Letters to the editor

Dance’s eternal gift

The sad and marvelous thing about dance is that, like life, when it is gone, it is gone. That makes it exquisitely valuable. If you are present to experience dance, it can be infinitely satisfying — nourishment for the soul — a kind of immortality. If you are not present, it disappears like the years of a human life, before you even noticed it was there — a kind of death.

This October, Asheville is proving that it has matured as both a magnet and a petri dish for dance, on a national, indeed international, scale. The Bolshoi Ballet inspired children and enriched adults at the Civic Center. Modern dance companies from New York, Florida, Tennessee, Chicago, New Orleans, Baltimore and Chapel Hill intrigued audiences of all ages at The Chapel performing space [at the Fletcher School of Dance]. Six local companies and choreographers presented work in the same Fall into Dance Festival. Folk dance enlivened and exhausted participants in the LEAF Festival. And, best of all, events were packed: long skirts and bare feet in Swannanoa, sequins and high heels at the Civic Center, suits and jeans at the Fletcher School of Dance.

Truly, dance crosses cultures and economic boundaries, draws people together for a brief moment, in a physical and spiritual exchange of energy that has eternal consequences, like a stone thrown into a well. I have been deeply moved by this month’s activities, and grateful to the producers, artists and patrons who have made them all possible, with vision, patience, hard work, money and, above all, attendance. I know what they received: that nourishment for the soul I mentioned earlier. The gift they have given the rest of us, whether we were there or not, will ripple beyond even their imaginings.

— Ann Dunn

The folly of using plutonium to generate electricity

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and the Charlotte-based Southern Environmental Education Resources (SEER) oppose the use of plutonium fuel in commercial nuclear-power reactors, for environmental, public-health and national-security reasons. The reversal of a two-decade policy prohibiting the use of plutonium in reactors would put a strategically valuable and dangerous material — which is now in the hands of the armed forces — under the control of electric utilities.

Ironically, this plan would not reduce the nation’s plutonium stockpile, because it would create new plutonium at a rate similar to its destruction in nuclear-power reactors, yielding new plutonium for old. When you add to this the environmental consequences of plutonium reprocessing and the additional risks of new breeder reactors, you end up with an environmental nightmare.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s surplus-plutonium-disposition program would reprocess 33 tons of plutonium at the Savannah River Site, for use as fuel at Duke Power’s Catawba and McGuire nuclear reactors.

The use of plutonium fuel in nuclear-powered, domestic-utility reactors would employ one of the most toxic substances on earth to generate electricity. This will shorten the expected life span of utility reactors and increase the risk and the severity of accidents.

— Lou Zeller
Glendale Springs

Bumpy logic

Have you been around Beaver Lake [lately]? The posted speed limit is 30 mph, but the city has added speed bumps (about 10 of them) along [Lake Shore Drive] that will damage your vehicle if you go over 20 mph — but their “safe speed signs” suggest 25 mph.

Just what is the speed — 20, 25, or 30? If the posted speed limit is 30, then the speed bumps must allow a safe traveling speed of 30!

Spock would say, “No logic, little intelligence found!” if he did a mind-meld with the designer and/or persons who OK’d that project.

Asheville is becoming a haven for socialists and communists — and definitely not the true residents who grew up here!

— David Wall

Get the message on air quality

What’s wrong with this picture? Asheville Citizen-Times, May 6, 1999: “Smokies’ air quality pact protested.” Citizen-Times, Aug. 1 headline: “WNC has big city smog.” Citizen-Times Mountain section for Sept. 15: “Bad air record gets worse.”

Saturday, Sept. 11, the Citizen-Times guest commentary: “Take a good turn, and learn not to burn.” Last line, first paragraph, “Open burning is a problem.” Next day, in the [C-T’s] Communities section, an article about two developers in Woodland Hills: “Their controlled fire burned itself out.” Above that item, an article about the drought and forest-fire threat, containing “suggestions” from the North Carolina Division of Forest Resources that sound like recommendations to burn.

Isn’t anyone getting the message? Do we have any control over the amount of air pollution being created? How bad does the problem have to become?

It turns out, the first item mentioned above was about the North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry, who went to court complaining that the pact to protect air quality “placed an unfair burden on the business community.” This is an 1,850-member organization whose “membership is open … with a common goal to ensure that North Carolina has the highest quality of life.” You could be pardoned for supposing that “highest quality of life” includes good air. This is not to single out one group or other, but merely to show how we are working together on a serious problem.

It would be fruitless to hope for action from the county commissioners. But somehow, the idea of declaring a ban on outside burning when the air quality falls below a chosen level might be something that intelligent people would accept. Is it naive to suppose something should be done before all our lungs are ruined?

— Allen Thomas

The industrial sources of our air problems

I am very concerned about the deterioration of air quality in the mountain region of Western North Carolina. Although air-pollution problems have been gradually worsening for many years, the reduced visibility and public-health warnings this summer should serve as a wake-up call for our community. Air pollution is reaching levels that seriously jeopardize public health and quality of life in the mountains.

The daily reporting of air quality in our area is a plus. It raises awareness about the increasing problem and the health effects, that ozone and particulate matter create in our environment.

Recently, an 18-year-old patient of mine with asthma and chronic bronchitis, who becomes short of breath and fatigued in the presence of such pollution, described how, under these conditions, she cannot live the life she would otherwise be able to enjoy. There are thousands of people like her in our area who would cherish relief from their health problems, if there were clean air to breathe.

The media and administrative departments of North Carolina have expressed much concern about the role automobile emissions play as a contributor to ozone formation, and rightly so. However, another major — and, so far, under-emphasized — factor, is industry. Many coal-burning power plants, some far removed to our west and northwest, are antiquated. New power plants are already required to conform to standards that minimize emissions — but those old plants, which were grandfathered in by legislation (with the understanding that they would have been replaced by now), continue in operation, spewing out oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter, and adding to the health problems in WNC. National legislation is badly needed to require these old plants to conform to the same standards that are required of new ones.

In order to promote more interest in problems of air pollution in WNC, the Social Action Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville, along with the Western North Carolina Alliance, invite interested persons to a Clean Air Seminar at the church on Saturday, Oct. 23, from 9-11:30 a.m. The WNC Regional Air Pollution Control Agency will be having a Clean Air Fair on the same subject on the same day as the seminar. We suggest that seminar attendees bring a sack lunch to facilitate their going directly to the fair, which lasts until 3 p.m.

— Lewis E. Patrie, M.D., M.P.H.
president, WNC Physicians for Social ResponsibilityAsheville

Crippled children, enslaved animals

Now that Ringling Brothers has stopped playing Asheville, in favor of the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville, S.C., the parade into our town of other, equally pathetic animal abusers has begun. On Sept. 29 and 30, the Asheville Speedway hosted the Sterling and Reid Brothers circus, a pitiful menagerie of third-rate human performers and enslaved animals. The good folks from the circus plastered our city with signs illegally attached to utility poles, a good number of which still remain.

Oddly enough, while I’m unaware of any local advertising purchased by them (only the free but illegal signage), the Asheville Citizen-Times chose to give them free advertising, with color, front-page pictures. Even odder is the fact that the AC-T covered the circus, but not the demonstration taking place outside. Why the Citizen-Times is so eager to promote animal abuse is indeed a mystery.

Next in line to play our town is a circus sponsored by the Shriners. It is truly shameful that the Shriners choose to abuse animals in order to raise funds for the good work they do for children. The Shriners contract with many circuses, and the one coming to Asheville is the Tarzan Zerbini Circus. The history of this circus is dubious, at best. … Over a dozen individuals have been injured by elephants in several incidents, and most recently, a bear bit off the tip of a 2-year-old child’s finger.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Victoria, B.C., inspected the Tarzan Zerbini Circus and noted the following: The majority of the horses had lacerations, abrasions or scars from old injuries. They found no food or water available for the tigers. The cages for the monkeys were extraordinarily small, not allowing the monkeys to stand on their hind legs. The inspector was told that monkeys and dogs are kept in the cages at all times, except for the show performances. No water had been provided for the monkeys and dogs. The inspector stated on her report, “This circus, where the animals were kept entirely in cages too small to allow the least bit of movement or comfort, and where it was impossible to find anyone to accept basic responsibility for the care of the animals, was a prime example of everything that should not be allowed to occur in a circus.”

Dick Gregory recently joined the celebrity crusade against circuses. Mr. Gregory has produced a Public Service Announcement for PETA, in which he states: “Martin Luther King Jr. taught me that the fight against oppression is never an easy one. It’s even harder when you have no voice. For animals held captive in circuses, life consists of crammed cages, shackles and daily beatings. There’s no escape. They can’t demand their freedom. Images like these bring only one word to mind: slavery. Be an abolitionist for the animals. Please don’t go to the circus.”

Thank you, Mr. Gregory. It is time we realize that circuses that exploit animals have no place in a compassionate society. We need not only to stop patronizing animal circuses, but also to demand that the animal performers be sent to sanctuaries, where they can live out their lives in dignity.

— Stewart David

Stewart David is president of Carolina Animal Action. He can be reached at P.O. Box 19242, Asheville, NC 28815.

No zoning makes no sense

Now I’ve heard everything! The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, in fulfillment of their duties, compose a long-range plan for orderly land use, for the purpose of protecting property values and controlling commercial development — and the larger land owners and land developers oppose it, when it is they who would benefit the most.

Give me a break! What sense does it make not to support appropriate provisions for the inevitable commercial growth that will accompany the burgeoning population in the county? As a matter of fact, the commissioners would be derelict if they did not proceed with such controls. There isn’t a major city in the country that has not made or is not making provisions for controlled growth as the population spreads into the surrounding countryside. Nothing else makes any sense.

Picture your chances of selling your property at its current value, if a stone quarry or an asphalt plant moved onto the property next to yours (or anywhere near it) and set up business. Or consider what happens to property values if the highway near you suddenly blossoms with a row of strip joints, bars and porno shops. Unless your principal assets are other than your home site, you may be out of luck.

I don’t want that to happen to me, and I don’t want it to happen to you. So, let’s get together and make our stand by voting YES on the referendum on Nov. 2. Not to vote is the same as voting NO.

— Dorothy Phyllis Smith

Cut the fat and live

A trim figure makes the heart grow fonder. Now, the American Cancer Society has found that it makes the heart grow longer, too. A study of obesity and mortality among 1 million Americans — the largest ever — has shown that overweight people run a higher risk of premature death, particularly from heart disease or cancer. The study was sponsored by the American Cancer Association and published in [the current issue of the] New England Journal of Medicine.

Last year, the American Heart Association named obesity “a major risk factor” in heart disease, along with smoking, high cholesterol and lack of exercise. A 27-year study of 19,000 Harvard University alumni found that men in the slimmest 20 percent had a 60 percent lower risk of dying of heart disease, and a 40 percent lower risk of dying from all causes, than those in the heaviest 20 percent. The renowned “Framingham Heart Study” estimated a 1 to 3 percent increase in the risk of premature death for every pound over the ideal body weight. A U.S. Department of Agriculture study found that overweight children were twice as likely to suffer from heart disease in later years.

In fact, obesity has become a major U.S. public-health threat. More than half of all Americans are overweight, and 22 percent are severely obese. Beyond heart disease and cancer, obesity increases the risk of stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure. Together, these diseases account for two-thirds of all U.S. deaths.

The leading causes of obesity are the consumption of fat-laden meat and dairy products and inadequate exercise, particularly during our formative years. These early lifestyle flaws become deeply ingrained, lifelong habits. The only effective long-term solution to this national epidemic is to replace meat, dairy and other fatty foods with wholesome grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits, particularly in the childhood years.

Thanks to the painstaking work of leading health-research institutions, we now have the secret of a long, healthy life. All we need is the will.

— Alicia Cosgrove

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