Don’t expect “Kumbaya” around this campfire
About 100 environmental activists from throughout the region are expected to flock to a “secluded location” near Asheville Aug. 8-14 to take part in the Southeast Convergence for Climate Action.
Across generations and geographical boundaries, the weeklong event will bring together activists who’ve campaigned against coal and nuclear power, according to Reagan Richmond, who’s helping organize the event. “We’re trying to bring about more awareness about the root causes of climate change,” says Richmond, an intern with the Knoxville-based Southern Energy Network. “It’s more than just simply about power plants. It’s about consumerism, our lifestyle, and the people that are benefiting from the continuation of our energy cycle.”
The location is being kept under wraps because the site can accommodate only a limited number of people, organizers say, but Mary Olson of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service hints that the site is “historically significant for renewable energy.” Olson’s group partnered with the Southern Energy Network, Rising Tide North America and Energy Justice Summer to organize the gathering, which will coincide with a similar convergence in the Pacific Northwest. For a suggested donation of $50 or more (no one will be turned away for lack of funds), the week will offer educational workshops on everything from sustainable-living skills to campaign-organizing tactics.
“There will also be a major focus on debunking false solutions,” says Abigail Singer, a member of Asheville Rising Tide. “Like big, corporate-led initiatives that don’t actually do a lot to halt climate change but provide a way for big companies to benefit from appearing green.” In addition, the event will take a hard look at the pitfalls of large-scale, commercial biofuels production and the problems associated with carbon trading, notes Singer.
For her part, Olson hopes to educate participants about nuclear energy, which she views as a false solution to climate change. The bulk of the proposed new nuclear facilities would be in the Southeast, she says. “The Southeast is the nuclear heartland of the United States,” Olson told the N.C. House Standing Committee on Energy and Energy Efficiency in mid-July.
There will be emphasis on what organizers refer to as a “just transition”—advocating solutions to climate change that don’t adversely impact certain groups. “Even now, indigenous people are being displaced for carbon-offset programs,” Singer reports. A panel discussion by Appalachian coalfield residents will detail the ongoing effects of mountaintop-removal mining, while critically examining the viability of “clean coal” as an alternative technology.
Perusing a list of workshops—Direct Action 101, Direct Action 102, Strategic Campaign Building, as well as training in climbing and blockades—it seems safe to say that this event won’t find participants sitting down to write postcards to their senators; nonviolent civil disobedience will be a centerpiece. “We do not see changing our individual habits as consumers and seeking remedy from politicians as the sole forces that will help stop or reduce climate chaos,” a group statement notes. “Yes, we need to change light bulbs and ride bikes more often, but we also need to act collectively.”
Visit www.climateconvergence.org/southeast/ for more information.
Supporting our local land conservancy
“We’re not just business people,” says Peter Millis, a broker with Town and Mountain Realty. “We also live here and like it here, and we understand why others want to live here.”
In an effort to protect the area’s natural beauty, Town and Mountain Realty has pledged to help grow the membership base of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. Every time the company closes on a property, it will buy the client a $35 membership.
“There are about 15 or 20 closings a month, so we’re looking at something like $750 a month going toward buying memberships for our clients,” notes Millis.
The Conservancy is heading up a broader campaign called Blue Ridge Forever, which aims to protect 50,000 acres of land from development by 2010 through a partnership with Western North Carolina’s 10 land conservancies.
Mary Rich Hill, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy’s director of major gifts, says now is the time to protect the region’s biodiversity. “We’re just sitting on this global treasure,” she says. “It’s going to take a concerted effort from the community to protect it.”