Letters to the editor

Viewing pleasure

In response to the anti-Honda-Hoot letter: Personally, all the tourists that come here each summer bother me. Lines in many shops are longer, and the traffic problems are worse downtown.

That said, I find that many of the motorcyclists are fun to watch and talk to.

Any city in America with anything going for it is growing by leaps and bounds. It’s too late to turn back the clock or wish Asheville were a sleepy little hamlet in the mountains.

I don’t see the Honda Hoot as any worse of a problem in the summer than I do an ice storm in the winter. In both cases, I’m inconvenienced, but it’s fun to look at.

— Paul Saint Clair

The ruinous road to Atlanta-dom

Shocked at the total inappropriateness and bad feng shui of the new Pack Place sign, my first thought was, “There goes the neighborhood.” Having just returned from a business trip to Atlanta, it reminded me of the heavy, metal outdoor-advertising signs that line virtually every main thoroughfare in that city.

This connection of Asheville with Atlanta soon led me to my second thought: visualizing the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s plan to widen Interstate 240 in West Asheville from four lanes to eight lanes — [and] up to 11 and 13 lanes, at some interchanges. In a few years, this stretch of our city’s landscape, from I-40 to Patton Ave, will be torn up, massive earth-moving equipment brought in, and Westgate Shopping Center demolished. Traffic and tourism will be stalled and detoured for five years.

What will this section of our city look like when construction ends? A swath of air and noise pollution, 16-wheelers careening alongside compact cars, massive tubular outdoor signs demanding our attention, and no bicycle paths or walkways in sight.

Is this the look and feel we want for Asheville? Pack Place officials said they asked for public response during the planning stage of their sign, and got no negative feedback. N.C. DOT has similarly solicited public input. Now is the time to speak up and stop this road-to-ruin. Improvements to ingress and egress on I-240, yes; widening to eight lanes, no. New bridge over the French Broad River to connect I-26/I-240 with U.S. 19/23, yes (it’s inevitable); destruction of Westgate and its locally owned businesses, no.

The sign at Pack Square can be removed and replaced. Once built, however, an eight-lane interstate cannot. Now is the time for strong public opposition to DOT’s ill-thought plans.

— Carol Stangler

Police should fight crime, not bikers

I want to know why the Asheville Police Department has made it such a big priority to stop the cyclists participating in the Critical Mass rides? A little over three months ago, I witnessed the messy incident downtown, outside of Beanstreets. I saw cyclists and more police than I had ever seen gathered in one spot in Asheville. I witnessed a police officer shoving a person face-first on the ground, in the middle of the city street, and cuffing him. Despite what the Police Department said about that incident, I do believe that I witnessed excessive force being used by that police officer.

Today, as I was leaving work downtown, I saw seven police vehicles and the canine unit [stationed] around the Vance Monument. I stopped to ask an officer what was going on, and he said that they were waiting for “those bike riders,” who might be having a ride this afternoon. Hmm, I thought (as I was riding a bicycle at the time), it takes this many officers and a dog to monitor a Critical Mass bicycle ride?

So, here is my plea to the Asheville Police Department: Realize that the cyclists are trying to make Asheville a better place to live, just like you. Critical Mass rides are aimed at raising awareness about the need for safer conditions for cyclists. Cycling is a good alternative to the car — period. Bicycles don’t pollute, they are less likely to cause the congestion that we currently see downtown, and less likely to cause any major accidents, if automobiles would recognize and respect the cyclist. So why can’t you work with the cyclists for a common goal and put your crime-prevention man-hours where they could really be used — maybe toward fighting a crime?!?

— Deborah T. Miller

We’re ready to debate the environmentalists

We have followed, with much interest, the op/ed pieces in your paper addressing the June 16 commentary “What do environmentalists really want?” by Steve Henson. Steve is our executive director, and he had our blessing to circulate this commentary, which has been published in several papers throughout the region, including this one.

The terse responses to the commentary (by Gower, Ganther and Hatley in your June 30 edition) from the environmental community were predictable. Who would want to be associated with such a “wild” agenda for this region? Actually, there was one surprise: One of the writers (Ganther) confirmed the existence of the Southern Appalachian Wildlands Project and appeared to be promoting it in his letter; he just didn’t appreciate the tone with which the SAWP was presented.

We also have a difficult time understanding how anyone could be associated with such an extreme proposal. However, as Steve explained, the environmentalists’ activities over the last several years point directly to their involvement in the SAWP. The fact that they confirmed their involvement in the SAWP [at] the 1996 Gatlinburg, Tenn., conference, leaves no doubt of their intentions.

It is unfortunate that the authors of these responses accuse Steve of “gross distortion,” “wildly exaggerating,” and even “lies,” in their attempts to deny involvement in the SAWP. We can assure you that every word included in Steve’s SAWP commentary is documented quite well, down to the original 1992 Wild Earth Special Issue and 1996 conference abstract. We can also confirm the information on the www.wildlandsproject.org Web site is accurate, as well.

Our organization, established in 1975, has always taken great pride in promoting the scientific stewardship of our region’s valuable natural resources. We believe humans are, in fact, a vital part of the ecosystem, and that by utilizing established natural-resource sciences, we have the ability to carefully manage and improve that ecosystem. We are unaware of any science that suggests we must set aside 50 percent of the North American continent simply for the sake of biodiversity, as promoted by the Wildlands Project.

We concur with Ms. Gower’s editorial statement, “These are important issues and deserve to be debated fully… .” In this spirit, we would like to suggest a public debate with Dr. Hatley and the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition about the SAWP and who is pursuing it. We will be happy to debate them in any public forum where professional decorum is assured. We would appreciate a response within 30 days of the date of publication of this letter, or we will assume they do not wish for the public to know what some environmentalists really want for Western North Carolina.

— T. Dale Thrash, president
Southern Appalachian Multiple-Use Council

Endless opportunities to choose kindness over violence

Interesting letter from Stewart David [June 30] about the livestock auctioneers piece [June 16]. That article [about auctioneers] bothered me, too. It seemed like a Livestock Board P.R. piece — an attempt to put a folksy, wholesome spin on a blood-soaked industry.

I especially related to what David said about thinking of animals as the sentient individuals that they are, rather than “food units.” I used to be one of the millions of people who eat meat and eggs, and I chose not to think about how those items came to be on my plate. I called myself an animal lover — sensitive and even spiritual — but I just didn’t care to examine the occasional troubling thoughts that bubbled to the surface about how my Big Mac came to be.

In all fairness, there was not much information available about it. The media was, and is, too afraid of pissing off the livestock industry (and alienating advertisers) to ever expose its cruel practices. But I sure didn’t go out of my way to look into the matter!

That changed one day in the 1980s, when I viewed a video that had been shot undercover by a worker in a slaughterhouse. It was more horrifying than anything I could’ve imagined. I felt like I was going to be sick. The agonized screams and cries, the brutal, vicious handling and butchery, and the rivers of blood rushing over the floor will be seared into my mind forever. Can you say “instant vegetarian”? I knew immediately, in my deepest being, that this was not something I was going to participate in again — ever. That was the last time I ate meat, and I don’t miss it at all. Really.

I’m not saying this to make others wrong or bad. There are many good, caring people out there who simply operate out of custom and habit, as do we all in some way or another. I know there are people reading this now who have had the same disturbing thoughts come to mind sometimes, about what their food choices might entail for these sentient animals, for the earth, or for themselves. Please don’t back off from seriously examining the reality, the whole reality, of these issues! Not to make yourself bad, wrong, or to have one more thing to feel guilty about — but for your own heart, wholeness, growth and compassion.

There are endless opportunities every day to make choices — opportunities to choose kindness over violence. Just this meal, could you not choose the meat? Not every meal, just this meal. Could you stop and help the turtle get across the road safely? Could you hold the door for an elderly person? Two kinds of soap, one tested on animals, one not. Today, could you choose the cruelty-free soap?

You get the picture. A myriad of little opportunities for choices that support life. If you are feeling like you want to explore these issues further, I’d be happy to send you some of the information I have. Send me your name and address, and I’ll send you info from a variety of sources. (I’m not an organization or a religion, and no salesperson will call!) E-mail me at annavan1@yahoo.com, or write to me at POB 1701, Pisgah Forest, NC 28768.

— Anne D. White
Pisgah Forest

Laugh, dance, sing — and eat the food you want

I’m afraid I can’t let Stewart David’s diatribe [Letters, June 30] against animal agriculture go unanswered.

David’s attempts at connecting slave trading, the Nazi Holocaust, and livestock production are simply too great a leap for this reader. Perhaps he has spent little time speaking with farmers who raise animals (for milk, eggs, meat, wool). Those of us involved in this type of farming are not slave traders, as a rule.

We care for, love, respect and honor our animals. While not being an apologist for the industrial approach to livestock production that predominates in our country, I can say that every farmer I know — and I know a lot of farmers — feels much the same as we do.

The idea that it is only possible to care for the earth by “going vegan” is amusing, as well. When I buy rice from California, or soybeans from the Midwest, am I being a good environmentalist? I do that, mind you; I just never have felt it was that brilliant an idea.

Turns out, I sort of agree with David, however. Every time we make a food purchase, we are casting a vote about not just how we want our food raised, but where we want it raised. When we see open fields from the highway, green and lush, with barns, tractors and equipment, this is part of our working landscape, an important part of our local culture. You help local farms when you buy local food.

Where we farm, there are lots of steep hillsides, which would erode if they were plowed to grow grains. So instead we grow grass, and turn that grass into high-quality protein by passing it through a ruminant animal. Grass-fed, naturally-raised animals don’t cause cancer any more than do the fumes from driving produce from California to North Carolina.

David’s thinking is that he has carved out some sort of moral high ground regarding what you and I should be eating.

While I’m open to persuasion on lots of topics, and have strong opinions like the rest of you clowns, when it comes to determining whether or not one “should” or “should not” eat meat, I’m afraid the moral high ground just isn’t there.

Reminds me of an Ask Dr. Science episode: The conundrum posed to the good doctor was this: “If we’re not supposed to eat animals, how come they’re made out of meat?”

Laugh, dance, sing — eat the food you want.

— John Pilson, farm manager
Warren Wilson College, Swannanoa

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