Buzzworm news briefs

Out of the fryer and into the fuel tank

Biodiesel is coming of age in Asheville, and the Grey Eagle Tavern & Music Hall is hosting a benefit (Sunday, Nov. 7, starting at 7 p.m.) to help move things along.

Once the province of small demonstration projects at Warren Wilson College and other campuses, or hobbyists and farmers who brewed it to run their own vehicles, the home-grown alternative fuel (which can be used to power a diesel engine) has slowly moved toward local commercial availability. The Southeast Energy and Environment Expo in August hosted workshops and discussions about this vegetable-derived energy source, and a workshop at the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s upcoming Sustainable Agriculture Conference will also feature a biodiesel program (see “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” elsewhere in this issue).

The Blue Ridge Biofuels cooperative (formerly the Asheville Biofuels co-op) has been making about 100 gallons a week for sale to co-op members and is now in transition to becoming a public source for the alternative fuel, with plans to boost production to 1,000 gallons per week by the first of the year. The group has rented a 3,500 square foot warehouse in the River District (above the floodplain) and is going through the requisite steps to begin retail sales. BRB is seeking volunteers, investors and skilled people looking to get involved in the business.

The fuel, made from used cooking oil from restaurant deep-fryers, can also replace home heating oil.

Five local acts will perform at the benefit: Hollywood Red, Strut, the Fire Cracker Jazz Band, The Rebelles, and two members of Count Clovis with friends. Between bands, speakers will discuss biofuels and the co-op’s expansion plans.

For more info, call 253-1034, or e-mail the co-op (info@blueridgebiofuels.com).

— Cecil Bothwell

The omega factor graces Grove Corner Market

During the soggy lull between the storms that battered WNC in September, another sort of storm was brewing farther north. In New York City, The Omega Institute and V-Day brought together hundreds of women from across the country and around the world for a conference titled “Women & Power: Our Time to Lead.” With a roster of speakers that included many of the most visible and accomplished leaders of the past 40 years, the event “was one of the most empowering and life-changing experiences I have ever had,” reports Xpress staffer Lisa Watters.

Watters and fellow staffer Patty Levesque, who also attended, wanted to share their experience with women here at home. So the pair purchased videotapes of 10 of the conference presentations and will host five Tuesday-night screenings. All showings will run from 7-9 p.m.; here’s the schedule:

• Nov. 9
Eve Ensler, “Women, Power & Wholeness”
Iyanla Vanzant, “This is about YOU!”

• Nov. 16
Gloria Steinem, “New Leaps of Consciousness”
Marion Woodman, “Women, Power & Soul”

• Nov. 23
Jane Fonda, Marion Woodman, Iyanla Vanzant,
Luoluo Hong, Eve Ensler, “The Good Body”
Sister Joan Chittister, “Women, Power & Peace”

• Nov. 30
Johnnetta Cole, “The Power of Diversity”
Pat Mitchell & Carole Black, “Women & the Media”

• Dec. 7
Sally Field – interviewed by Eve Ensler
Jane Fonda, “The New Feminism: Reuniting the Head, the Heart & the Body”

“Being among more than 1,500 women, from all walks of life, who were working toward change left me inspired and hopeful,” says Levesque.

Tuesdays, 7-9 p.m. at The Perch (upstairs at The Grove Corner Market in downtown Asheville’s Grove Arcade). For more info, phone Patty Levesque (254-1014) or Lisa Watters (691-5472).

— Cecil Bothwell

What will we read together?

The woman in the bookstore, the man in the cafe, the stranger on the street; all of them reading the same book. No, it’s not Harry Potter — it’s this year’s Together We Read selection.

This year’s book, Horace Kephart’s Our Southern Highlanders, depicts Southern Appalachian culture and heritage at the turn of the last century.

In the meantime, however, voting for the 2005 selection has begun. The nominations include All We Know of Heaven by Sue Ellen Bridgers, a portrayal of a troubled teen marriage; The Ballad of Frankie Silver by Sharyn McCrumb, interweaving the story of the first woman to be executed in North Carolina with current regional issues; Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith, a reflection on the conditions of women living in Virginia; Jim the Boy by Tony Earley, a coming-of-age story focusing on the discovery of heritage; The Road by John Ehle, illustrating the construction of a railroad; and Salt by Isabel Zuber, a portrayal of a woman’s connection to family and nature.

Members of the public can vote until Nov. 13 at local bookstores and libraries, or online at www.togetherweread.org. The chosen novel will be highlighted via materials and activities in 16 counties, including publicity and media events, book distributions and a reading guide.

— Amelia Pelly

Public comment sought on forest rule change

A proposed change in U.S. Forest Service policy could open up roadless areas to timber harvesting and road building, opponents say. Proponents of the change say it would give states more control of national-forest lands and let local officials have a say in how the national forests are managed.

The change, which would require state petitioning and participation in the management of classified roadless areas, was proposed on July 16. Members of the public have until Nov. 15 to comment on the change.

The Roadless Area Conservation Act prohibits timber cutting and road building in roadless areas under most conditions. North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley and neighboring Govs. Phil Breseden (Tennessee) and Mark R. Warner (Virginia) have written letters to Secretary of Agriculture Anne Venemen opposing the change. On Aug. 16, Gov. Easley wrote, “I am concerned that the proposed rule is unclear and has the potential to place an undue burden on our state agencies without providing any benefit to North Carolina’s forest resources.”

The Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition’s Web site (www.safc.org) lists a number of areas in Western North Carolina that could be affected by the rule change. In the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests, 14.6 percent of the land is designated as roadless. The proposed changes may be viewed online at www.roadless.fs.fed.us.

Written comments can be mailed to: Content Analysis Team, ATTN: Roadless State Petitions, USDA Forest Service, P.O. Box 221090, Salt Lake City, Utah. Comments may also be submitted online (www.regulations.gov).

— Megan Shepherd

Exploring the sacred depths of nature

Science, nature and religion can make strange bedfellows, but in the mind and writings of biologist Ursula Goodenough, they find fruitful coexistence.

“She’s a dynamic speaker who’s on the cutting edge of science and religion,” explains Jeanne Matthews Sommer, chair of religious studies at Warren Wilson College. “She’s building bridges between scientific and religious groups, working to help those come forward into the 21st century through informed ideas.”

Goodenough, a professor of biology at Washington University, is a well-known author and guest on PBS and NPR broadcasts. She’ll speak at Warren Wilson College on Thursday, Nov. 4. A non-theist who classifies herself as a “religious naturalist,” Goodenough is the author of both a widely used genetics text and a best-selling book, The Sacred Depths of Nature. Her presentation at WWC is on the topic of “Exploring the Concept of Religious Naturalism.”

The free event begins at 7:30 p.m. in the College Chapel of the Warren Wilson Presbyterian Church.

Goodenough will also give a luncheon presentation on “Nature and God Language” on Friday, Nov. 5, in the campus church’s fellowship hall. The latter event is a benefit for the local organization Holy Ground, a nonprofit, feminist-based retreat ministry. Tickets are $20, and reservations may be made through Holy Ground (236-0222).

Sandra Smith, director and co-founder of Holy Ground, says of Goodenough, “She’s articulate, in that she speaks to the issue of how we perceive nature through the lens of our religions.”

The two events, sponsored by Warren Wilson’s religious-studies department and natural-science division, are funded by the Faulds Lectureship and the Lyceum Committee.

For more information, call Jeanne Matthews Sommer at 771-3725.

— Nelda Holder

“Raise Your Hand” benefits education, outreach

A one-week stay in a Mexican villa, a first edition of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof signed by Tennessee Williams, and a variety of local art are among the many goodies to be auctioned off at the Western North Carolina AIDS Project’s annual “Raise Your Hand” benefit. The banquet fund-raiser happens Saturday, Nov. 6, at the Crest Center. Proceeds from the event will benefit WNCAP’s extensive education and outreach programs across 14 counties.

The event begins at 6 p.m.with a social hour and silent auction; the live auction starts at 8 p.m. Actress Andie MacDowell will serve as this year’s honorary chair, and local celebrity Tammy Watford of WLOS-TV will be the auctioneer.

More than 225 items ranging in value from $20 to $5,000 will be put on the auction block. They include vaction packages, local sculpture and wall art, and gift certificates for assorted local restaurants and other businesses. The “signature piece” for this year’s auction is “Gratitude,” by local artist Barbara Fisher.

Tickets ($50 and $125) admit the bearer to a buffet dinner, live and silent auctions, and entertainment by pianist Frank Argento and singer Kat Williams. The $125 ticket also provides wine and preferred seating at the live auction. Due to strong community interest and limited seating, the event is expected to sell out quickly, and those interested in attending are strongly advised to buy tickets as soon as possible.

Tickets are available from WNCAP (252-7489, ext. 25) or at Malaprop’s Bookstore and Cafe.

— Amelia Pelly

New Woodfin water board obtains conservation easement

A crowd of state and local officials and citizens turned out on Oct. 15 to help the Woodfin Water District’s new board of trustees celebrate a conservation easement on the 2,000 acres of watershed it manages. The easement will forever protect the pristine sources of Reems Creek, Laurel Fork and Sugar Camp Fork from logging and development.

Board member Robin Cape hearkened back to the intense controversy that erupted last year in the little town nestled next door to Asheville after residents got wind of the water board’s plan to log the watershed to raise money for system repairs. Concerned citizens started organizing and attending the meetings, and in the 2003 election, all three board members — one of whom had served for 20 years — were replaced by first-time campaigners who argued that logging the watershed would irreparably harm its unusually high water quality.

“A small group of citizens saw a problem and were willing and brave enough to take on the status quo through the democratic process,” declared Cape, who serves as vice chair of the new board. She appears to be the only person ever to win an election in Buncombe County as a write-in candidate.

A $4.1 million grant from the state Clean Water Management Trust Fund plus a $500,000 gift from Fred and Alice Stanback enabled the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy to buy the logging-and-development rights to the watershed from the Woodfin Water District. The money will be used to fund water-system repairs.

Watershed conservation easements are an increasingly popular option for both public and private landowners in development-prone areas of North Carolina, explained trust fund Executive Director Bill Holman. Like Woodfin’s easement, many such agreements contain outright bans on logging and development; others (such as one recently approved in Waynesville) allow managed logging.

“There are a number of communities like Woodfin that have abandoned watersheds — Woodfin’s got one active and one abandoned one [the Laurel Fork property] — where in fact they can sell the property, log the property, but they’ve been good stewards of it for the last 80 years, and they’re offering it to the state at a bargain to protect water quality,” said Holman. “So it’s a real win-win for water quality, the state and the community.”

Conservancy Executive Director Carl Silverstein stressed the preservation aspect, saying, “This is the time to do these kinds of transactions — before the properties are lost.” The Asheville-based nonprofit has recently worked with the towns of Canton and Montreat to help those communities obtain watershed easements, and on a smaller scale with numerous private property owners.

The Woodfin revolution did not go unnoticed by other local politicos in this election year. Several state legislators numbered among the Buncombe County incumbents who attended the lunch-hour event during the final weeks of their re-election campaigns: Rep. Wilma Sherrill, Sen. Martin Nesbitt, Rep. Bruce Goforth and Rep. Susan Fisher.

Buncombe County Commissioner David Gantt called Woodfin’s conservation easement “exactly what needs to happen, on a scale that people can see what it is.

“The children and grandchildren of these people that are smart enough to do this are going to benefit from this,” he continued. “And it’s more about the future than it is just about sucking every cent out of the land today. That’s a selfish and unreasonable point of view — to think that, just because you have property rights to do it, that you ought to strip it void of any value and take it all today right now. That’s what I like about conservation easements — [they’re] a real progressive, forward-thinking thing for our future.”

— Steve Rasmussen

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