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