they would do a few things for us like: set us up with a P.O. box, phone number, URL, email addresses, Facebook site, checking account, real website, finalized logo - stationary - marketing pieces - apparel items, a filing system, a good start on our goal of a database of local producers and some information about each of them, etc. You know, just dozens of tasks that we now need to become a viable and operational entity. If you come across either of these potential "community organizers" please encourage them to get us going while they search for their dream careers in Nashville.

Things we all can be doing right now. Make time to watch the recent Bill Moyers Journal mentioned by William Travis in his post here. In one hour you can get a fantastic understanding of the power of creating a sustainable local food economy.
Support our fledgling new local restaurants in Glasgow. For example, if you have not yet been to the Sunday brunch at The Station, you have missed one of the finest brunches available anywhere. Now all we need to do is to convince them to buy from local producers and to promote that on their menu!
Pay attention to money that is leaking out of our local economy and help plug the holes. A great example of this is the recent decision by WBKO to charge local cable operators for access to their television programming. This decision will take an additional $160,000 out of Glasgow's economy over the next three years. WBKO management, and those who pay WBKO for advertising, should hear from us about this attack on our economy!
Pay attention to the calendar. While spring planting season certainly seems far away right now, it will be here very soon and we want to have a year-round retail facility for local producers, we want to convince local producers to convert some of their crops and animal operations to local production and retail to utilize that facility, and we want to be ready to weigh in on local government budgets as necessary to help promote the investments necessary to support a sustainable local food economy.

"Losing Local" is a national issue

This is a great community website that discusses a little bit of everything. During the election I spent a lot of time on here.

There is a great diary discussing many of the issues we have been considering. I encourage everyone to read through the comments. Lots of interesting links and ideas.

People all across the US are concerned about losing their local businesses, local interest and local thinking....

Friday, November 28, 2008

Michael Pollan discusses food policy on Bill Moyers Journal

Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto is on the Bill Moyers Journal TV show on PBS tonight. He is a great writer and an advocate for local foods. This is an excellent synopsis of his writings about the interconnection between governmental food policy and health, food security, the environment, and energy.
This show will be repeated in the next couple of days on several PBS stations and it is viewable archived on the PBS web site.
I strongly encourage you to watch this. It is well worth your time. He is an engaging speaker and conversationalist with an important message.
Link to the archived episode is below.

Also, Michael Pollan has a nice web site with all his essays (most published in The New York Times Sunday Magazine) and other info and links. Most of the information in his books is found in the essays.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Logo Choices

The logos above were crafted by a very talented local, David Downing. Let's use this post and the comments area below it to carry on some discussion about the choices, all of which look great to me. What do you think?

Broadcast Stations vs. Glasgow's Economy

Cross Posted from The Red, Blue & Green Blog

When the EPB meets this week they will be considering the latest offers from the television broadcasters relative to what they are going to charge the people of Glasgow for the privilege of viewing their programming via the EPB cable system. You will recall that this is the broadcaster's little "agreement among friends" to extract massive payments for programming that everyone is accustomed to receiving for free. Curiously, they all decided to make these demands this year.

The EPB Board will be considering some painful choices. We know our customers are already rocked by financial hardship. The economy is in trouble. The cost of electric power is spiraling. In short, everyone should realize that this is not the time to demand more money from folks who are already hurting. But, that is exactly what the broadcast television stations are doing.

A couple of things are certain. Some of the broadcast stations you have been getting for years will disappear on January 1, 2009. However, all is not lost as we may be able to add a couple of stations back to our lineup that have been gone for a long time. Finally, it is also certain that the very best deal we can negotiate will still result in an increase in the rate for our basic tier of programming. Right now it looks like the increase will be in the neighborhood of $1.75 per month for the basic broadcast tier, but that final decision will be up the EPB Board when it meets.

I think everyone should know that our friends at WBKO in Bowling Green are being the most hard- nosed about demanding money (if we agree to what they are demanding they will be taking $50,000 per year out of Glasgow's economy) and refusing to negotiate more reasonable terms. Each of the other broadcasters started off asking a certain amount and then were willing to negotiate with us for lower amounts. This has not been the case with WBKO and as time winds down, it does not seem like they are going to change.

This is another example of the problems faced by Glasgow's local economy. There are simply too many businesses (like WBKO) that are determined to export money from Glasgow's economy while providing precious little for us in return. These are the problems that Glasgow's new movement, Sustainable Glasgow is being created to address. We simply have to learn how to provide more goods and services for ourselves such that we can keep our money in local circulation and enjoy the "multiplier" effects of sustaining local businesses. In the future, every time I look at WBKO's programming I will be thinking about the $50,000 per year they are taking from us and how that money might have helped a local business person grow his business in Glasgow. I hope you will too.

Of course, WBKO feels that the information and entertainment products they produce are well worth that money. But an event this weekend at The Plaza Theater reconfirmed my belief that we can inform, and certainly can entertain ourselves as well. If you were one of the roughly one thousand folks who attended the bluegrass music event at The Plaza Theater this weekend, you know what I am talking about. Local government officials made a fantastic decision to purchase and renovate this facility. Local employees and volunteers at The Plaza Theater assembled the talent and produced the show. They also sold tickets, ushered folks, sold concessions, and ran the lights and sound systems. To a large extent, the talent was local as well, and that closes the circle on my theory. We have a place, we have the management folks and talented volunteers, and we have local talented musicians. We also have wonderfully talented local thespians - The Far Off Broadway Players who are working hard to entertain us locally as well.

So, my point is this. Distant companies who are enriching themselves by siphoning off Glasgow's wealth better pay attention to the changing tide. Sustainable Glasgow intends to work diligently to identify places where our treasure is leaking out of the community to vendors who might be relying too heavily on our slumber. Together, we can awaken Glasgow's determination to protect itself and provide for our own needs.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Renewable Everything

If you get a chance watch the Green Warriors series on CNN this week. This is a link to an enterprise featured - one showing how a bit of "out of the box" thinking can result in a whole new way to fuel our country.

It seems you can grow more than just food in greenhouses!


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thoughts on Sustainable Glasgow

I am hoping for more readership of this blog now that Sustainable Glasgow has been introduced to the community through recent media coverage. In that hope, and in this entry, I wish to expand on the principles and philosophy thus far presented, particularly for those with a new interest or curiosity in this movement.

The local economic, quality, security, safety and health issues surrounding food are the initial focus of effort of this movement.That is appropriate, as there is nothing that touches our lives any more intimately than food. And we are well situated to make local food availability a reality.But the principles of sustainability and localism extend into almost everything in our lives: water, energy, transportation, education, communication, local commerce and industry, local restaurants-and even local live entertainment. These issues are all on the table to be addressed as we gather interest and momentum. So if your interest is piqued by one these issues,then get involved, join up, and stay tuned.

The principles we espouse are aimed at improving the quality of our community life by promoting local enterprise, thereby keeping dollars spent here in circulation in our local economy. The principle of local dollar multipliers takes effect: when you purchase from a locally owned business, the dollar you spend is very likely spent locally, then locally again, etc. and you see the multiplying effect. A dollar spent at a "big box" retailer (and you know who they are) is shipped out of this community so fast that it would make your head spin - and that dollar certainly will never again see light in Barren or surrounding counties.

Besides the purely economic aspect of localism, there is the issue of quality of experience in our commerce. In a big box store, the total conversation is typically "paper or plastic?" or "credit or debit?" Compare that to the experience of a purchase at a locally owned business where relationship and service are a matter of pride. The most stark contrast is the supermarket shopping experience vs. the farmers' market experience. Shopping at a farmers' market is an enriching, conversational experience of great satisfaction and quality purchases - and highly recommended. I need not describe the shopping experience in a supermarket.

We have found through experience in this country that more is not always better, that quality is more important than quantity. Studies show that despite having bigger homes, more and bigger cars, and lots of "stuff" we are no happier than were people fifty years ago who had much less. So what is missing? I propose that it is a loss of sense of community and shared experience and sacrifice - a loss of authenticity. Consumerism as a lifestyle has failed us. We need strong communities, family, friends, neighbors, a personal quality and mutual trust in our commerce, and a pride in place.

This is not to suggest that we become insular. We should welcome all who come here and we should keep our minds open always to ideas for improvement. We should reach out to other communities and cultures and integrate the ideas that work for them to improve our lot. And we should certainly keep in mind that we are all united in this country by the priciples of our founding that have given us the opportunities to live free and make these choices. We can do all this without losing our uniqueness.

Our greatest opportunity to make the world and this country better is to make our little piece of it better. That is my hope for Glasgow and Barren County. That is the mission of Sustainable Glasgow.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Meeting Minutes, November 20, 2008

Sustainable Glasgow

Minutes from November 20, 2008, Regular Meeting

The regular meeting of Sustainable Glasgow, Inc. was held at 7:00 A.M., November 20, 2008, at 110 East Public Square, Glasgow, Kentucky.
The meeting was called to order by Acting Chairperson William Ray presiding, and, recorded by Acting Secretary William Ray.
Present were William Ray, William Travis, Vivian Garrett, Rhonda Trautman, Lisa Simpson Strange, Daniel Iacconi, Carl Dickerson, James P. Haynes, and Jerry Ralston.
The Acting Chairperson then declared that the first item of business would be a review of the Sustainable Glasgow activities, to date, and a summary of the underlying reasoning behind the creation of the group. Vigorous discussion ensued with all attendees participating with ideas and agreement with the principles behind the creation of the Sustainable Glasgow movement.
The Acting Chairperson stated that the next item of business would be a review of the Articles of Incorporation drafted by John Rogers. The Acting Chairperson shared copies of the document with the attendees and asked for volunteers to become the initial directors and incorporators. Eventually William Ray, William Travis, and Jerry Ralston were appointed initial directors and Joseph Trigg (though absent he had already agreed) and Rhonda Trautman agreed to be incorporators. The documents were then executed and William Ray agreed to deliver them to John Rogers for filing. At the call of the Acting Chairperson for the next item of business, the press release proposed to inform the community of the formation of Sustainable Glasgow was shared with the group. After lengthy discussion there was a consensus to release the information to the media immediately and that the initial documents are incorporated into these minutes as follows:

PRESS RELEASE - For Immediate Release - November 20, 2008

Sustainable Glasgow is the name adopted by a group of locals who have been meeting informally to develop local solutions to some recent negative national, state, and local issues mainly focusing on energy, security, food, and the economy. The idea was born in conversations over dinners and breakfasts in local eateries and came to life in the living rooms of a few of its initial members. Sustainable Glasgow’s mission statement is elegantly simple, and broad enough to allow it to accomplish many things as the future unfolds: Sustainable Glasgow is dedicated to contributing to the development of the theory and practice of sustainable living in the Barren County area. We seek to provide the ideas, information, education, infrastructure, and political will, that inspires and facilitates community members to bring about systemic changes in all of our institutions that are necessary to create a sustainable economy for the region surrounding Glasgow, Kentucky.

“Simply put, we want to actively promote the happiness of local citizens and create security for our community against the sort of frightening events that have recently rocked our nation,” stated one of the original members, Barren County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jerry Ralston. “We believe that our community should have as a goal a more sustainable, stable local economy, and that our efforts should start with the creation of a local food economy,” stated another founding member, Dr. William Travis. “We have a great opportunity to develop local food production which will result in improved quality and security of our food choices,” added Travis. “This could drive entrepreneurial opportunities for those interested in careers in agriculture, food processing and retail. We are, of course, the top agricultural county in the state.”

While Sustainable Glasgow started off with only five or six folks sitting around a member’s dining room table, the group was recently incorporated and now consists of more than fifty local members, with membership expected to grow exponentially. The members strongly believe that since Glasgow is surrounded by productive farm land, the establishment of a food system of local producers and local consumers exchanging goods for currency in a sustainable fashion is achievable. The local dollar multipliers – dollars spent with locally owned businesses are then spent locally again, and again – make this a win-win for all involved.

The members feel that encouraging a sustainable food economy (local food production and distribution) will generate local employment and business opportunities which will be more resilient than Glasgow’s historic reliance on heavy industry as the focus of its economic development efforts.

Though the group is new, the movement they are promoting is not. “Sustainable community groups are popping up all over the country,” said founding member and EPB Superintendent William Ray. “Like them, our principles are evolving as new members join our movement, but some of our core principles are already known and they include: exposing the true costs and benefits of public and private sector decisions, educating decision makers, voters, and students about the real state of our economy and society, and establishing Glasgow as our place in the world and digging in, and taking responsibility for what happens here. Ultimately, our goal is to promote a community where citizens can achieve greater security and satisfaction.”

Sustainable Glasgow plans to form powerful partnerships. They see themselves as one part of the local puzzle, not experts prepared to dictate solutions. They plan to lead by example and say what they are for, not what they are against. Jerry Ralston summarized by saying “We believe in continuous learning and open minds. We hope our efforts will create a ripple effect by proposing new ideas for our community which will spread quickly across Glasgow’s economy.” “Good ideas spread fast, we look forward to adding many more interested citizens to our group over the next few months.”

Anyone interested in learning more about Sustainable Glasgow can visit their website at or contact William Ray at to request membership in the email group communications being utilized to pull the group together.

The Acting Chairperson stated that the next item of business would be a discussion of funding sources. William Ray reported that Glasgow EPB might provide some level of initial funding under its overall local economic development mission. Further discussion ensued relative to what it means to be a member of Sustainable Glasgow instead of just a member of the listserv. Eventually Jim Haynes moved that membership applications be prepared and that a membership fee of $20 is collected to fund some initial minimal expenses and establish some level of commitment by members. This motion was seconded by Vivian Garrett and unanimously voted in the affirmative. Additionally, there was discussion and a suggestion that a local CPA firm might be interested in handling the accounting work for Sustainable Glasgow and that they should be approached as soon as possible. William Ray agreed to handle this initial contact.
At the call of the Acting Chairperson for the next item of business, discussion was held on the meeting format, and regular meeting dates. Lively discussion ensued, resulting in a consensus that the regular business meetings should continue to occur on the third Thursday of the month at 7:00 A.M. at 110 East Public Square, Glasgow, Kentucky, but further that educational meetings be scheduled at other times so that longer format informational sessions could be offered as necessary to accomplish one of the central goals of Sustainable Glasgow; that of educating the general populace about the localism and local food economy issues and local environmental and infrastructure issues that impact the people of Glasgow and Barren County.
There being no further business to come before the meeting, a motion was made by Jerry Ralston that this November meeting adjourn to meet again on December 18 at 7:00 A.M. This motion was seconded by William Travis and unanimously voted in the affirmative.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Here are some pictures (for posterity) from our last meeting.
Please enjoy.

If it is OK, I could bring a camera tomorrow

Upcoming Meeting - Thursday Morning

We will have our first regular meeting in our new location on Thursday morning, November 20, 7:00 a.m. on the square in the vacant store front building just under Alexander Law Office. Continental breakfast will be provided! Just look for the door between Glasgow - Barren County Chamber of Commerce and Main Street with the Sustainable Glasgow sign on the door!

The tentative agenda looks like this:

1. Discuss SG history and principles for new attendees.

2. Review Articles of Incorporation and Choose initial directors.

3. Review Press Release

4. Discuss initial funding

5. Consider regular meeting format, should we plan a brief educational program for each meeting?

6. Open discussion of goals and objectives

7. Adjourn

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Attention Locavores! We have a meeting location!

Due to the wisdom of William J. and Meg Travis, and the benevolence of Buddy and Zara Alexander, we now have a fantastic place for our regular monthly meetings of Sustainable Glasgow! The address is 110 E. Public Square. It is a vacant store front on the same side of the square as the Chamber of Commerce and City Hall, right beside the door for Alexander Law Office.

The space has chairs and tables. We will scare up a coffee maker and a little refrigerator so we can have some cold drinks and water. We will also figure out how to have some local food there when we meet. What more could we ask for? It is right in the middle of the town we want to move forward!

Remember the next meeting is at 7:00 a.m. on Thursday, November 20. I will put an agenda together ASAP.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Green Market Expo

If you were not there today, you missed a great opportunity to meet and greet fellow locavores and hear our own William J Travis, MD, explain how what we eat, and what the things we eat, eat in turn, affects our lives and our communities. Luckily, someone videotaped the talk and I am working to get a copy of that tape so we can play it on cable television in Glasgow. If we can track it down you simply must make time to watch his talk as it really forms the foundation reasoning behind our efforts and dreams for Sustainable Glasgow.

For me, one of the most exciting things about the Expo was the discovery of other "locavores" in the community or in surrounding counties, that already truly believe in the things we believe in. One dazzling example is the folks at Country Girl at Heart Farm Bed and Breakfast. I didn't get the whole story about the operation and the website (linked above) is still under construction, but it appears to be a family operation built upon the lifelong dream of an amazing woman to run a bed and breakfast that also immerses guests in the experience of working and living on a family farm. This is under construction just up the road in Munfordville and seems like one of the most brilliant ideas I have seen or heard of. It is simply amazing to see how localism can create its own momentum toward growth and employment while we still spend so much money trying to beg businesses to come here, often without anything to show for the money and efforts.

I can't wait to head up US 31W to Munfordville and see this operation. More than seeing it, I can't wait to spend my first night there and eat a big old country breakfast produced within sight of the table that breakfast is served upon. Congratulations Country Girl at Heart Farm!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

At Our LOCAL Library

Tonight I attended the last of a series at the Mary Wood Weldon Library entitled Going Green at the Library. The session was “Know What is in Your Water” Elaine Diggs Plus: What We Are Doing Locally” Shannon White (4th Going Green series) and it was really outstanding. Ms. Diggs and Mr. White both exhibited broad knowledge and passion about the subjects and a very lively and enjoyable discussion ensued. The bad part was that there were only about five attendees.

I know the folks at the library worked hard to attract these speakers and put on useful information about our community and how we can make it better. I know how hard it is to communicate with folks in Glasgow about important information about events like these. I only knew about it because I went to the library site long ago and signed up there for the monthly newsletters which inform me of events at the library. I suggest you do this as well! Once there, use the link on the left of the page to email them and ask to be added to their mail list. Our library is staffed by folks who are dedicated to bringing valuable information and resources to the community. They did a great job of that with the Going Green series and the programs are definitely worth attending as an alternative to sitting on the couch and watching television.

We all got a chance to discuss this site and Sustainable Glasgow. I think we have a few more interested folks as a result of that discussion.

Edible Schoolyards?

Just got the following from the "BG Green Group" that is way ahead of us in pursuing sustainability issues in Bowling Green. It is a thought provoking piece.

The recent Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education had 1,700 in attendance! I wanted to share a synopsis of the keynote by Vandana Shiva, on food - "the currency of life."

Raleigh, N.C. — Vandana Shiva, the physicist and environmental activist, spoke here at the national conference of the Association for the Advancement for Sustainability in Higher Education this morning. Her topic was food — what she calls “the currency of life” — and how an industrial food system has poisoned the soil and pushed people off their land.

The speech hit on a number of agricultural issues that have been widely discussed recently and made popular by writers like Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver. There is no doubt that food issues will be increasingly important in coming years, as agriculture is stressed by climate change, dwindling petroleum supplies, and environmental degradation in the form of loss of biodiversity and erosion. (Read essays in The Chronicle‘s Buildings & Grounds about this topic here and here.)

Ms. Shiva said that “the issue of food has increasingly become an issue of peace” because stresses on traditional agriculture and the industrialization of food have led people to wage war against nature, against each other, and even against their own bodies, in the form of cancers and obesity. The industrialization of food has led to empty countrysides both here in the U.S. and in India, Ms. Shiva’s native country.

“An empty countryside has never been a good human design,” she said, because it means that people are cramming into megacities and are falling away from the skills needed to raise food in traditional ways.

Colleges have a big role to play in fixing agriculture because they are partly to blame for its problems: The so-called Green Revolution, which created fertilizer-dependent industrial agriculture, is a result of research done at colleges and universities. “The solutions will have to come out of the place where it started,” she said.

She pointed out that Alice Waters, the Berkeley chef and food activist, had gotten a lot of attention for her Edible Schoolyard project, in which middle-school students are learning about agriculture and cuisine by growing gardens. Colleges should start setting up their own edible grounds, she said.

“Why shouldn’t edible schoolyards be on every campus?” she asked. —Scott Carlson

Monday, November 10, 2008

Alltech's President at WKU -Glasgow

This morning a bit more than one hundred Glasgow - Barren County residents and officials attended a talk by Dr. Pearse Lyons, President of Alltech. I was totally unfamiliar with Alltech even though the signs trumpeting the upcoming Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games are all over the Commonwealth. I am not sure if his talk was meant to promote the Equestrian Games or Alltech or Dr. Lyons, but a bit of each was done.

Alltech's website tells a lot more about this company and they seem to be on the sustainability wagon with us. However, it appears that they might also be a part of the "feed your cattle plenty of pharmaceuticals" band wagon as well, but right now that is not clear to me. At any rate, he was very encouraging about how many infrastructure projects are possible and advisable for small communities in Kentucky to move toward a sustainable food economy. To a large extent he painted a picture of a perpetual motion machine wherein local producers of grass, grain, and other cellulose plants feed into beef and dairy operations which, in turn, produce waste and biomass that is then turned back into electric power and other energy sources that can then be plowed back into the energy requirements of producing the grass and grains. It was just another way of discussing what we are already all about.

They had the right audience there. Many local officials were nodding. Educators from local k-12 schools as well as WKU were nodding in agreement as he painted this scenario and virtually guaranteed us all that this is not only doable, but also affordable and capable of actually producing new jobs and net income while also providing sustainable food economy for a place like Glasgow.

All that is needed after a talk like that is for some passionate locals to take up the gauntlet of pushing our local officials to walk the talk instead of just listening to the talk. That is where we come in, is it not?

Seems there are "sustainable" efforts going on everywhere.

I ran across this article from yahoo that points to how many different institutions are considering sustainable practices.

I'm impressed with the amount of attention this topic is getting and also with how much it seems to come up in conversations here in Glasgow. I'm optimistic about getting this initiative underway.

Sustainable Glasgow Meeting Pictures

At our last Sustainable Glasgow meeting, I took pictures of everyone in the group. Each member's picture came out well and you could observe the seriousness of the discussion taking place. Now, if I can figure out how to get the pictures on the Blog, I will post them. Stay Tuned!!!!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

And Something to Twitter About...

The post just submitted should have included some more information. If you look at our website, you will see something new on the left side. I added a Twitter update gadget. I have been studying Twitter for a couple of months and trying to understand it. If you click on the "Follow Billy Ray on Twitter" link on the page and if you follow through the simple sign up process for Twitter, you will get automatic updates from me. Of course, you can also see these updates on our Sustainable Glasgow site without even signing up.

Twitter allows one to give 140 character answers to the eternal question, "What are you doing?" and have those updates automatically distributed to others via websites, blogs, and even cell phones. This might be worth something or nothing, it is just something I am playing with and I will try to submit some regular little updates over and above these full blown posts to the blog. Of course, I will strive to make those posts somehow relevant to our objective of promoting localism and the reinforcement of Glasgow's local economy.

Sunday Morning Update

The elections are over and, from a Sustainable Glasgow perspective, they went quite well. Now it is time for us to move on several fronts. First of all, I promise to get with John Rogers and move our incorporation documents along toward execution. I am sure that will result in the need for us to formalize our meetings, elect officers, adopt rules, etc. I am going to add this to my list of things to do immediately.

One thing we all need to be pondering is just where and when we need to have our monthly meetings. I believe the morning time is going to be good, but I am doubtful that we will find George J's a good location. We hope that the meetings will swell to include 20-30 folks and that will require a venue that allows us the quiet necessary for all to hear and be heard. Please consider this and help us find the right place.

Next, since it is now post-election, it is time for us to consider unleashing our press release. For those of you who have not yet weighed in on this document, here is how it stands presently:

Please refer to the draft distributed via email...if we left it posted here we would be effectively releasing it already!

If anyone has any more suggested changes to this document, please let me know! We need to decide when to turn this loose at our next meeting.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Chance to Walk Our Talk

Sustainable Glasgow is all about localism . . . the idea of local people providing for local needs. Now comes a chance for us to show we are serious. This link appeared in Friday's Glasgow Daily Times and Charlie Goodman also reiterated the information at the Thursday meeting of Glasgow Rotary. Let's all show up at the auditions on Monday or Tuesday night, show that we can read, and that we are ready to support the Far Off Broadway Players in their efforts to provide our entertainment locally!

Again, click here, to see the full story from the Daily Times.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Eat Local - Prevent Kidney Stones!

For the last couple of weeks I have been nursing a kidney stone. Really, I don't actually intend to nurse it, I want it to go, but so far it is hanging with me. Like everyone who has developed one, I spend a lot of time now wondering what went wrong with my diet to cause me this malady. When I read this article in today's New York Times, I was first surprised that this ailment is now spreading rapidly in children, then amazed that, once again, the likely cause is salt and the processed globalized foods that pack so much of it.

It seems no matter where you look, you find more evidence that local food and localism are keys to our personal and economic health. Click on the link identified by the red text above and read this really good article.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Local Starry Nights

This link (just click on the red text) takes you to an article about the recent "50 mile dinner" at Verdi restaurant in Bowling Green. I really meant to go down for this event but my schedule did not allow it. This makes me think of a few things. First of all, it is an outstanding idea and probably something that should be on our list of goals for 2009 to mimic it with one of our local restaurants.

At the same time, take a few minutes to review the "magazine" that the article appears in. There are other notable articles in it as well as the fact that there are active and creative folks in Bowling Green willing to create this magazine. I wonder how we can foster this sort of creativity in Glasgow. How do we encourage talented local folks to quit hiding their light under a bushel? How do we "Keep Glasgow Weird," by exposing local talent. I am betting we have it!

One of the stories that struck me in this magazine is this one, about a really wonderful sounding music event under the stars, The Starry Night Music Festival. That just made me think of a tremendous community asset that we already have, one with a constant starry night guaranteed -- The Plaza Theater.

I know this post moves our conversation away from local food, but it is certainly still well founded in localism. I think we need to be using The Plaza much, much more than we do. The article talks about the music event and indicates that at least one of the participating bands was
The Lost River Cavemen, from Glasgow according to the article. I wonder why we could not have something like this monthly (perhaps even weekly). I envision this regular event to be part open-microphone night, part Grand Old Opry, and part Woodstock. I say we use this community-owned asset to encourage local artists to perform and give us all a local option for entertainment. I suggest we step up and put the funds in our next municipal budget to pay theater staff to be there and facilitate this monthly event such that the performers only have to donate their talent, not their money too. The Plaza should be treated as municipal infrastructure, no different from parks, sidewalks, and City Hall. We should be encouraging its use, not trying to make it cash flow by charging locals to use it.

The article talks glowingly about Bowling Green's annual Starry Night Music Festival. Let's start a tradition in Glasgow of monthly music events under our own starry night!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Minutes of October 22, 2008 Meeting

The third regular meeting of Sustainable Glasgow convened at 7:00 p.m. at the home of Dr. Jerry Ralston, 200 Bayles Road, Glasgow, KY, on October 22 2008. Those present were William Ray, Brenda Chaney, William Travis, Joe Trigg, and Jerry Ralston.

The first item of business considered was the two different sets of Articles of Incorporation proposed by John Rogers. William Ray explained that John suggested one method of incorporating the group if the intention of the group were to someday pursue 501(c)3 tax exempt status and another method if the group wished to be capable of taking political positions and lobbying for its chosen causes. Discussion ensued and it was eventually the unanimous consensus of the group that Sustainable Glasgow should incorporate under the latter structure such that its capacity to participate in the political process would be preserved.

The next item of business was the consideration of a plan to attract more folks to the group, both as active participants and attendees at the regular meetings and as philosophical members who believe in the causes espoused by Sustainable Glasgow and participate in those causes as well as in the on-line presence of Sustainable Glasgow, . Discussion of the ways to expand the group took place. William Ray reported that the email listserv, now contains over 25 members. Jerry Ralston suggested that the group develop a document in the format of a press release, announcing the creation and incorporation of Sustainable Glasgow and the reasons for its creation, and submit that document to local new media outlets as a way of announcing our presence and attracting folks to the movement. All agreed with this suggestion and it was agreed that William Ray would create a draft of the document and post it on the site for input from all members before submission to the media.

The next item of business was the discussion of the formerly stated list of desired outcomes, especially the establishment of a full time retail space for local producers to sell their products by May, 2009. It was agreed that a group of members should formally meet with Glasgow Mayor and Barren County Judge Executive as soon as possible so they could be advised of the formation and intentions of Sustainable Glasgow. Further it was agreed that a group of members should approach South Central Bank with the idea of creating the retail facility on the site of the new South Central Bank Operations Center at the corner of L. Rogers Wells Blvd. and Cleveland Avenue in Glasgow.

Other business was discussed as well as longer range goals and ambitions for Sustainable Glasgow. The matter of regular meetings in November and December was discussed in light of the obvious conflict with Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. It was agreed to meet in November for breakfast on Thursday, November 20, at 7:00 am, at George J’s on the square.

Other discussion included a report on an initial success in bringing Joe Trigg’s vegetable producing operation together with the food purchasing folks at Barren County Board of Education such that the schools are beginning to offer locally produced vegetables as part of their daily student lunches. Joe Trigg also reported interest from three local restaurants in purchasing locally produced vegetables for their menus. William Ray advised the group of upcoming an upcoming program on KET entitled “To Market, To Market, To Buy a Fat Pig” which will appear on EPB channel 193 at 9:00 p.m. on November 1. He reported that the documentary is a great study of local food markets in cities around the nation and an outstanding way to help the group imagine what Sustainable Glasgow might be able to create here in Glasgow.

The meeting finally adjourned at about 9:30 p.m. to meet again at George J’s restaurant on November 20 at 7:00 a.m.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Burning the Future

I sent everyone on the listserv some information about an outstanding documentary playing on Sundance Channel. While this film is about coal, electricity, and the price we really pay for our electric power, and has little to do with Sustainable Glasgow at this point, I still think we should all watch it just to see the sacrifice that some "movements" are willing to endure in order to make a difference.

At the end of the film they direct you to a web site, where they encourage us to "dig deeper." After going to that site and discovering the blog, I was struck by the following essay on the struggles they are enduring in their movement. By strange happenstance, Mary and I are scheduled to take a train trip through the New River Gorge this weekend. After reading this, it will be a totally different experience than I imagined when we planned it months ago. Here it is:

Bob Kincaid, host of Head-on-Radio Network ( has offered this poignant essay. It cuts to the heart of the conflict in the coalfields, between miners and those working to protect the mountains and the communities around them - a conflict propogated by coal companies and shrouded in fear. Bob graciously permitted me to post it here.

I live in Fayette County, West Virginia, the heart and soul of West Virginia’s whitewater rafting tourism industry. Thousands and thousands of people come here every year to raft the New and Gauley Rivers. They roar down gorges as old as the earth itself, past the ghost towns that are all that’s left of the mine wars of a century ago; towns where Mary Harris “Mother” Jones worked to organize the slaves of the coal industry: Thurmond and Glen Jean and Brooklyn and Cunard and Hawks Nest and Prince and McKendree; places that are little more than wide mossy spots by the riverside, with a few squared stones marking where entire generations played out. These are the Dodge Citys and Tombstones of Appalachia.

If asked, most folks would tell you that the days of the mine wars are a long gone piece of West Virginia’s violent past. Most folks would be wrong. I saw on Saturday, April 5 that the past is never so far away that we can’t see it come to life before our eyes. There’s a war going on in West Virginia again, only the combatants have changed a bit.

A hundred years ago, when my Great-grandfather was mining coal in these hills, he and his folks understood that human dignity required a community to stand together against the coal bosses who treated them like slaves. They knew they were slaves and resented it. A lot of blood got spilled, but in the end, the coal miners of the early twentieth century won the right to form a union, be paid a living wage (in actual U.S. cash, no less), have health care and a pension for their old age; but you probably know all that.

Anyway, about fifty folks from my hometown went up on Gauley Mountain Saturday for an event termed a “Blessing of the Mountain.” See, the mountain in question is presently in the early stages of its execution. A coal company has gotten a permit to utterly destroy the mountain right up to the boundary of the New River Gorge National River, all in the name of seams of coal that are sometimes as thin as six inches. The company controls 18,000 acres or more that almost completely encircle my town. The mountain’s drainages are the Gauley and New Rivers themselves. The coal company has begun the process of blasting the mountain to death from the top down. Here at my home about four miles from the site, we already hear the distant rumbles, like bombs going off, as the blasting of Gauley Mountain proceeds.

Like I said, that mountain’s been mined before. Like all played-out coal mines, it’s full of water. Heaven help the mariner when some blast breaks the mountain open and sends those millions (if not billions) of gallons hurtling down onto our HeadStart Center right before it washes the rest of our town and its people down the creek and into the New River. By the way: the coal company owns the HeadStart Center’s property, so HeadStart won’t even complain about little poor kids being the first to go. See how it works?

We drove up the winding mountain road, intending to go up to the scene of the crime. Where the road turns to rock and dirt, we found it had been barred by the Company, and a hastily spray-painted “No Trespassing” sign erected on steel cable crossing the road. The Episcopal priests who were leading the worship service weren’t fazed. They began setting up to hold the service where we were. Prayers for Justice, after all, being prayers, can reach the ears of the Almighty whether those doing the praying are standing over the victim’s bleeding heart or standing at her feet. So the fifty or so of us prepared for the little service that was planned. Folks passed around flyers with the Order of Worship. Photocopied song lyrics were passed around in lieu of hymnals. My three children and I stood together among the assembled congregants.

That’s when everything changed. Charging around the further curve came a couple of four-wheelers, roaring up the road past our group. Immediately following them were all manner of vehicles (mostly pick-up trucks). Out of the vehicles poured what looked like the majority of the coal company’s demolition crew, along with their wives and even some of their children. They were all clad in identical sky-blue t-shirts with a logo on the back and the slogan “Protect An Endangered Species- Save a Coal Miner” or some such corporate drivel. They deliberately blocked our little group in between the mouth of the road and the No Trespassing barrier, like some group of penned animals they planned to slaughter just like the animals that die when they push the filth from their “mining” into the valley below.

Since we’re fairly new to having our homes attacked by Mountain Top Removal here in my neck of Fayette County, some of us were surprised at the show of force. I checked with my friends down in the Southern WV Coal Fields, however, and they said it’s a typical company tactic. Here’s what happens: the coal company tells its people that the Evil Environmentalists (who, they’re told, love trees, fish and numerous species of snails more than people) are trying to take away their jobs. The bosses tell their people that America can’t have electricity without blowing the hell out of the oldest mountains on the planet. The company people are told that they’re actually even “patriots.” They get some spiffy new t-shirts and are told, not asked, to take the wife and kids to help intimidate the “Environmental Wackos.” Failure to do so can mean one of these peoples’ jobs.

Of course, the bosses DON’T tell their people that as quick as the last seam has been scraped from the earth, as soon as they’ve pushed the last bit of mountaintop over into the valley that is my home and killed every living thing that walks, creeps, swims, hops or crawls, the Company will be gone like all companies do when the seams play out. They don’t tell their “associates” that two or three spins of the Wall Street roulette wheel will reduce those much-vaunted “profit sharing plans” to the value of your Great-granny’s cache of Civil War Bank of Richmond Confederate notes. Nope. All those pathetic company people hear is that “Coal Keeps The Lights On.” All they know is that as long as they keep up the bombing, the paychecks keep coming.

As the mountaintop removers swarmed up the little dirt road in their bid to intimidate a couple of priests and a bunch of mostly fifty- and sixty-something activists, I looked at my own kids (14, 12 and 11). I told them “Kids, these people are more to be pitied than despised. They’re slaves. They don’t even have the freedom to wear their own clothes. See? On the job and off, they have to wear what the Company tells them. They go where the Company tells them to go. They say what the Company tells them to say. They’re not even allowed to think for themselves.” Amid shouts of “Turn your lights off, then!” and “Coal keeps your lights on!” from the company people, my kids looked at me and nodded in understanding. One of them said, “Go talk to them, Daddy.”

It was what I call an “Atticus Finch” moment: a moment when a parent can’t do anything but be straight with his kids, knowing that everything he’s tried to teach them before hangs in the balance. “I can’t talk to them, baby. They’re past learning. They’re past comprehending the harm they’re doing. They’re hurting themselves and their own children with what they do, and they don’t even care. They’re slaves. Slaves live in fear of the Master. Nothing I can say can take away the fear their Master has put into them. They think the only thing in the world they’re capable of is dynamiting our mountains so they can have a payday.”

I didn’t have to say any more. My spoken lesson was interrupted by a much more visceral one. The service started, with Father Roy leading the call and response. My kids learned the truth as the company people snickered and guffawed as the priest said “We invite the mountains to worship with us” and the people responded “Deep forests, babbling brooks and clear mountain streams.”

The cat-calls and jeering rose to outright mockery when, responding to the priest’s confession that “We remember and confess that we have become alienated from the earth. . . ” the people replied with “We have polluted rivers with waste from mountain mines . . . We are sorry.” Forced laughter rose from the people who were paid and threatened to compel their attendance. More cries of “Coal keeps the lights on” and “Turn off your lights.” As it turned out, the company people knew their catechism far better than we did ours.

Undaunted, the priests continued on. There was some singing. Then Father Stan moved into his homily. He began preaching facts about mountaintop removal. Some of the company wives ratcheted the tension up, beginning to scream at the priest. They hollered “stop lying” as he described the toxic effects of mountaintop removal.

When Father Stan got into the meat of his homily, a short, squat company man came storming down from the Company’s hastily-erected, makeshift gate, yelling at the priest all the way. “I worship the same god you do,” he cried, as though addressing some be-robed shaman from an alien, distant land, “but I ain’t gonna let you tell these lies! Who’s gonna feed my family? Who’s gonna send my kids to college,” never managing to identify just what “lies” had slain him in the Spirit. Suffice to say, at no time had any of us suggested his children starve for want of either food or education. That bit of mendacity had come, of course, straight from corporate HQ.

People around the man gently explained to him, “Sir, this is a worship service.” It didn’t matter. The company people had managed to put an end to it. They began hollering their same, tired, chants of “Coal Keeps the Lights On” like some holy, soul-saving mantra, and waving their “Friends of Coal” placards like pieces of the True Cross. A company wife standing in the bed of a pick-up truck began squealing again about putting her children through college and what she apparently thought was her husband’s constitutional right to destroy anything upon which he set his eye, as long as they made a nice living at it; as long as it came with a new truck every couple of years, some clothes and a big screen TV from some slave-labor sweatshop in China.

At the height of the tension, a clear, pure voice rang out among us. One of our folks sent “Amazing Grace” onto the air. It was quickly picked up by the rest of us, silencing the coal people.

Once it was clear that the service would go no further, that Almighty God would no longer be implored to save our community from mountaintop removal, the company people seemed content.

It looks like the mine wars are on again here in West Virginia. Those of us who are struggling to save our communities are committed to principles of non-violence, emulating Dr. King, the fortieth anniversary of whose murder had passed only the day before this confrontation. The company people, however, have shown their hand. Kept in the depths of pitiful ignorance darker than any of the underground mines in which my Great-granddaddy, Granddaddy and Daddy labored, they will bluster, scream, shout, intimidate, threaten and perhaps engage in actual violence to protect not themselves, but their Masters. That’s the saddest part of this whole tableau: these people are so far gone down Big Coal’s toxic garden path that they don’t realize we’re struggling for their children’s future every bit as much as we are for our own.

As I looked at the company wives in attendance, smirking, cat-calling, hooting and hollering, I couldn’t help recalling a statistic that stays on my mind: because of all the mercury coal has put into our lives, every company wife there, like my own wife, and my own daughters, had within her body enough mercury to ensure that every child she bears will suffer at least a ten point IQ deficit. Her very breast milk contains enough mercury to qualify as toxic waste under the EPA’s own standards. Her husband’s proximity to the blasting, not to mention the poisons he’s forced to work with, in and around, promises a tormented old age, if the couple have mind enough left to comprehend it. Yet, that gray April Saturday in the oldest mountains on earth, she saw me as the enemy.

After they left Pharaoh’s bondage and ran into some tough sledding in the desert, it’s said that a great number of the Children of Israel preferred a return to Pharaoh and his three-hots-and-a-cot. The preacher in Ecclesiastes said “There is nothing new under the sun.” I reckon he was right.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Next Meeting

At the last meeting we decided to meet on fourth Thursdays, so for October that would result in a meeting on the 23rd. However, I will be out of town that night. You guys could either meet without me, or we could meet a day early on the 22nd or a week late on the 30th. What do you think?

Let's also kick around some agenda items. Now that the blog is open and the email list is considerably expanded, we might have several new faces at the monthly meeting. I certainly hope so. In fact, a noble goal would be for each of you to not only come, but to bring one more interested person. Certainly, even if you don't bring a new person to the meeting, we need the email addresses of additional folks who want to become a part of this initiative. Let me know who they are!

My early thoughts on an agenda look like this:

1. Review the mission of Sustainable Glasgow for new attendees
2. Report on organizational status (John Rogers, I hope you can attend and handle this for us)
3. Report on population of listserv
4. Report of discussions with Mayor, Judge-Executive, and South Central Bank
5. Report on Closing the Food Gap Regional Conference in Lexington
6. Consider Sustainable Glasgow's goals and objectives compared to the calendar of annual events for local governments and the agricultural food year.

Looking forward to hearing your comments and suggestions!

UPDATE: We really need for someone to attend this: Growing Local Economies Partnership

Friday, October 10, 2008

Michael Pollan says a mouthful...

If you read nothing else this weekend, read this (click on the link). Anything I might add to what Mr. Pollan says here would certainly be superfluous.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Rotary Today

One would not normally expect to hear much about localism at the Glasgow Noon Rotary Club, and most of the folks who were there today did not see today's program that way, but I sure did. Today Billy Joe Williams gave a presentation on his business, Bluegrass Dairy (that is the old Dairymen Cheese Plant on Cleveland Avenue at Industrial Drive). It was a very informative program about an important local business, but the shocking thing was that they still make cheese!

I thought they only did operations where they dried other food substances to make things like powdered milk. To the contrary, they still make a wide variety of cheeses from our local dairy farms. Oddly though, they have practically no local retail outlets. To me that is outrageous! Local dairy farmers are producing milk, some of that milk is being turned into cheese right here on Cleveland Avenue, but none of it is easily purchased here. Instead, it gets trucked out to distant locations where distant folks buy it.

Thus there is another reason why we need a reliable local retail location where local producers can meet up with local consumers and food can be exchanged for money, without the need for several middle men and diesel fuel to be added to the transaction. It also, again, underscores the need for us to gather data on local producers and make knowledge about local goods easily available to local consumers.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Okay, this is not just a theory...

Today's New York Times has an article, linked here, about Hardwick, VT, that, if we work together with determination, could be written about Glasgow, KY in a couple of years. You have got to read this! Everything we have talked about has already been done in Hardwick and it works!

Monday, October 6, 2008

October 6 Update

Since you guys are not posting much here, I am going to start doing at least a weekly update on our project and, hopefully, pull you in to posting ideas and contributing to the discussion.

Incorporation. John Rogers has agreed to put us together some organizational paperwork to make us a viable entity. I suppose we will use the mission statement posted on the blog since no one has really said much, positive or negative about it. John also needs a few of us to serve as initial incorporators. I suggested using my name, William Travis's, and Rhonda's. Anyone have a problem with that or want to be added?

Creating a Movement. As I have said before, I am no expert on this, but a couple of things are certain. First of all, we have to figure out how to ignite a fire in more people who are willing to join our movement. After all, our ideas cannot become reality unless we can draw in a group big enough to speak with authority and momentum to our local governments. So how do we do that? A couple of ideas come to mind as I study how others are doing this. For example, I am closely watching the efforts of T. Boone Pickens to create a movement determined to establish a sustainable energy policy in the United States. He is using all forms of media, television, radio, print, but mostly, a dynamic website, blog, and email. I figure we should steal his ideas!

The blog has been changed some. Since several of the folks I invited to become members and contributors to the blog never signed up to do that, I have changed the blog so that it can be viewed by anyone. Now, for those of you that did sign up, please go back in and change you name to one that is recognized by the community. Part of the way we will be able to attract others is to make sure everyone knows who is already committed. I have already gotten that question from one of the folks now on the email list. While I still need to do some thinking to see how, or even if it would be a good idea, to list the names of everyone who asks to be on the email distribution list, the folks who got this started and agreed to become members of the blog need to let their name be clearly seen and you folks need to start writing and posting information that will help us pull more folks into the movement. Please do this as a way to guarantee that this idea does not stall.

For now, anyone who wants to be added to the distribution list of, just reply to any of the posts on the blog and give me you email address. In time, we will add a feature to the blog and the upcoming website so that you can sign up and automatically be added to the list.

Here's the Score...

Politicians - 6, Coca-Cola Bottling - 4, Others - 5, Pepsi Cola Bottling - 1, People of Glasgow - 0

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What We Believe, Part 1

The idea of this blog is to keep the conversation going all the time, not just at our monthly meetings. Using this method and the new media and technology that supports it, is the only way that our ideas and the movement that we promote to achieve its goals more quickly than past movements. Folks in Glasgow have come together in support of a cause in the past. For example the Glasgow EPB was created by just such a group of people who came together to form a movement.

That group first started meeting in 1958. They had a simple belief, just like we do, that low cost and ubiquitous electric power was too important to the life of a community to allow it to be provided to Glasgow by a distant, privately owned corporation. That belief became a movement and the movement became a political force that finally resulted in the creation of the EPB in 1962. Thus, it is possible for a group of folks, who share a strong belief in a community and the things that can make the community stronger and a better place to live, to make very big things happen. In 2008 it is possible to accomplish big things in a much shorter time.

The founders of our group believe that our community should have a sustainable economy. More particularly, we believe that our sustainable economy should start with the creation of a sustainable food economy. We think our need for food is too important to allow that need to be met exclusively by three distant corporations: Wal Mart, Houchens, and Food Lion (Delhaize America, Inc.). We think that, since Glasgow is surrounded by productive farm land, we can figure out a way to get local producers and local consumers together to exchange goods for money in a sustainable fashion. We think that encouraging local producers to produce for local folks and hire local folks as part of that process makes infinitely more sense than using our tax dollars to build buildings and other infrastructure for distant corporations who have no interest in Glasgow other than using our citizens for cheap labor in support of profits for distant stockholders.

If any of this rings true with you, join in the conversation and help us figure out how to move from great idea to working infrastructure. Invite others to join in this conversation and movement. Come on along and we will get this done quickly. We can solve this problem for ourselves. Obviously, as evidenced by our present economic situation and the foolishness of our political leaders on the national scene, no one else is going to solve our problems for us.