The Green Scene

Adventures in Megawatt Valley

collage courtesy Rising Tide North America

collage courtesy Rising Tide North America

“The Battle of Drax,” one headline reads. “The Green Revolution,” proclaims another. Abigail Singer, a member of Asheville-based Katuah Earth First! and climate-change activist, seems an unlikely revolutionary as she calmly rattles off facts about carbon trading, greenhouse gases and tons of carbon-dioxide emitted by Drax power station, the UK’s largest single polluter. And yet it’s her own activist group, depicted in the midst of a protest outside the plant, appearing in one of two front-page stories in London’s The Independent.

In late August, Singer traveled to the UK with climate group Rising Tide North America to join 600 others in a “Camp for Climate Action.” Held in Megawatt Valley near Leeds, England, the computers and sound systems at the eco-camp were powered solely by solar and wind sources.

The event featured hands-on workshops, one of which provided do-it-yourself instructions for constructing a wind turbine. Info-session topics focused on the aviation industry, the flaws of carbon trading, and tipping points (one presenter, who pointed workshop participants to for background, claimed that we only have 10 years to slash emissions by 75 percent in order to avert catastrophic climate change).

“It was refreshing to be in a country where the media and the general public agree that climate change is a huge problem and that things need to change,” says Singer.

Since returning, she and other RTNA members have turned their attention to raising awareness locally. A benefit for the group will be held at Rosetta’s Kitchen on Sunday, Oct. 1, at 6 p.m. Our Oil and Other Tales, an independent documentary about resistance to coal and oil industries throughout the world, will be screened, and a falafel dinner will be served.

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One man’s trash …

On the subject of climate change, did you know methane is 21 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide? Timm Muth, director of the up-and-coming Jackson County Green Energy Park in Dillsboro, says there are at least 100 small-scale landfills scattered across North Carolina leaking trace amounts of the unpleasant gas into the air. But these wastelands can be tapped, and the methane reclaimed and utilized.

The 750,000 tons of trash buried beneath the Dillsboro facility produces enough methane to put out about 1.2 million btus/hour of heat. “A home furnace puts out 70,000 btus an hour, so it’s like 17 home furnaces going at once,” explains Muth. In an undertaking made possible by an assortment of government grants, this energy will be harnessed to power a greenhouse, a blacksmithing studio and a biodiesel refinery operated by Smoky Mountain Biofuels.

Muth, the park’s director, describes the three-phase initiative with enthusiasm. Further on down the line, he hopes to add studio spaces for pottery and glass-blowing, classrooms, a retail gallery and cafe, an open-air market and amphitheater, and a community conference center — all of it running on green power.

The park’s Oct. 6 grand opening will begin with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 3 p.m. and a keynote address from Larry Shirley, director of the North Carolina State Energy Office. There will also be food vendors, tours of the park, and a live performance by rock/bluegrass band Tater.

For more information, visit


A new coalition called the Mountain Voices Alliance will host an educational forum titled “SOS!: Save Our Slopes” at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 28 in the Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville (1 Edwin Place). The self-described “grassroots groundswell” is comprised of citizens concerned about ridge-top and hillside development issues in Western North Carolina. The group has collected some 2,000 signatures on a petition calling for a permanent ban on ridge-top development and a moratorium on all new large-scale development until stricter land-use regulations are in place.

Hosted by the WENOCA Sierra Club, the event will feature presentations by environmental engineer and former Buncombe County Planning Board member Jim McElduff, UNCA environmental-studies professor Dee Eggers, community-development specialist Deborah Louis and others.


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