Buzzworm news briefs

Making money the new-fashioned way

To eco-defenders who regard corporations with suspicion, or businesspeople who roll their eyes at environmentalists’ latest outcry, the phrase “natural capitalism” may sound like an oxymoron.

Nonetheless, investors are buying it. The greening of the corporate world is “going incredibly fast,” according to David Wallace of the Asheville branch of the North Carolina State Energy Office. “About one-quarter of all venture capital is currently going to the ‘clean-tech’ sector. That includes wind, solar, biofuels, ethanol, fuel cells and hydrogen.”

General Electric, for example, recently launched its “Ecomagination” program, which includes a pledge to spend $1.5 billion annually on renewable-energy research by 2010. Honda Motor Company, meanwhile, announced a plan last winter to mass-produce solar cells in 2007.

According to Wallace, this upcoming green-tech blitz has the distinct sound of opportunity knocking in Western North Carolina. “One of our main priorities is encouraging job creation through renewable energy. We’re trying to get people together to explain how much funding is out there for green energy — it’s enormous right now.”

To that end, he’s helped put together the upcoming Green Venture Forum, a new initiative of this year’s Southern Energy and Environment Expo. Scheduled for Friday, Aug. 25, at the Broadmoor Country Club, located adjacent to the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center, the forum will illuminate the options available to small businesses looking to develop plans for sustainable enterprises.

Financial advisors, successful green-business entrepreneurs, and a panel of sustainability experts will give presentations at the forum, which is limited to 75 participants and costs $75. Dr. William H. Schlesinger, a professor of biogeochemistry at Duke University who specializes in global-climate change and desertification, will be the featured speaker.

The forum represents a new dimension of the annual S.E.E. Expo, which will be held Aug. 25 to 27 at the Ag Center. Now in its sixth year, the expo draws eco-minded folk from all over the region and showcases sustainable technologies as well as the work of local grassroots environmental organizations. To register for the Green Venture Forum, or for additional information about the S.E.E. Expo, visit www.seeexpo.com.

— Rebecca Bowe

Close Encounters of the Faux Kind

Casey Fox
Roswell’s got nothing on us: L.E.M.U.R. researcher Casey Fox at last year’s UFO Experience. His triangular craft was made of swimming pool noodles. www.speakingofstrange.com

“If UFOs did not exist, it would be necessary to invent them,” Voltaire might have said, had he lived in our sci-fi-obsessed culture rather than 18th-century Europe. And he would have had a point, too. You see, the worst part about going out into the deepest, darkest woods for a UFO hunt is that the little green guys almost never show. Sure, they’ll tractor beam some yokel on a deserted highway, but the minute a video camera comes out, they become harder to find than a vegan at Hardee’s.

Which is part of why Joshua Warren, local paranormal investigator, author and host of the WWNC-570 AM radio show Speaking Of Strange, has found a way to make every UFO-lover happy: If you can’t make the saucers come to you, just make your own.

The 2nd Annual Speaking Of Strange UFO Experience encourages believers and debunkers alike to build and fly mini mock-spacecraft for the enjoyment of those with an eye toward the night sky. The UFOs must be self-illuminated, must float (balloons are allowed) and must be able to be tethered to the ground. The good-natured hoaxing begins at 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18, at the light-pollution-free Barnardsville Community Center — an ideal place for night photography. Please bring all your own equipment and food, but a grill will be provided for use by all.

And before you go thinking that this is just a good way to get a bunch of interstellar wannabes together for a cookout, it’s worth noting that the information gathered from the UFO Experience will be used to help identify less-honest hoaxer’s work. There will even be prize pack for that lucky hyperspace engineer who creates the most convincing fake. The event is free and open to the public, but donations are gladly accepted. For more information and directions, visit the Speaking of Strange Web site at www.speakingofstrange.com.

— Steve Shanafelt

Come on and take a free ride

Ever been to one of those big cities where people don’t own cars? How do they live like that? Well, put that restless curiosity of yours to rest and take public transportation for a change. It’s never been easier: Between Aug. 14 and Nov. 11, all rides on the Asheville Transit System’s busses will be free. You heard that right: FREE.

The time is ripe to ride a bus, what with gallon of premium gasoline costing as much as a wedge of artisan cheese, asthma on the up-tick and ozone stripping all the leaves off your shade trees. What are you waiting for?

The city will kick off its 90-day fare-free celebration with an 11:30 a.m. ceremony on Monday, Aug. 14, featuring appearances by City Council members and a picnic lunch sponsored by 12 Bones Smokehouse and Clingman Avenue Coffee and Catering. The event is free. FREE!

Feeling intrepid? For a bus schedule and route information, visit www.ashevillenc.gov/transit/routes.htm.

— Kent Priestley

No such thing as bad press: An organizer for the local Republican group The Action Club says recent vandalism to their Patton Avenue billboard — one of two that show a Mexican flag flying over an upside-down American flag — hasn’t diminished interest in the organization or its cause of the moment.
The billboards direct viewers to a Web site that champions tighter restrictions on illegal immigrants. Graffiti on the Patton Avenue sign was noticed over Bele Chere weekend.
Club President Kathie Lack says the phone calls, e-mails and Web-site hits keep coming despite — or perhaps because of — the spray-painted words, which included “racism” and “they meet at Ryan’s Restaurant” (that’s where the club holds its monthly meetings).
“The conversation is happening,” Lack tells Xpress. “Just because the sign was covered up doesn’t mean it all stops. It just means somebody wanted to stop it.”
The sign has since been replaced with a public-service announcement by the billboard company, and Lack says the club is not planning to replace it. Rather, she said, it will focus more on radio and newspaper ads.
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