I'll drink to that
Being an environmental crusader can be a depressing gig. Faced with a constant barrage of grim headlines about pending climate catastrophe, rapidly shrinking forests and toxic waterways, you couldn't blame people working in the field for wanting to just forget about it all at the end of the day. Yet Asheville Green Drinks, a new weekly event, seeks to lift local environmentalists' spirits while facilitating new alliances by leveraging a tried-and-true social lubricant -- booze.
"We're very interested in bringing together people who would normally not socialize," says Green Drinks organizer Joseph Malki, vice president of business development at Seven-Star Inc., an Asheville-based public-relations firm specializing in green events. "We want to bring the conservatives and the radicals and the professionals together, with a central theme of finding an appropriate response to an inconvenient truth."
The Green Drinks movement, which began in London in 1989, has spread to more than 190 cities, from Buenos Aires to Tokyo to Knoxville. Asheville Green Drinks -- an upgraded version of Enviro Beers, a similar get-together that met monthly at Asheville Pizza and Brewing on Coxe Avenue -- will happen every Friday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Bobo Gallery on Lexington Avenue. Anyone of legal drinking age who's concerned about environmental issues is welcome to attend.
The idiot's guide to forest management
If you're fortunate enough to own a tract of forestland but are wondering how to manage it sustainably, a free guide produced by Appalachian Voices, an environmental nonprofit based in Boone, N.C., can help.
Managing Your Woodlands: A Guide for Southern Appalachian Landowners is a comprehensive resource that answers many questions about sustainable forest management. A companion DVD features foresters and landowners from around the country.
"It talks about conservation easements, grants and loans that landowners can apply for, and it includes a 20-page resource section of regional and national forestry agencies," explains Caitlen Nelis, an AmeriCorps associate who's working with Appalachian Voices' Landowner Outreach Program. The handbook, notes Nelis, isn't just for folks who own substantial tracts of forestland. "This is for everyone. Even if you only have one acre, you still need to manage it."
To receive a free copy of Managing Your Woodlands, call Appalachian Voices at (877) 277-8642, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Shore of Environmental Defense seemed equal parts energy-policy expert and motivational speaker during a March 1 presentation on utility reform. "It is critical that the North Carolina Utilities Commission reform and simplify the rate structure in North Carolina," he told an audience of local activists at the West Asheville library, urging them to "be tenacious" in opposing the proposed power plant in Woodfin.
That same week, the national nonprofit was in the media spotlight in connection with a proposal by TXU, a Texas-based energy company, to build 11 coal-fired power plants. For months, Environmental Defense had mounted a bitter campaign against TXU that included a lawsuit against the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for being too lax in its evaluation of the proposals. And when powerful investors sought to buy the utility, they enlisted the nonprofit's president, Fred Krupp, to help negotiate a sale agreement that included strong environmental measures. The final deal scrapped eight of the 11 proposed units, and Environmental Defense dropped its lawsuit.
Meanwhile, the day before Shore's talk, the North Carolina Utilities Commission had denied Duke Energy a permit to construct one of two proposed coal-fired units at Cliffside, near Charlotte.
Those environmental victories demonstrate that public outcry can make a difference, Shore maintained. "The de facto position for a lot of elected officials is to believe the power companies when they say 'We've got no choice'" except to build new facilities. Outlining viable alternatives to the Woodfin plant, he said, could have a similar impact. "We have to show them that we can get 130 megawatts in other ways."