Like many newcomers to Asheville, I moved here after being smitten by the area’s natural beauty: All it took was one invigorating late-summer dip at a swimming hole in Madison County about three years ago. But when people gush about Asheville’s unique sense of place, they’re referring to something more than just the picturesque mountain vistas (usually, anyway: Sometimes they just want to sell you a luxury mountaintop home site).
Part of Western North Carolina’s appeal, I think, is that it’s full of regular people who care deeply about what’s happening in their community. People get all charged up about protecting things, whether it’s endangered brook trout, family farms, national forestlands or an embattled magnolia tree. Many of them can tell you more about compost than you ever dreamed you’d need to know. Groups of neighbors are willing to pull together and spend hours of their free time on weeknights, hatching strategies to go up against power plants, big-box stores or mismanaged toxic-waste sites. Some people’s idea of a good time is joining a 100-mile march from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to downtown Asheville to protest air pollution. For others, it’s tinkering with a diesel vehicle to make it run on straight veggie oil. Still others embrace the drudgery of scrutinizing permits, invoking the finer points of environmental law, or patiently sitting through lengthy local-government meetings for the chance to chime in with a three-minute statement.
And without this vibrant, green-minded community, Green Scene would have been quite a yawner. It’s the folks who are out there making news who deserve the real credit.
I applaud Barry Durand, who brought the CTS toxic-contamination site to Xpress’ attention, for his dedication in pushing for a full-scale cleanup. Organizations like Wild South, the Dogwood Alliance and the WNC Alliance should be recognized for their commitment to protecting Southern forests. The WNC Green Building Council, Warren Wilson College’s Environmental Leadership Center and the Southern Energy and Environment Expo should be commended for bringing information about green-building practices and energy efficiency to the masses. Clean Water for North Carolina and RiverLink have organized successful efforts to protect water quality. Asheville’s fledgling Green Opportunities program is working to link green businesses with low-income youth in order to provide job-training skills in the environmental sector. The Canary Coalition, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the Southern Environmental Law Center have shown unwavering commitment in their opposition to new coal-fired power plants. SouthWings has taken countless journalists and activists airborne to gain a bird’s-eye perspective on the environment. The Bountiful Cities Project, the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project and the Pisgah View Apartments Community Peace Garden have all helped make locally raised produce available to area residents. A-B Tech is helping green entrepreneurs develop new technologies, and renewable-energy outfits such as Appalachian Energy, Sundance Power, FLS Energy, Blue Ridge Biofuels and others are already out there implementing clean-energy systems. The Blue Ridge Forever campaign is working to protect 50,000 acres of natural lands, and the All Taxa Biodiversity Project is leading an effort to discover new species in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
I could go on and on: There are hundreds more I haven’t named. This region is rich in biodiversity, but it’s also got a wealth of talent, expertise and idealism aimed at solving environmental problems. There are many challenges to confront, but it’s heartening to see so many dedicated individuals.
With that, I’d like to wish the readers of this column a fond farewell, at least for now (see “Letter From the Editors” elsewhere in this issue). But never fear: Green Scene will be right here, where it should be, after I leave.
From now on, send your environmental news to firstname.lastname@example.org.