Friday, October 30, 2009

Another World -- Delayed

It would be great if everyone would watch Now on PBS tonight. It is on KET1 at 8:30. The video above is nice, but it just has more punch when you actually watch the program on television...especially on EPB cable! (sorry about the shameless plug)

The program does a great job helping everyone see the sort of relationship between energy consumers and energy providers that we have been trying to bring about in Glasgow, both from the EPB's perspective and from Sustainable Glasgow's perspective. For those of you who might have read my recent series of articles entitled Another World - Parts 1 - 3, you got a good feel for how we have been planning the technology to change this relationship. We were counting heavily on being able to roll the technology out to the whole community over the next couple of years through the economic stimulus funds announced earlier this year and administered through the US Department of Energy (DOE). Unfortunately, just this week the winners of those grants were announced and Glasgow was not among the successful applicants.

In fact, of the $3.4 billion made available for "smart grid" projects, no cities in Kentucky were given a dime. Meanwhile, places like Chattanooga and Knoxville, and Memphis got hundreds of millions of dollars for projects. It sort of makes you wonder just what a city like Glasgow, who has moved the infotricity ball steadily down the field for twenty years, would have to do to be considered worthy of some modicum of support from our federal government. Weren't we supposed to be represented by an exceedingly connected and powerful Senator? Hmmm...

So, that means we are back to where we have always been, doing the hard work and science of understanding how to change the way people use electric power all by ourselves. That means that the new world we discussed over the last few weeks, and the one better represented in the video story about Denmark, is going to be a bit slower in coming and a lot more expensive for us to put in place, but we are not about to give up on the idea. Stay tuned for our continued work with Google and other technology partners to bring new technology to the people of Glasgow. We can probably move more quickly and learn more by continuing our guerrilla warfare methods than we could have done if we had gotten all of that money anyway (even though I certainly would have liked to have experienced what life would be like with someone giving us money).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sustainable Glasgow 101 @ MWW Library

Sustainable Glasgow will be hosting a "lunch and learn" event on Thursday, November 12 from 12-1pm at the new Mary Wood Weldon Library. Please join Dr. Bill Travis as he leads a discussion of sustainability issues and the goals of Sustainable Glasgow. If you have any ideas or suggestions for SG or questions/input about sustainability in general, this event is for you!

To RSVP to this event, please e-mail You may bring your own lunch to the event or there will be boxed lunches available for purchase at the library. We look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cycling and Sustainability

Since the Sustainable Glasgow movement was born we have said that it is about much more than just eating locally, so now let’s start talking about something else, the infrastructure that makes us happy to live, work, and eat here. The Sustainable Glasgow movement has already taken on a massive task in trying to change the way our community thinks about food and the way the community shops for food. So, we know what it is like to try and turn a battleship which is sailing at full speed in the wrong direction. We must be crazy then to try the same thing again, but here we go.

Let’s talk a bit about streets, sidewalks, automobiles, and bicycles. We have a basic problem with respect to food; that problem is that we have no plan to assure a sustainable food economy even though we live in a highly productive agricultural region. Our basic problem relative to transportation infrastructure is similar in that we have no known plan for improving transportation convenience for walking, cycling, or any other mode of transport other than the automobile, though we have a beautiful and compact community which is ideal for alternate modes of transport. We spend virtually all of our locally available transportation dollars on building more roads and adding additional pavement to the ones we have. We spend our influence in Frankfort on the idea of building more roads and bypasses and outer loops that consume more productive land and encourage more suburban sprawl. More suburban sprawl encourages more development away from the city center, increases our costs for police and fire and ambulances and utilities, and contributes to the continued reliance on the automobile and foreign oil for every aspect of day to day life. This cycle of funding, construction, and consumption is becoming a perpetual motion/perpetual problem machine which is consuming our taxes, our land, and our resources, while outputting noise, pollution, and stress. It is time for us to start looking closely at this machine to see exactly why we are putting up with it.

As this is written, it is Fall Break week for the local schools. Local families who can get off work and who have the money to travel, have all headed off for vacations in communities that offer the kind of life they long for. Those communities have a few things in common: wide sidewalks which encourage pedestrian strolls, vibrant local restaurants with locally grown foods on their menus, and shops offering local goods that make long strolls rewarding, and bicycle paths and lanes which make cycling to those same destinations equally attractive. This relatively inexpensive infrastructure, and local lifestyle, thus functions to attract Glasgow people and Glasgow dollars away from Glasgow. So, if we are spending 100% of our resources on building roadway infrastructure that people are looking to escape from whenever they can, perhaps we need to rethink what we are doing. Sustainable Glasgow feels this is the case.

Long before I started cycling I was a devout dog walker along the sidewalks on South Green Street. Even though those sidewalks are too narrow, too close to the roadway, and way too constrained by utility poles, they are constantly used by a growing number of locals who walk and jog there for simple enjoyment, transportation, and for exercise. We need a master plan for identifying and upgrading the arterial sidewalks so that even more folks are encouraged to walk instead of drive. Long before I started cycling there were many avid cyclists in Glasgow who regularly don their spandex apparel and dutifully hit the streets where they take risks mixing it up with cars and trucks on their way to the many rewards of riding a bicycle. Those rewards are worth the risk, but those risks can be lowered and more folks can be encouraged to ride if we provide the right kind of environment which will include expanded sidewalks and marked cycling routes. I joined those local cyclists with my heavy, slow, commuter-style bicycle a few months ago and I simply love it. Most of all, it is fun, but it has also lead me to shed thirty pounds and it has helped me discover that, for most trips in downtown Glasgow, my bicycle gets me where I need to go faster than my car does. The group of people making this same discovery is growing in spite of the fact that there is no plan for bicycling infrastructure or investment in our community. Sustainable Glasgow feels that there should be a plan and a commitment to spending a portion of the money we are now spending on feeding the automobile’s needs to create more walking, jogging, and cycling infrastructure in Glasgow.

Creating a sustainable local economy is a complicated matter, but working on our local food economy was a great place to start. However, a durable local food economy is dependent upon several moving parts, not the least of which is the willingness of local residents to vote for the local food economy by purchasing food from local growers and from local restaurants whenever possible. A large part of encouraging local folks to frequent local vendors is to create the same attractive environment for living locally that so many from our community are seeking out by traveling this week. True, we cannot create a beach and an ocean here in Glasgow, but we can create walking/jogging/cycling paths along beautiful tree lined streets and along some of the babbling creeks which surround this place we call home. We can use those paths to create a better life for our residents. We can start assembling the building blocks of a durable food economy and better infrastructure toward our ultimate goals of a completely sustainable community. Sustainable Glasgow, Inc. has a vision for a community which offers these things to everyone. If this vision interests you, join us.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Real, Safe Food Comes From Local Farms

Even though the Bounty of the Barrens Farmers Market was not "officially" open yesterday, ten of our faithful vendors did show up to make local food and goods available to the people of Glasgow. Since the Sustainable Glasgow gang was not busy setting up and taking down the canopies and other equipment necessary to make the market work, I got a chance to purchase plenty of local food and we prepared that food last night. We had a salad made from Joe Trigg's lettuce and tomatoes (which traveled no more that four blocks since he grows these items right in the middle of Glasgow!). We had late season corn from another local vendor. We had ground beef from Dry Branch Farm (grass fed beef grown on their farm just over the county line in Monroe County and slaughtered in a local facility where the ground beef came from one cow and was never mixed with anything else...more on this later). For desert, we had a slice of a watermelon from Bobby Groce's farm. This meal proved that you we can provide food for ourselves -- real food that is safe to eat and tastes better than anything we might normally purchase at a big box retail store.

Reading the New York Times this morning underscored the value of that meal and our movement toward establishing a vibrant and durable local food supply. I urge you to click this link and read the frightening story about the simple hamburger that so many of us commonly purchase in a big box store and innocently assume we can throw it on the grill and enjoy. After reading this, I fully expect to see more of you at our farmers market and purchasing local, safe, real food from our local farms and vendors. Our lives literally depend upon it!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Vendors at BB&T this Saturday

While the Bounty of the Barrens Market held it's last official market day of the 2009 season last Saturday, some of your favorite vendors will still be setting up informally at the market site for the next few weeks. Sustainable Glasgow will still be sponsoring these folks in their effort to bring you the best local fall products, but there will not be any musical talent or a restaurant vendor this Saturday. We hope you will come by the lot and check out the great products that these vendors have for sale this Saturday.