Letters to the editor

This garden is a shelter from the storm

Recently, Jeff Ashton, who writes “The Practical Gardener” for the Mountain Xpress, coordinated a project that brought a lot of delight to Helpmate’s shelter.

The Helpmate shelter is a safe place for women and their children to go as they flee their violent homes. The staff of Helpmate, along with concerned volunteers, strives to make the shelter an inviting respite, a haven where one can lay their head down at night, free of fear.

By utilizing his expertise and soliciting donations from The Potting Shed, Wildwood Herb Farm, Sara Widenhouse and the Unitarian Universalist Church, Mr. Ashton came to our shelter to create a lovely vegetable garden.

This garden has been a great boon. Children who reside in the shelter have had the privilege of helping to grow and bring in fresh food and herbs for their dinner. Mothers and children bond closely as they explore the living earth out in the garden.

On behalf of the staff, board of directors, and the women and children who reside in our shelter, I am writing to express our thanks and gratitude to all the kind people who contributed to the vegetable garden. This garden is a beautiful example that love is what makes our garden grow.

— Tina Glenn, outreach coordinator
Helpmate, Inc.

We must save the forests, Mr. Henson

This letter is in reply to Mr. [Steve] Henson’s commentary [“What do environmentalists really want?”, June 16].

The real forests, Mr. Henson — the ones that produce the genetic variety, house the wildlife, and nurture the watersheds — are in critical condition in Southern Appalachia. I’ve just returned from traveling around northern Georgia and Western North Carolina, and have seen everywhere plazas and vacation homes paving over once-forested lands.

There are really two problems here. One is that we are spending the capital, represented by the real forests, at a disastrously rapid rate. Overspending the “principal” threatens the “interest” that the forest provides, in terms of livelihoods and inspiration for all Appalachians. We are only just beginning to understand how the real forest actually works. In no way are we close to being able to replicate a real forest.

We can’t replenish the principal, so reason dictates that we not kill the goose that lays the golden egg. We cannot kill the real forest and expect to get it back.

The other dire problem is that it isn’t easy to communicate the gravity of the situation to a community unused to hearing difficult things and whose culture has taken for granted that destroying forests means good things. It takes courageous and effective spokespeople to communicate the complexity and necessity of the sacrifices we will all have to make.

Assuming that you believe the real forests are endangered, and you’ve started a group to ensure their survival, we arrive then at how we, as a community, will do this. Several other esteemed environmental organizations have worked hard to formulate one possible solution to protecting the environmental capital we depend on. The solution is contained in the Southern Appalachian Wildlands Project (SAWP).

But instead of critiquing it rationally and giving the formulators a civilized level of respect, you tar and feather it and them with cheap emotionalism that never addresses the issues. And, what’s worse, you don’t offer an alternative.

The question, Mr. Henson, is why do you immediately descend to this nonrational level? Your emotionalist strategy, of blinding people with fear, prevents them from seeing that there are solutions to our environmental problems.

In order to defend our way of life — so that our children can carry on as we have — we must preserve, protect and expand the principal represented by the real forests. As in the rest of life, we must make sacrifices now, so that the future will be provided for.

One undoubtedly difficult but effective option would be to implement the SAWP. This would both protect our children’s inheritance and provide Appalachians a chance to build community by working together on a common project.

And, Mr. Henson, as you have intimated, the work will be contentious and difficult. And efforts will [have to] be made to ease people through the difficulties.

There are environmentalists, the ones you’re afraid of, who claim that nothing short of revolution will save the real forests and the rivers running through them. Maybe they’re right.

But we will all get to participate in this revolution in thinking. Our efforts to save the real forests cannot be successful without the help of all Appalachians — from the grandmothers and the schoolchildren to the football coaches and the store owners. …

And I believe that this great change is the only way to save civilization from the spiritual and physical ruin of a bankrupt environment. Instead of fouled air and concrete jungles, imagine the beauty of those grandmothers, schoolchildren, football coaches and store owners pulling together and closing I-40 or dismantling the Fontana Dam and coming up with ecological transportation and recreation options.

Great change is necessary, Mr. Henson, and my guess is that, deep down, you know this. Please don’t use your power and position of respect to keep people from participating in the uniquely empowering experience of saving the real forests … for the use and appreciation of future generations. Please don’t succumb to the darkness of the great fear that will be engendered by the great change ahead. If you do, you will be doing the entire community a great disservice.

— Eric Ganther

Livestock auctions precede slaughterhouse infamy

I remember as a child asking my parents why some folks in the neighborhood had numbers tattooed on their arms. I guess I thought it was cool; you didn’t see a lot of tattoos back then.

I don’t think I ever got a straight answer — not from my parents, nor from anyone else. No one in the neighborhood wanted to talk about the Nazi Holocaust, especially the concentration-camp survivors. Human beings reduced to being numbers is not a nice thing to talk about.

Maybe it is because I grew up with these numbers that I was so disturbed when I saw the cover of the June 16 issue of Mountain Xpress. Here were living, breathing beings crowded together, with numbers pasted on them. Worse yet, the Mountain Xpress chose to glorify an occupation that sends these sentient beings on the way to their violent deaths. When they reach the slaughterhouse, they will be hung upside-down and have their throats slit and be dismembered, often while fully conscious. Glorifying “livestock” auctioneers is akin to exalting slave traders, except that their craft is no longer legal, and their victims weren’t automatically killed.

George Carlin once said, “If lobsters looked like puppies, nobody could ever drop them in boiling water while they’re still alive. Restaurants that allow patrons to select live lobsters from a tank should be made to paint names on their shells: ‘Happy,’ ‘Baby Doll,’ ‘Junior.’ I defy anyone to drop a living thing called Happy in rapidly boiling water.” Many a truth is often hidden within the context of a joke. Would you be so quick to eat a burger if you knew it came from a being named Joey, Eli or Melissa?

Animal agriculture systematically tortures animals by treating them as “food units,” rather than feeling beings. If that doesn’t concern you, have some consideration for your own body: Eating animal products significantly contributes to cancer, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, diabetes and a myriad of other diseases. If you don’t care about yourself, think about the environment and the tremendous amount of resources wasted by the number-one polluting industry, animal agriculture.

To learn more, read Vegan, The New Ethics of Eating, by Erik Marcus. You can help make the world a better place simply by never eating anything that had a mother or a face. A heart beats in them, the same as in you and me.

— Stewart David

Stop lampooning private citizens

I would like to tell you that I find the Molton cartoon in your June 16 edition … to be in very poor taste. It is the one of the county commissioners’ meeting [and contains a] derogatory comment (presumably by Tom Sobol) about a local citizen, Sue Konopka, who made public comment on the airboat issue.

What right do you have to lampoon private citizens who make comments at public meetings? Why don’t you confine your blasts to the politicians, who are used to this? Are you trying to squelch public comment?

I was at the meeting Ms. Konopka spoke at, and she was just one of many who talked (more eloquently, and with less histrionics than many, I might add).

Shame on you. You are no better than the National Enquirer. As a local business person who recently got info from you for potential advertising, I must say I am reconsidering.

— Suzanne Daley

We are the leaders we’re looking for

In February 1983, I arrived in Asheville with a new job, a soon-to-be bride and a new attitude about my role in life.

After graduating from college and working for various Fortune 500 companies up and down the Eastern Seaboard, I decided it was time for me to settle down and become an active part of a community. I used to look at a map of the U.S.A. and contemplate where I might want to live and raise my family, and for some reason, the western part of my home state caught my eye. I received a call out of the clear blue sky, one day, from a company in Asheville, and they asked if I was interested in applying for a job here.

I have always wondered why I ended up in Western North Carolina. I have finally figured this thing out. Let me take you back, to put this thing in perspective: The night I arrived in town and checked in at a local hotel, the first person I met was a gentleman offering me a drink of wine in the lobby. The lights had gone out, and [people] were sitting in the lobby waiting for them to come back on. The next local person I met was a local mortician who was attending a WNC morticians’ meeting at the hotel.

You see, the first guy was my past — the good times, partying, only caring about myself and the present — and the mortician represented my future. I realize now that a higher power was telling me that between the past and the future, there is the present — and what you do with it is up to you.

Since arriving in WNC, I have worked with a number of clubs, organizations and churches, trying to find my place or role in the grand scheme of things. I’m presently a deacon at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, vice chairman of the Asheville City Schools Board of Education, member of the local and state Baptist Laymen League, a life member of the NAACP, and a member of the N.C. A&T Alumni Association. I have belonged to a number of other organizations, but the above organizations are dear to my heart.

Upon my arrival in Asheville, I often heard people [complain], “Who are our leaders?” I took matters into my hands and started to attend church, as well as meetings of City Council, county commissioners, the Mud Creek Missionary Baptist Association, the Optimist Club, the school board, the local precinct, plus various other community gatherings and public meetings, to find out who were our leaders. It was not long before I realized that I had a hard time finding myself, seeing myself (35 years old at the time, a new parent, African-American, male) in those meetings. I began to ask questions, and it was not long before people begin to quiz me and ask, “Who are you, and why are you at these meetings?”

The next phase came when they began to ask me to become a part of their organization and then to hold an office in that organization. So for the next 14 years, I served in various capacities in a number of organizations — and I will continue to serve this community in whatever capacities it deems necessary.

The bottom line is: We do not need look for a leader. We are the leaders we are looking for.

— Roy Harris

Clean it or forget it

Being a temporarily displaced yet proud Ashevillean, I had to comment on recent opinions about the pollution matters currently before us.

I can put it simply: Do we clean it up or convert our city into one large ceramic bowl? There is no downside, either (for all those who think their jobs will suffer): clean air to breathe; clean water to drink; clean streets to walk; clean yards to mow. Must I go on?

Now to a peripheral matter: asking the communities that produce the pollution to pay to clean it up. Why not reduce taxes by levying a pollution tax instead? If the pollution is coming from out of state, get the attorneys-general involved.

I’m certain the logging industry has known for some time that pollution ultimately reduces their crops too.

— Rick Nantelle III
Mansfield, Ohio

What environmentalists (and the rest of us) really want

I hope the readers of Mountain Xpress recognized the recent commentary by a timber-industry spokesman, for the gross distortion that it was. [“What do environmentalists really want?” by Steve Henson, June 16]

I am a former employee of the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition. Imagine my surprise to read that, for two years, I worked: to end industrialized civilization; to shut down the Blue Ridge Parkway and Interstate 40; and to exclude people from much of Western North Carolina.

At best, this article was a wildly exaggerated tirade. Or at worst, a smear, calculated to divert attention from real and important issues.

The Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition is a mainstream conservation group consisting of regular people: Democrats and Republicans, moms and dads, hunters, hikers and recreationists. The Coalition has consistently advocated setting aside a very modest portion of our region’s remaining natural forest, to remain natural — for recreation, scenic values and clean water, [and] for human enjoyment, as well as the survival of fish and wildlife.

Right now, only about 2 percent of our regional landscape is well protected — a tiny amount, considering the economic value of our scenic beauty and fall foliage. The Forest Coalition believes this is not enough. Imagine waking up one day to find only 2 percent of our landscape naturally forested.

The people of Western North Carolina (and not just so-called “environmentalists”) want clean water, clean air and an intelligent balance between an explosion of sprawl and our natural landscape. It’s not a radical notion to leave a bit of the forest in the Creator’s care. After all, He might just know something about it that we don’t.

These are important issues and deserve to be debated fully, honesty and in good faith. I hope that Mountain Xpress will do everything possible to broaden the discussion.

— Janna Gower

Motorcycle madness

For five years now, I’ve kept my opinions to myself. No more. I can’t stand it anymore. It is time to speak out, and to ask other community members how they feel about the city of Asheville hosting the Honda Hoot and Harley-Davidson conventions every summer.

I hate — no, I loathe — finding myself engulfed on every street corner by a mass of motorcycles. I resent hearing motorcycles tear up and down nearby roads all day long where I work, and into the evening hours at home. And it’s not just over the weekend anymore: The Honda Hoot-ers are here for a week, this year! They descend on us like a plague of locusts — only they come every year.

Harsh words, perhaps, and I understand it’s good business to lure conventions to our city. However, thousands of motorcycles moving into town affects everyone who lives here, and I’m not so sure that the economic benefits we hear about trickle down to each and every citizen, either. These conventions affect our air-pollution problems, create additional noise pollution, add to traffic congestion, and compound the current parking shortage. How many streets have been deemed inaccessible this week? Five? Six? In other words, our quality of life is compromised in some significant ways. Aren’t the revenues generated by Bele Chere enough of a boost to the city of Asheville? Let’s not be greedy!

I would like to suggest that City Council take a vote and consult the public sector, and see how we, the taxpaying citizens, feel about hosting motorcycle conventions year after year.

— Diana Gillispie

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