Your Community Spirit 2010 November 19

EPISODE SUMMARY: News includes Kentucky coal plant canceled by grassroots alliance; world’s biggest art installation calls for climate action; Americans need to stop multitasking while eating alone. Special guest Sarah Lewison talks about H2Oil film showing at Big Muddy IMC; Moroccan food for Eid Al-Adha; Farmer’s Market; Vigil for Peace; Farmer Network Event; Alternative Gift Fair.


stopped coal
Kentucky cancels coal plant, new power movement electrifies grassroot alliance

coal mine

The new agreement marks a significant turning point for Kentucky.

Thanks to a powerful and growing New Power grassroots movement, a broad alliance of Kentucky activists sent an electrifying message across the nation today: A just transition to a clean energy future, even in the heartland of coal country Kentucky, is possible.

Recognizing the spiraling costs of coal-fired plant construction and more practical energy efficiency and renewable energy options, the East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC) has agreed to halt its once fervent plans to construct two coal-burning power plants in Clark County.

The announcement comes nearly one year after American Municipal Power abandoned its plans to build a coal-fired power plant along the Ohio River in Meigs County, and shifted the battle between coal-fired plants and New Power sources to Kentucky.

Led by EKPC members, the Sierra Club, Kentucky Environmental Foundation, and Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, along with individual co-op members Wendell Berry, Father John Rausch, and Dr. John A. Patterson, the announcement comes as an extraordinary shift in the national debate over coal-fired energy.

Doug Doerrfeld, a member of Grayson Rural Electric and past chairperson of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, said the agreement marked a significant turning point for Kentucky. “This is very good news for all of Kentucky’s distribution co-ops and their members. EKPC can now avoid the huge cost of building the plant and turn its attention to aggressively pursuing energy efficiency and renewable energy options. I believe those strategies hold the greatest promise for keeping rates as low as possible in the long run for Grayson Rural Electric members, especially our many low-income ratepayers.”

“This agreement demonstrates what can happen when people work together,” said Billy Edwards, a Clark Energy customer and Sierra Club member. “It creates an opportunity for our cooperative to become a leader in developing affordable, accessible clean energy and energy efficiency programs that can create jobs across the region while meeting the needs of their customers.”

“I’m awfully glad to be party to a settlement that is amicable and made in good faith,” said Wendell Berry, a farmer, renowned author, and Shelby Energy co-op member. “I do, on the basis of long experience, value the idea of a cooperative — which is to say an established cooperation between suppliers and users of energy or of any other vital supply. I’m also glad that the settlement agreement establishes a way forward through the establishment of a collaborative which will allow for informal conversations without the rigidity and anxiety of legal process.”

The cooperative also committed $125,000 toward a collaborative effort in which plaintiff groups, EKPC and its member co-ops, and other parties will work together to evaluate and recommend new energy efficiency programs and renewable energy options.

During the campaign to stop the proposed Smith #1 coal-fired plant, the New Power movement hailed a breakthrough study [PDF] completed last summer by The Och Center for Metropolitan Studies, which concluded:

As an alternative to building the proposed Smith #1 plant, an investment in a combination of energy efficiency, weatherization, hydropower and wind power initiatives in the East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC) region would generate more than 8,750 new jobs for Kentucky residents, witha total impact of more than $1.7 billion on the region’s economy over the next three years. This alternative approach would meet the energy needs of EKPC customers at a lower cost than the proposed coal plant.

Unlike projected economic activity that would result from construction of a new coal‐burning power plant, investing in renewable energy, efficiency and weatherization would result in jobs and benefits across the region rather than in a smaller geographic area around the site of the proposed coal burning power plant.

Over a three year period of construction and implementation, energy efficiency and weatherization initiatives would create nearly $1.2 billion in economic activity and more than 5,400 jobs. The development of small scale hydropower generation at 20 sites in the region would create more than $500 million in economic activity and more than 3,300 jobs.

For more information, see the Kentuckians For The Commonwealth’s blog.

A change of art
World’s biggest art installation will call for climate action

350.orgLet’s imagine an alien or two, monitoring a roster of planets from some distant galaxy. 

“Hang on, Xloopi,” one might say. “That third rock out — if the instruments are working, their atmosphere is on the fritz. CO2 is climbing 2 parts per million a year. What do you think is going on?”

“Two possibilities, Kkar. Either they’ve gotten careless with their fossil fuels, or they’re going in for mosquito-ranching in a very big way.”

If anyone actually is watching from afar, what they’re seeing isn’t pretty. Scientists have tried to warn us that the Earth is warming, but so far their message has gone mostly unheeded. Observers seem to be expecting another fruitless negotiating session when nations converge on Cancun in early December for one more climate conference.

The problem, I think, is that we don’t remember we live on a planet. Earth seems cozy and familiar. No matter how many times the scientists remind us that the gaseous composition of our atmosphere is just as important on Earth as it is on Mars or Venus, we can’t quite get it through our heads.

So for the next week, with a project called 350 EARTH, we’re going to try and back up far enough to make the point. At more than a dozen locations around the globe, we’ve found great artists who have sketched simple designs, which volunteers will execute with thousands of bodies: people lining up on snowfields in Iceland, and on the Egyptian sand, and on the dry creek beds of Santa Fe. So many bodies that the imaging company DigitalGlobe will be able to capture the images from their satellite 400 miles above the earth.

It will be the planet’s largest work of art, designed to demonstrate once again the essential predicament of our age: If we can’t figure out how to work together to safeguard the atmosphere, then we have no separate futures. Sharing a planet means sharing oceans, ice caps, great breathing forests.

The scientists have done what they can to make this point. They’ve given us a workable consensus: Any amount of carbon in the atmosphere greater than 350 parts per million, to quote one NASA study, is incompatible with “a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life is adapted.” Since we’re already at 390 ppm and rising, that should send hot flashes down your spine; it’s why we’re seeing record melt, record flood, record heat.

But we need artists, too, to make this point, because the human animal is complex; we reason, but that’s not all we do. We feel, we intuit, we grope for meaning. Art reaches us in ways that statistics can’t. The enormous scarab beetle pushing the sun that will grace the Egyptian desert on Friday, Nov. 26, ties us back to the earliest human memories. In Cape Town on Nov. 27, artists will incorporate 70 solar cookers into their design, reminding us that we have many of the tools we need to start dealing with our troubles.

But we won’t start dealing with them till we really care — till we really understand what’s at stake. That’s why we need to back up. Back way way up, till we’ve got our home in the proper perspective.

i take my ice cream social
Americans need to stop multitasking while eating alone, argues French sociologist Claude Fischler

baked potato at a computer

Dinner as usual?Photo: Matt DeTurck

Put down that sandwich. Or if you’re not eating right now, tell the truth: How many crumbs are lodged in your keyboard from previous meals wolfed in front of your monitor?It’s OK. You’re not alone in eating alone — at least in America. It’s what most of us do: in front of our computers and televisions, or in our cars. But as the preëminent French food sociologist Claude Fischler explained in the fifth lecture of the University of Washington’s food and environment series recently, we represent one extreme end of the social-eating spectrum, and the French another — and in getting there, we’ve also strayed quite far from the ways that humans have consumed food for thousands of years.

The simple act of eating involves more than just you and your food — society is also present, in the customs, in the place, and in your companions (or lack thereof), Fischler told the audience.

Claude Fischler, international man of food mysteryHistorically, humans have eaten together commensally, habitually and ritually, either as equals or as part of a hierarchy. Think Da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper, with its specific depiction of social order and the ritual breaking of bread and sharing of wine. Commensality is sometimes extremely formal, such as at a Japanese corporate lunch, but just as often is informal, as when an Ethiopian family dips into a central bowl of meats and sauces.

It’s been a useful concept for humanity to have around, serving historical functions such as:

  • allocating each person’s share of food
  • including or excluding people according to social organization
  • showing the pecking order
  • structuring time (before lunch versus after dinner)
  • forming identity (the lost art of teaching kids to behave while eating)
  • weaving social fabric together (such as at wedding or funeral feasts)

Eating alone, on the other hand, has typically been stigmatized and treated suspiciously. What did the person do to be excluded from or punished by his social group? Was she taking more than her fair share of the food? Fischler described the act of eating alone as “negat[ing] humanity” for us social creatures.

From slow food to slow eaters

“In the Western world food has been turned into an exclusively private good,” Fischler said. One that we “have to make choices about, preferably rationally, and we don’t live well with that idea.” Or eat well, apparently.

Fischler and his colleagues surveyed 7,000 people from the United States and five European nations (France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and England) about their attitudes toward food and health. They found a spectrum of attitudes, with the U.S. occupying one extreme end and France, the other.

Here in the good ol’ U.S. of A, our national identity as disparate, atomized individuals is reflected in how we see our food: nothing more than a sum of individual nutrients that can be customized to fit the health needs and tastes of the individual. Americans value choice in their diets above almost all else. They want to build a diet especially for their bodies and what they choose to put in their bodies is always their choice. The American obsession with choice stood out markedly from the other five countries surveyed, and is the case in other studies as well.

On the other hand, the French made clear that “not all eating is eating.” Eating “requires a certain configuration of time, space, and people” to constitute a meal. For example, a Frenchwoman, Fischler recounted, would tell researchers that she hadn’t eaten all day but then state plainly that she bought and consumed a pastry from a baker’s stand. The French also honed in on food’s quality and culinary identity: How does it taste? Where does it come from? How fresh is it?

It’s not just what you’re eating, it’s who you’re eating. Er, with! Who you’re eating with.Photo: More Good FoundationAlong these same lines, the English-speaking countries in the study (U.S. and Britain) distinguished themselves from the continental European nations (France, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy) by describing health as the main purpose of eating. For the others, health is a secondary benefit; social pleasures and the joy of life dominate continental Europeans’ discussions about eating. As one Italian put it, “to eat good fish and drink good wine” with friends is the true meaning of eating well. That sounds convivial, even commensal. It also sounds worlds away from the anxiety revealed by middle-aged American women weighing the protein and carbohydrates necessary to eat well.

It’s not surprising that attitudes toward eating differ among countries and cultures. But what are the consequences of those differences?

Food portions are significantly bigger in the U.S. than in France. Yet North Americans spend less than an hour each day eating what’s on their hefty plates, while the French spend more than two hours each day enjoying “food experiences.” France’s obesity rate weighs in much lower than America’s and even other European nations’. American women spend more time multi-tasking while eating and are less likely to remember everything (or time) they ate than do French women. (“If you’re eating constantly, it’s difficult to remember,” Fischler cracked.)

Does this all add up to the mysterious “French Paradox“? Fischler doesn’t think it’s much of a mystery.

“What happened with food in the West is that food became disenchanted,” Fischler said. When we grab food without thinking, without ritual, there is a loss of meaning, he later went on. When food is commodified and processed, it retreats into a black box. “We are what we eat and if we don’t know what we eat …” You can see where he’s going with this.

The value of commensality could, however, be poised for a comeback in this portly, peaked part of the world. Michael Pollan explores the role of culture as a guide to eating in several of his books, when he challenges science as “the only source of authority we have on matters having to do with food in our bodies,” and his most recent feature for the Times magazine was about “a 36-hour dinner party.” The expansion of community kitchens and the re-prioritization of the family dinner offer other optimistic examples at kitchen tables around the country.

Fortunately for folks new to the various facets of the sustainable food movement, the learning curve is pretty gentle and stacked with flavorful rewards. I’ve come to realize, bite by bite, the succulent benefits of eating more fresh vegetables and fruits, which are missing nothing but the synthetic chemicals; of forming a knowledge of — nay! a relationship with — the friendly local people growing my food and brewing my beverages; and now, the deeper joys of more regularly feasting with friends.

All of this can threaten to overpower us imperfect humans at times — What if I eat fast food just this once? Will others judge me? — but another great aspect is that we get a second chance at every meal. Just as I went straight home from Fischler’s lecture to eat a late dinner by myself, I felt a rush of redemption this past weekend when I shared a sumptuous meal with my roommate and my neighbor — which blossomed into over an hour of grace, laughter, and taste. Eat it, French Paradox.

Ashley Braun is Grist’s News Producer and Official Unofficial Pun Writer. She’s also a science nerd, a lazy runner, an organic container gardener, and an accidental “expert” on topics like cross-country relationships and social media.


Today is the 323rd day of the year. There are 42 days left in the year.

Fri, 19th Nov:
“Have a Bad Day” Day
Anniversary – Gettysburg Address (Abraham Lincoln)
Birthday – President James Garfield (12th President)
Discovery Day (Puerto Rico)
National Holiday (Monaco)

Sat, 20th Nov:
Family Volunteer Day
Name Your PC Day
Transgender Day of Remembrance
UN Africa Industrialization Day
UN Universal Children’s Day
Birthday – Robert F. Kennedy (Senator)
Revolution Day (Mexico)

Sun, 21st Nov:
Beaver Moon
UN World Day of Remembrance For Road Traffic Victims
UN World Television Day
World Hello Day
Ratification Day (North Carolina)
Totensonntag (Germany)

Mon, 22nd Nov:
Sagittarius Begins
Saint Cecilia Feast Day
Anniversary – Assassination of John F. Kennedy
Independence Day (Lebanon)

Tue, 23rd Nov:
Birthday – President Franklin Pierce (14th President)
Birthday – Boris Karloff (actor)
Labor Thanksgiving Day (Japan)

Wed, 24th Nov:
Celebrate Your Unique Talent Day
Tie One On Day
Birthday – President Zachary Taylor (12th President)
Birthday – Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (painter)

Thu, 25th Nov:
Macy Thanksgiving Day Parade
Thanksgiving Day (US)
Turkey-Free Thanksgiving
Saint Catherine’s Day
Shopping Reminder Day
UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
Birthday – Joe DiMaggio (baseball)
Independence Day (Suriname)
National Day (Bosnia and Herzegovina)


H2Oil Film and Discussion
Friday at 7 pm at Big Muddy IMC
214 N. Washington in Carbondale

Canada is now the biggest oil supplier to the United States due to water-intensive tar sands extraction technologies. To process each barrel of oil, four barrels of glacier-fed spring water are used and then dumped, laden with carcinogens, into leaky tailings ponds so huge they can be seen from space. Those downstream are the canaries for this toxic experiment. This doc chronicles the ongoing struggle in Alberta and beyond for accountability and care of resources and life. Always free. Calendars for the season will be available.

Rice and Spice International Slow Food Dinner
Friday at 6 pm at Gaia House Interfaith Center
913 S. Illinois in Carbondale

This week we are celebrating Eid Al-Adha with Moroccan food, music, and a short cultural presentation. Eid Al-Adha is referred to as Eid Al-Kabir — the “Big Holiday” — because of its tremendous significance to Muslims. It’s one of two main Islamic holidays, and traditionally lasts for three days. Eid Al-Adha translates to “Festival of Sacrifice” and commemorates Prophet Abraham’s willingness to obey God when he envisioned that he was to sacrifice his son.

Just what is Slow Food? You know what Fast Food is, right? Well at a Slow Food dinner, people meet and cook together, taking their time to enjoy the company and savor the meal. Our own series brings culture and cuisine from all over the world to our own table, and we’d love to see you there too.

Westown Mall Parking Lot
Saturday from 8 am to Noon

Saturday @ Noon @ Town Square Pavilion

Farmer Network Event
Keeping Sustainable, Small-Scale Growers Connected in Southern Illinois
Friday, December 3, 6 pm to 9 pm
Field of Dreams Banquet Facility
Thriving local food systems across the country share many common elements – an important one being a vibrant network of new and experienced farmers who remain closely connected while still maintaining their independence. A strong farmer network will provide substantial educational – and even moral support – for beginning, existing and transitioning sustainable and small-scale growers in Southern Illinois.

Food Works is excited to announce the launch of a Southern Illinois Farmer Network that will be marked with great food, very special guest speakers and live music. The event will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 3, at the Field of Dreams Banquet Facility on 145 Lexi Drive, just off of Reed Station Road between Carbondale and Carterville.

The event itself is free and open to anyone interested in small-scale farming or who supports smallscale farmers. It will kick off with a potluck dinner at 6 p.m. Food Works will also provide beverages
and two main dishes – local bison and vegetarian chili. Once more, the event is free, but please bring a family-size dish to pass.

Following the potluck dinner, Food Works is fortunate to have two special guest speakers on hand. Kris and Marty Travis, who manage Spence Farm in Livingston County, Illinois, will address the importance of a strong farmer network in a widespread rural region. The Travis’ are active members in Stewards of the Land, LLC, a group of 25 thriving family farms who work together to “create, maintain, and support the family farm, to help them become and remain sustainable and profitable, and to provide the same opportunity for future generations.” The Travis’ have worked extensively with small-scale sustainable farmers and have held many educational field days and farm tours on their property in rural northern Illinois. The couple is well-versed in the fields of sustainable fruit and vegetable production, livestock management, grain production, collaborating with other family farms and various markets and marketing strategies.
Spence Farm, which was settled in 1830 by Marty’s fourth great grandfather,  is the oldest family farm in Livingston County. And though they are located in the middle of corn and bean country, Spence Farm has been producing a diversity of fruits and vegetables on their land for eight generations. The Travis’ also raise heritage livestock, poultry and grains for feed and milling.

Following Kris and Marty’s talk, music will begin with father and son singer/songwriter duo Thom and Devin Brown, who also run a small-scale farm near Vienna, and play regularly at wineries and special events throughout Southern Illinois. Devin and Thom welcome anyone with musical proclivities to bring an instrument and join in for an open, bluegrass-style jam.

The cost for the joining the Southern Illinois Farmer Network is a $30 annual membership fee and includes many substantial benefits. By joining, small-scale growers, agricultural professionals, and individuals interested in small-scale farming will receive farmer support and training along with access to a variety of key small-scale farming resources.

In 2011, Food Works will offer eight to nine field days and workshops that will take place from March to October on various farms in Southern Illinois. Each individual workshop will cost $20 to $30, but all are free to Southern Illinois Farmer Network members. Potential field day subjects will cover topics such as livestock, cover crops, hoop houses, post harvest handling, good agricultural practices and more.

Another value will be a printed resource directory of network members and their particular areas of interest and expertise. Members will also receive periodic electronic newsletters that will provide access to important and timely news such as grant announcements, other workshops and other small-farm related information.

The most valuable resource, of course, is the farmers themselves, who can share knowledge and  information among themselves on tricky topics such as soil amendments, seed selection and saving, crop rotation, weed and pest control and a long list of many other on-farm issues and activities. Equally important are vital areas of off-field interest, such as farm management and planning, financial and insurance issues, as well as access to markets and various marketing strategies.

The cost for the joining the networks is a $30 annual membership fee. For questions or more information about this network, please visit You may also email Jerry Bradley at or call 618.319.2715.

Alternative Gift Fair
Sunday, December 5th, 2 pm to 5 pm
Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship

The 6th Annual Alternative Gift Fair is an opportunity to give a gift for your loved one that also supports a good cause. For more information, contact Jess at 534-1162 or email Mary at

Your Community Spirit

If you have news, happenings, complaints, money, or kudos you want to send our way, contact us:


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