Protests and provocations planned for Climate Summit

The week of Sept. 20-27 promises many climate change related events around the United Nations Climate Summit 2019 to be held at the UN headquarters in New York on the 23rd. Teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg arrived in New York and will be a key speaker at the event and in a global climate strike on the 20th. The summit and Thunberg’s presence have served as catalysts for more than 500 scheduled strikes and marches across the United States and the world. At least three are planned for Tennessee, in Nashville and Memphis.

I am 100 percent in favor of the Summit and any and all legal and conscionable strikes and protests to draw attention to the most serious crisis facing our planet at this time. I’m not in favor of unlawful provocations of law enforcement that tie up critical emergency services while disrupting and putting the lives of innocent non-participants in danger. Unfortunately, one group appears to be planning just that. A press release for the event dubbed #shutdowndc describes what sounds like a militarized agenda to “blockade Washington D.C.” by “seizing key intersections” and “causing large-scale disruption” in an effort to force the government to implement their agenda. In another release, they refer to themselves as “climate rebels” and say they will “celebrate the rising tide of rebellion against climate catastrophe.”

The government they want to shut down is my government. I’m not OK with that plan. I often think they should be doing more work than they do, not closing up shop yet again. Any action that could effectively shut down the government would have to be of a scale that would require a costly response from law enforcement. I’m not on board with that either. I don’t want my tax money spent unnecessarily so that one fringe group can get free publicity. And I don’t want my government to negotiate policy with radical groups that want to disrupt or terrorize, domestic or otherwise.

But what bothers me most is that they know their actions could hurt others. It could prevent people from having access to help from first responder agencies in emergencies, prevent or make it difficult for them to go about their daily lives and create unsafe situations, as well as tying up law enforcement resources and potentially putting officers’ safety at risk.

“We know that this shutdown will cause massive disruption to people who bear little responsibility for the climate catastrophe we are facing,” their website says. But they believe they can “cause massive disruption for politicians, huge corporations and the lobbyists who control our government” and are willing to take that kind of an “ends-justify-the-means” attitude that compromises the rights and wellbeing of others to try to get what they want.

When I contacted a spokesperson for the group, her responses to my questions left me wondering if they hope for confrontation with the police and my concern, though she did not overtly state it, is that they will intentionally provoke violence for publicity. “No we have not applied for permits,” she wrote in an email. “We aren’t collaborating with the police. We definitely expect police presence.”

Am I “collaborating” with the police if I want them to keep our streets safe from radical groups that want to “disrupt,” “seize” and “shut down” our cities? To clarify, the ACLU website specifies that “If marchers stay on the sidewalks and obey traffic and pedestrian signals, their activity is constitutionally protected even without a permit.”

There are many legitimate and lawful strikes and other events planned by law abiding citizens on Sept. 20 and this group seems to be piggy-backing off of those to try to gain credibility and support. It saddens me because any images of this group flashing across screens in a clash with police would likely give an impression of environmentalists that could destroy the credibility of all of us.

I urge you to do something during the week of the Climate Summit to make your voice heard. Participate in a lawful strike or protest if you’re so inclined. Contact your representatives. Attend a lecture or rally. Join the Citizens Climate Lobby to work for bipartisan solutions to the climate crisis. Use the legislative process we have in place to make legitimate and lasting change. But we will never succeed in creating a better and more secure world by acting like we we’re a war-torn, third world country with no constitutional recourse and where the tactics of terror and destruction play out in the streets every day. We must rise above those principles, roll up our sleeves and work together for real solutions.

— Lori Goff

Looking back at Montanti’s legacy

Here are my thoughts on Deborah Montanti, who will retire from her position as Heritage Alliance executive director this week.  I write this memo as the writer of a weekly genealogical or history article for the Herald & Tribune plus my experience as a former board member of the Heritage Alliance. — John Kiener

In my opinion, Deborah Montanti really is the founder of the concepts that currently put the Heritage Alliance as the keeper of the heritage, history and preservation movement in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

Her strength has been the ability to get both paid and volunteer assistance to carry out a variety of activities that promote the three areas – heritage, history and preservation  – that the Alliance assumes as its leadership responsibilities. Even today, I have never been able to understand how this is accomplished given the limited financial resources on which she operates.   

A key component of Deborah’s success has been educational programming centered around Oak Hill School.  Her ability to continue the school  program while  recruiting volunteers is a unique feature of Alliance offerings. She has also enlisted year after year a number of East Tennessee State University students as program aids.  Her ability to obtain education and other grants has been phenomenal.

She has been selective and successful in recruiting paid staff who are talented.  Anne Mason is an example of this kind of staff person. Joe Spiker and Jacob Simpson, who recently left the Alliance, were first-rate in their museum work.

Deborah has been blessed with one exceptional strength – her ability to coordinate and cooperate with other Jonesborough town, state, county and private organizations. A couple of examples: the combined brochure detailing the services offered by the Washington County-Jonesborough Library; the Washington County Archives and the Heritage Alliance published jointly by the three groups and the management of the Chester Inn, now home to a museum; and a tour of a period in Jonesborough’s history while at the same time working with the International Storytelling Center sharing some space for administrative offices.

Likewise, the Heritage Alliance has storytellers use the Chester Inn space during the Storytelling Festival, moving its activities to other venues.

While the Herald & Tribune has not emphasized the activities involving Heritage preservation projects in recent months, the Alliance continues to maintain a warehouse that provides people remodeling historic houses with building materials. Annual preservation awards for projects throughout the area were awarded for a number of years.  The Christopher Taylor House next to the Chester Inn would not exists today in my opinion without the efforts to preserve the structure led by the work of Gordon Edwards, now the President of the Heritage Alliance.

If you visit Jonesborough, you can take a tour of the historic town, thanks to the Heritage Alliance. There are other tours involving the town’s cemetery and ghosts.

I begin my Christmas Season celebrations each year, as so many others, by attending the Progressive dinner – this year again scheduled for early December.

The writing and production of plays and the maintenance of an Archive has produced valuable genealogical and historical material for the public’s enjoyment throughout the years – thanks to Deborah’s work with the Alliance. With the experience of nearly 30 years in writing articles for the newspaper, I can candidly say that I have depended upon Deborah time and time again for assistance in two areas – photographs and research materials to support the article I was writing and,  most importantly, for ideas on subject matter for the weekly column.

I will miss those cold winter mornings or hot summer afternoons when I would stop by her office and ask and then discuss the answer to the questions, “What is going on in Jonesborough?” followed by “What kind of a story ideas can you give me for next week’s article?” Also involved would be a little “gossip” that never was published in the papers’s columns.

I will miss Deborah’s insight and explanation on what is going on in Tennessee’s oldest town and the part that the Alliance is playing in keeping the state’s oldest town on the map and in the news.  Deborah well deserves retirement – but hopefully she will not disappear from the scene. Jonesborough has needed her observations and wisdom in the past and will need them again in the future.

Town celebrates months of wins

The past month has been an exciting and purposeful time for our town of Jonesborough. Our town’s presentation and proposal to enter into an agreement with the Washington County Commission and Washington County School Board to build a new K-8 school and community park for shared use was greeted with open minds and enthusiastic support. I couldn’t be more proud of our town’s Alderman, our county commissioners and school board members. The unity and leadership all three boards have displayed bodes well for the future of not just Jonesborough, but our entire county and Johnson City. I am personally grateful for the new relationships and friendships developed during this community and school project.  We have a few more “wins” to accomplish but with the leadership in our county and town, I’m confident about the outcome. 

Our board and staff continues to do the business of our town. Completing our 2019/2020 budget for the coming year was a daunting task since we had to wait for the State of Tennessee to set our new equalized property tax rate. I’ve learned that equalization is a fluid and ever-changing event for cities and town’s because taxpayers can rightly appeal an appraisal they deem too high. As some taxpayers see their appeal granted and tax burden lowered, our town must adjust revenue collections to offset those reductions. I expect our new property tax rate to be set at $1.20 in the coming years after state equalization lowered it from $1.30. This year we will operate on a lean budget and focus on our basic responsibilities to our residents.

Lastly congratulations to William “Beebo” Russell for earning Employee of the Month. He is a great representative for our town staff but also for our community. In October we have our 2019 Storytelling Festival and other great events. Make sure to come attend and enjoy the wonderful quality of life we have in Jonesborough and eastern Tennessee!

— Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest

Endangered Species Act may be in danger

The Tennessee Coneflower is among the success stories in preservation of our natural heritage, through the Endangered Species Act. Thought to have moved to middle Tennessee, over thousands of years before the last ice age glaciers’ advance, it stayed there when the glaciers retreated, no longer found anywhere else.

The ESA law, passed unanimously by the Congress in 1973, states that “the United States has pledged itself … to safeguard, for the benefit of all citizens, the Nation’s heritage in fish, wildlife and plants.”

It has done this remarkably well. More than 99 percent of all species listed for protection under it have been saved from extinction. Among them, gravely endangered earlier but now de-listed as recovered, are bald eagles and the Tennessee Coneflower, both now at home in the Tri-Cities.

Unfortunately, the Trump Administration is changing the law’s regulations in ways that will significantly reduce these protections and limit public participation in the decision process.

Two principles of the ESA are being overturned. Congress meant the listing of both endangered and threatened species to be made “solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data.” Now, sidelining science, economic considerations or cost to someone or some entity is to be a significant factor for listing. Threatened species – likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future – will no longer receive the same protection.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, reviewing the August 12 rule concludes that “The Trump Administration dismantles endangered species protections as sixth mass extinction looms.”

The mass extinction references a recent report from the United Nations according to which a million species are at risk of forever loss, in this century. Climate change is identified as the leading driver of the losses.

Were the Tennessee Coneflower to journey off again to preserve itself in the face of climatic forces, it would travel in direction opposite to its move here thousands of years ago. In the warming world under climate change, it would move northward or to higher ground, as some trees and other plants, and animals, are documented to have been doing.

Unfortunately, the UCS states, the new rule will prevent the responsible federal agencies from considering future effects of climate change on species. As though demanding the plant or animal to stay put through their now occupied landscape no longer is hospitable to their needs, the rule “makes it almost impossible to designate habitat” which a species might inhabit in the warmer future but doesn’t now.

The Tennessee Natural Heritage Program’s 2016 Rare Plant List contains some 300 trees, flowering and other vascular plants with endangered or threatened status. The first are “critically imperiled in the state (and) the species is particularly vulnerable to extirpation from Tennessee.” Those in the latter category are “imperiled within the state (with) few remaining individuals and vulnerable to extirpation.”

By far most of these were not at risk in other parts of the country where they live. Federal listing, implying endangerment across all their native range, applied to 19, and by that year (2016) the Tennessee Coneflower and one of our sunflower species were shown as de-listed, no longer needing special ESA protection.

In 1979, Echinacea tennesseensis was the first plant from our state to be placed under ESA protection. The state’s Heritage Office was a lead agency, with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, in planning and executing its recovery program (achieved in 2011). Protection measures included its planting in the state’s Designated Natural Areas, and assiduously “removing competing vegetation” to allow the new populations to thrive.

Where public entities, towns or businesses, or private owners are in lucky possession of the rarities of our plant heritage, one would hope that plain weeding would be done to maintain them. And that the Administration would learn citizens’ desire to see our plant and animal heritage preserved for future generations, with the help of an ESA as the Congress intended, if need be.

— Frances Lamberts

Schools should be the focus

EDITOR’S NOTE: Below is Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest’s first installment of his new monthly column in the Herald & Tribune.

It is my pleasure to share news and happenings in Jonesborough each month in the Herald & Tribune.  The month of August has many exciting things to be proud of; first and foremost is our town board proposing to partner with the Washington County Commission and Washington County School Board to develop a long-term improvement plan for our Jonesborough elementary and middle school facilities and our town’s recreational parks.

Schools play an important role developing pride in community and enhancing the quality of life. I’m a believer that a better educated child will develop into a good citizen making our community safer and stronger economically. 

Schools are also an economic driver and job creator that have a lasting impact on their communities. I’m hopeful this Thursday leads to stronger relationships and trusting partnerships between our three boards. It is time for good men and women to come together to better the future for the youth of Jonesborough and Washington County. 

Come join us Thursday at 6 p.m. at the McKinney Center! 

A few other things to be proud of in Jonesborough is our best ever score of 99 percent from Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation.  This multi-day evaluation examines all aspects of our water system the past two years and is a tribute to the effort and competency of a staff  that serves over 30,000 water users. 

Jonesborough is proud to produce safe and clean drinking water for our friends and neighbors throughout Washington County. This month we also open our new Fleet Maintenance Facility that will serve our town the next 30 years or more. I’m proud of the finished product our staff has produced and the frugality they used to build it. We’ve also seen continued progress in our historic Jackson Theater project!  

Lastly, it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t say thanks to the volunteers and staff that produce such wonderful events in Jonesborough each month.  Whether it is Scoop Fest, a 5k Pioneer Glow Run,  the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre opening Gala, a new exhibit at Chuckey Depot Museum or an art-filled weekend at the McKinney Center, we are blessed by these tremendous quality of life events in Jonesborough.  Thanks to all involved.  Come join our board when we meet the second Monday of every month.  

Mayor Chuck Vest

Letter to the Editor: The climate urgency for the young


“Your election is our future” was the young people’s theme in Europe this May. They demonstrated by the thousands in cities and towns as elections for the European parliament approached. They demanded them to be a “climate election.” It should turn the tide on climate chaos and bring in politicians who understand its seriousness and act responsibly on climate change.

In a movement initiated by the young Swedish student Greta Thunberg, they skipped school on Fridays, held demonstrations, sought various means to bring their concerns – for a livable future for them – to the public and governments.

In the Rhine area in Germany where I was visiting, 12,000 marched in Cologne declaring “the clock is ticking for the planet.” In Neuss, upper-elementary and high school students met with the city council for a “Climate Talk.” In Bonn, their demand included a halt to subsidization of the fossil fuels which drive climate change, and a carbon tax on them.

In Grevenbroich, a 16-year old said: I should be attending classes in geography, art, German, math, and social studies today, but I am demonstrating for more climate protection. I can’t vote yet, but I am fighting for this goal. Our future depends on it.

Oh, the wisdom of the young! The very next month, they had to endure another scorching heat wave with 4 degrees C hotter than normal temperatures spreading up from the Sahara and stalling across western Europe, one, intensely scorching day as much as 10 ºC higher.

The Copernicus Climate Change Service reported the June temperatures being the highest ever recorded, worldwide.

With voter turnout the highest in 20 years, the Greens Party surged to its strongest performance, gaining one-fourth of all seats in the European parliament and promising the fight for climate protection the young people demand.

Frances Lamberts


Climate change impacts unfolding in Tennessee


The iconic wild ramp of Southern Appalachia may be one of the ecological and cultural casualties of climate change, according to the latest Federal Climate Change Report. That probably won’t ever be a national news headline but the potential demise of that humble plant, mentioned by name in the report, highlights the vulnerability of our region to the effects of climate change.

You may have missed it but less than a year ago, FOX 17 News in Nashville reported on the Federal Climate Change Report’s assessment of impacts to Tennessee. The report, developed by 13 federal agencies and a team of more than 300 scientists and experts from local, state and federal government and the private sector outlined impacts to the region.

The findings of the report included, not surprisingly, more and longer periods of excessive heat, an increase in extreme downpours and flooding, more and longer periods of drought and an increase in the number and severity of wildfires and vector-borne diseases in the region.

The report goes on to say changing winter temperature extremes, wildfire patterns, floods and droughts, among other factors, are expected to redistribute species and change our local ecosystems, affecting resources we depend on for “livelihoods, protection, and well-being.”

“For example, certain insect species, including mosquitoes and tree-damaging beetles, are expected to move northward in response to climate change, which could affect human health and timber supplies,” the report says. “And some bird species, including certain ducks, are not expected to migrate as far south in response to milder winters, which could affect birding and hunting recreational opportunities.”

Intra-annual droughts, like the one in 2016, are expected to become more frequent in the future and devastating wildfires along with it. Agriculture and drinking water supplies will be affected.

The executive summary of the report, found at noted that poorer areas, like many of our rural, Northeast Tennessee counties, may be impacted more significantly because of vulnerable infrastructure, the inability to “respond robustly” to disasters, inadequate health care and other resources, and the associated impacts to transportation and the economy. Most county and municipal governments in the area struggle with maintaining infrastructure and services as it is, without the compounding factors of advancing climate change effects. Rural southeast residents will see increasing demand on electrical grids and heating and cooling costs.

Emergency management and first responder agencies will face challenges. According to the report, the healthcare system in the Southeast is already overburdened and has seen more rural hospital closings than any other region. Tennessee is among the top five states for hospital closures.

West Nile virus has already made its way into the state. Dengue, Zika and others could follow. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “illnesses from mosquito, tick, and flea bites have tripled in the U.S. and nine new germs spread by mosquitoes and ticks have been discovered or introduced.

It would be foolhardy to sit and twiddle our thumbs while we watch catastrophe continue to unfold, but what can we do in the face of such large and varied problems? The idea of preparing for the worst while working for the best seems like a good strategy to me. For some, that may mean installing solar panels, improving home insulation or upgrading to a more efficient vehicle to reduce their carbon footprint.

Trying to prepare to be less dependent on goods and services from vulnerable infrastructure, as individuals, families and communities should be coupled with working toward solutions, locally, nationally and globally.

That strategy could encompass many things but one area for which there are resources to help citizens prepare is the aftermath of natural disasters. The federal government provides  guidelines for individuals, families, farms and businesses to prepare for such events at

To be in a position to help others when local resources are stressed by critical incidents, become certified as an emergency medical responder or for a community emergency response team, or CERT. Licensed ham radio operators can become vital links in the chain of communication when phone and internet services are interrupted. The Tennessee State Forestry website provides strategies to prevent and minimize damage to property from wildfires.

Climate change should be on the radar of our local elected officials and their constituents should be engaging them in helpful conversations to develop plans to halt or reverse it and manage the impacts. Ditto for our state and national representatives.

The good news is that as more data emerges, more people are taking a common sense look at what the potential outcomes and solutions are. By using Earthwise strategies we can adapt to and overcome the threat posed by climate change. We must if we’re going to avoid disaster.

Father of the Bird: Fatherhood runs the gamut among world’s birds


Since we honored fathers this week with a special day, I thought it might be a good time to look to the bird world for some examples of what fatherhood means among our fine feathered friends.

Among many of the raptors, which includes hawks, falcons and eagles, females are significantly larger than males. Unsurprisingly, much of the job of protecting the nest and young falls to the larger and stronger females. Male raptors, for the most part, are good parents and hunt prey and deliver food to the nest. Sometimes, though, there can be trouble in paradise. For example, researchers are giving a new look at the dynamics between mated bald eagles. The prevailing theory once supposed that bald eagles mate for life.

In an article published Nov. 9, 2012, on the website of William and Mary College, researchers announced that they have begun to notice that eagles on occasion undertake the avian equivalent of “divorce.”

Bryan Watts, the director of the Center for Conservation Biology, was interviewed for the article. Watts noted that both males and female eagles will cheat. Getting away with cheating, however, favors the female. Watts explained that the male may be absent fishing when another male eagle visits the nest site and proceeds to mate with the female. Consequently, the unsuspecting mate returns and could end up raising eaglets that were fathered by the intruder instead of himself.

There are some male birds who are more steadfast once they mate. For instance, swans, cranes and albatrosses are known for sticking with a chosen mate over a lifetime. Two endangered species — the California condor and the whooping crane — are known to mate for life. Cranes typically choose a mate when they reach the age of two or three; condors, on the other hand, usually don’t mate until they are at least six to eight years old. Of course, both these birds live long lives. Whooping cranes may live to the age of 25 while condors can live for as long as six decades.

According to the Audubon website, we can look to a family of shorebirds for some examples that go against usual gender norms. Phalaropes reverse the usual sex roles in birds, with the females being larger and more colorful than males, In addition, females take the lead in courtship, while males are left to incubate the eggs and care for the young once the business of mating is done. Three species of phalaropes inhabit North America: Wilson’s phalarope, red-necked phalarope and red phalarope.

Many male birds lend a hand in building nests or raising young. There are some examples of “deadbeat dads,” however, with one of the most glaring being the beloved ruby-throated hummingbird. A male hummingbird is unlikely to ever lay eyes on his offspring. Once mating has been concluded, the female is left to build a nest on her own. She also incubates the eggs without any help from her mate, who has probably already skipped out and started to court other female hummingbirds in the vicinity. Once the two eggs hatch, the female hummingbird is solely responsible for feeding the hungry offspring. It’s the primary reason hummingbirds always lay two eggs. With her high metabolism, a female hummingbird would be hard pressed to feed herself and any more than two young.

Some male birds, like their human counterparts, approach romance by initiating courtship by bringing some shiny bling to the relationship. Bowerbirds, which are found mainly in New Guinea and Australia, are renowned for their unique courtship behavior.  A male bowerbird will build a structure — the bower — and decorate it with sticks, flowers, shells or other brightly colored objects in an attempt to attract a mate. Alas, once he has won a mate with these “bribes,” he’s no better than male hummingbirds. The females are left to build the nest and raise the young without any assistance from the males.

Satin bowerbird males often decorate with blue, yellow or shiny objects, including berries, flowers or even plastic items such as ink pens, drinking straws and clothes pegs. As the males mature they use more blue objects than other colors. The decorated bower becomes a stage from which males carry out intense behavioral displays called dances to attract their mates.

The world’s largest flightless birds – ostriches, emus, rhea, cassowaries and a few others – would make good “father of the year” candidates. For instance, male ostriches share incubation duties with females. Once the eggs hatch, male ostriches are active in leading young to suitable foraging habitat and protecting them from predators. Some male ostriches can stand nine feet tall and weigh 320 pounds, so dad is an imposing obstacle for many predators. In the event of an attack, the male will try to draw off the predator while the chicks run for cover with their mother.

Fatherhood often means a dedicated effort on the part of some birds, while others basically make their genetic contribution to ensuring the survival of the species and are done with the concept. There’s a surprising variety to behold once one starts looking at the different avian approaches to fatherhood.

Taking a closer look at nature’s ‘unprecedented’ rate of decline


Imagine a world where about one million species of animals and plants have died. Much of the human population doesn’t have clean drinking water and the loss of species and worsening climate change has led to severe food and water shortages, rampant disease, an increasing number of environmental refugees, civil unrest and political turmoil.

Now imagine that scenario is real and unfolding now. Because it is.

A report summary released by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in May ( unveils an environmental apocalypse that has been accelerating for decades. Left unchecked, the rapid degradation of our environment means that by the time my grandchildren reach my age of 50-something, the world they live in will seem like a science fiction dystopia compared to today.

The IPBES report, the most comprehensive of its kind to date, assessed changes in the environment over the past 50 years to project possible outcomes for the future of planet Earth. It calls the rapid decline of nature “dangerous” and “unprecedented,” with species extinction rates “accelerating.” It warns that the “current global response is insufficient” and “transformative changes” are needed to halt the decline.

Here are some of the report’s findings:

• Up to 1 million species are threatened with extinction, many within decades.

• Approximately 75 percent of the land-based environment and 66 percent of the marine-based environment has been “severely altered” by human actions.

• About 60 billion tons of renewable and nonrenewable resources are extracted globally each year, up nearly 100 percent since 1980

• More than 85 percent of the wetlands present in 1700 were lost by 2000 and that loss continues to grow.

• More than 75 percent of global food crops rely on animal pollination and $235 to $577 billion of annual global crop value is at risk due to pollinator loss.

• 100-300 million people in coastal areas are at increased risk due to loss of coastal habitat protection.

• Only 68 percent of global forest area remains today compared with the estimated pre-industrial level. More than 700 million acres of native forest cover were lost from 1990-2015 due to clearing and wood harvesting.

• $345 billion in global subsidies are paid to industries like coal, oil and natural gas global for fossil fuels that result in $5 trillion in overall costs, including costs to the environment.

• More than 2,500 political conflicts over fossil fuels, water, food and land are currently occurring worldwide.

• 40 percent of the global population lacks access to clean and safe drinking water.

• More than 80 percent of global wastewater is discharged untreated into the environment.

• 300-400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge, and other wastes from industrial facilities are dumped annually into the world’s waters.

• Plastic pollution has increased 10 times since 1980.

“Ecosystems, species, wild populations, local varieties and breeds of domesticated plants and animals are shrinking, deteriorating or vanishing. The essential, interconnected web of life on Earth is getting smaller and increasingly frayed,” said Prof. Josef Settele, co-chair of the assessment, in a news release ( “This loss is a direct result of human activity and constitutes a direct threat to human well-being in all regions of the world.”

I wonder if we would be so nonchalant about destroying so many other species if so many of us weren’t under the delusion of being separate from nature and our environment. We are as much a part of it as the bug crawling across my floor, the bird singing outside my window that will eat the bug when I put it outside, the tomatoes growing in my garden that I’ll eat this summer, the bacteria and fungi that will eat me when I die.

Animal, plant or fish, we all drink the same water. We breathe same air. In fact, without trees, plants and algae, we’d have no oxygen to breathe and our atmosphere would become so saturated with CO2 that we couldn’t survive. Nature and the environment are our food, water, medicine, energy, and shelter.

The good news from the IPBES report summary is that opposition from “vested interests” — those who make money off of destroying the environment —  can be overcome for the public good. It will require new legislation to change how we allow industries to operate at our expense. But legislation takes time and, according to the report, we don’t have much time to turn things around.

Fortunately, we don’t have to wait for legislation to be passed to start doing the things we know we need to do to save ourselves and our planet. While we ask our lawmakers for better laws and raise awareness with our friends and neighbors, we can begin taking action, individually and locally, to minimize the harm we cause ourselves. Together, by choosing to live Earthwise, we can change things for the better.

Protecting our rivers of life: The Nolichucky


Rivers sustain life. They provide water to vegetation, creatures and humans. They serve as a means for transportation and provide energy that has been used to run mills and is transformed into electricity. They are a source of food and provide beautiful space for recreation and contemplation. They are an economic asset. Throughout recorded history, rivers have been the waters of life that allowed humankind to expand and cultivate civilizations.

The Nolichucky River, one of the best known and most loved in our region, threads its way for 115 miles from the Blue Ridge Mountains at the North Toe River in western North Carolina to Douglas Lake in Jefferson County, Tennessee. It’s also been a thread winding through the history of our area.  Prior to European colonization, Native American civilizations relied on and enjoyed the Nolichucky. Pioneers settled along its banks in the 1770s and today it nourishes farmland on its way through Unicoi, Washington, Greene, Cocke, Hamblen and Jefferson counties.

Scholars and area residents sometimes dispute the meaning of the name Nolichucky. According to Brett Riggs, Ph.D, a Sequoia Distinguished Scholar at Western Carolina University, in the documentary “Secrets of the Nolichucky,” it’s derived from the Cherokee word Na’na-tlu gun’yi, meaning Spruce-Tree Place. Local lore interprets it as Rushing Waters, Dangerous Waters, Black Swirling Water, River of Death and Man Killer. Some of these names undoubtedly came about because the sometimes turbulent force of the river can trap a person in horizontal swirls beneath the surface, drowning them.

Depending on the season and which stretch of the river you’re on, the Nolichucky can be wide or narrow, slow or rapid, placid or raging. It’s loved for wild, white water rides and a relaxing day of fishing. I love to take my grandchildren to play on its banks in David Crockett Birthplace State Park. Seeing anything through a child’s eyes reveals worlds often hidden to preoccupied adult minds. In turn, the river can often teach lessons difficult to explain in words to children but easily read by them in the illustrations of the living river.

I hope my grandchildren will be able to take their own children and grandchildren to the same banks someday. But I know that threats to the river could mean they won’t be able to fish or swim in it if adults who love it don’t watch over and protect it now. Among the concerns for its ecosystems, economic viability and beauty are sediment and chemical runoff from farming, chemical manufacturing and radioactivity.

Erwin Nuclear Fuels’ presence on the river began posing concerns many years ago and just last October, a scientist held a public forum in Jonesborough to announce he found enriched uranium in the Nolichucky. He said he traced it back to the NFS facility. Not long after, U.S. Nitrogen, a chemical company located on the Nolichucky in Greene County, disclosed to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation that water monitoring tests showed thallium in water in one of their holding ponds on the river. Thallium is a potentially deadly chemical but one not used by U.S. Nitrogen, which manufactures ammonium nitrate. It seems more likely, since thallium is used to make pesticides and weed killers, that it entered the water through rain runoff and was still present during the manufacturer’s required tests.

Just a few weeks ago, TDEC announced an extension of the fish consumption advisory it issued in August because mercury levels are higher than normal. Mercury is a toxic heavy metal that can cause illness, disability and death. The river has also been listed as impaired due to excessive sedimentation from agricultural runoff. 

What we can do to help protect this precious resource? A good starting point is to deepen our relationship with it. The saying, “out of sight, out of mind,” applies here. We fight harder for things we love. Visit it often to fish, paddle, float or simply enjoy a quiet day or family picnic on its banks.

Staying informed, though a challenge in our busy lives, is a good next step. The EPA, TDEC and a Cocke County-based organization called Clean Water Expected in Tennessee all have Facebook pages or newsletters to help residents stay informed about the state of rivers. State parks and fishing, wildlife and water sport organizations sometimes coordinate volunteer days to clean up rivers and creeks.

Nolichucky Wild and Scenic is an effort to protect a portion of the Nolichucky from Poplar, North Carolina to Erwin, Tennessee, by having it designated under the Wild and Scenic Act. The effort, supported by Tennessee District 4 Representative John B. Holsclaw, Jr., has gained momentum but needs a push from local residents to win the support of Congress. Find more information about the effort at

And remember, water is life.

What I hope to do is take what we have learned from our committee hearings and the recommendations we received from industry experts, and compile the proposals into a package of legislation that can pass in Congress and be signed into law, so that we can give all Americans better health outcomes and better experiences at a lower cost.

Ducks, goats in the spring build rich childhood memories


Growing up, Ward’s Feed Store was a sort of magical place. On the outskirts of downtown, it was the Waters family source for any farm supply we might need. There was always a lazy dog lounging on the concrete floor, a plethora of snacks to choose from at the counter after school and an undeniable smell of feed each and every time you opened those large metal doors. But for us, specifically one Easter, Ward’s held more than just our weekly supply of sweet feed.

We owned a small hobby farm nestled in the heart of Kingsport. The place was grandfathered in and so my mom got her lifelong wish of having any farm animal she could want. This also meant my sisters and I had that same luxury (at times, to my dad’s dismay). One Easter, as it was told to me, my mom and dad “saw the Easter bunny hopping down the street with a basket full of baby ducks” — which really meant they got a duck for each of us at Ward’s.

To a 6-year-old girl growing up in the ‘90s, who else would you name your duck after other than Ginger Spice, your favorite member of the all-girl band, The Spice Girls? (However, I’ve since decided Sporty Spice was a much more worthy member of the band, but that’s a column for another day and special edition all together).

My two older sisters named their ducks Mo, after the third member of the Three Stooges and KC, because the duck was a Khaki Campbell. As for my younger sister, she came up with a name I’m sure no one has ever given to a duck or any other living thing for that matter. She decided she’d name her duck “Salad” — “because her neck is green,” she would say.

Being the proud owners of four baby ducks wasn’t what we expected though. For starters, we eventually discovered that three of our ducks, which had girl names, ended up being males.

For a family of all girls, this was upsetting — though I guess Salad could pass as a male or female’s name.

As for Mo, who was the only duck we thought was a male, “he” in fact turned out to be the lone female. My sister renamed her Mojo, so that she didn’t have to go the rest of her duck life as a female duck named “Mo.”

After our ducks put what we called “the duck pen” to good use on our property, we later got two goats. They were wonderful, small pet goats, but as most goats do, they had a knack for escaping their pen.

Macarena, a Nigerian goat named after the ‘90s hit, “Macarena,” and Tinkerbell, a Pygmy goat named after the fairy from Peter Pan, both loved to climb our fence and roam our property and sometimes that of our neighbor’s. And when that wasn’t enough entertainment, they’d happily climb up in the large oak tree in the backyard.

The two goats weren’t the only two who liked to escape. We also had a Morgan Thoroughbred horse named Beauty. One time, she somehow escaped from her pasture and found herself a nice flower garden to fertilize in our neighborhood. Our neighbor on the end of the cul-de-sac didn’t welcome that sort of fertilizer and requested that we shovel it from her yard.

Spring and summer at the Waters household was never dull, that was for sure. And though I’m certain my mom was sick of seeing our two goats way up in the tree in the backyard and my dad probably wasn’t too excited to shovel manure out of our neighbor’s yard, chasing goats and misnaming ducks was all part of the fun of growing up on a farm — and it certainly has provided a plethora of memories to look back on for my family.

I can’t say we’ll be looking to get back into the duck business anytime soon. And the goats we have now are well secured (and I’m proud to say, have not ventured into our neighborhood in quite some time). Ward’s is nothing but a memory now as it looks like it’s well on its way to becoming a parking lot and that childhood home of ours is owned by someone else and looks entirely different from how it used to (it breaks my heart to see the spot where the colossal barn that had to coolest loft a kid could ever dream of once had been).

But my family and I often revisit that place in our minds along with the adventures we had there. This spring, and really in each season we encounter, I urge you to live in the moment and say yes to that animal every once in a while — and then prepare yourself for more memories than your Easter basket can carry.

A message from the mayor — Washington County: Education, commerce, heritage remain the keys

I appreciate the invitation to reflect on the past and talk a little about what I see for the future. I look forward to hearing from readers about what they hope to see in their own lives over the coming year.

Historically, Washington County places great value on building a strong educational system, warmly welcoming commerce and preserving our heritage. These values continue today as cornerstones essential for a dynamic and productive Washington County.

Building on these values, Washington County reached several major milestones in the past 12 months, some readily recognizable while others require a closer look to appreciate their impact. 

First, in completion of an important Washington County capital project, the Board of Education plans to open the new Boones Creek K-8 School in August 2019.

The new school’s “Bars” mascot is reflective of Washington County’s deep tie to frontiersman Daniel Boone. Much like Boone, blazing trails to open a new future for a young country, the state-of-the-art facility will empower our young people to blaze their own trails by embracing our heritage while learning to compete in a global economy. 

Amid brick-and-mortar achievement is an equally important accomplishment for citizens: establishment of strategic financial management that reduced existing debt and interest so we can afford a cutting-edge project like the Boones Creek School. 

Meanwhile, the soon-to-be shuttered Boones Creek Elementary School presents another opportunity to advance the lives of our residents by improving workforce readiness. To achieve this, Washington County government is asking the Tennessee College of Applied Technology to consider BCES’ reuse as a technology training school.

Washington County also continues to nurture relationships with businesses that have invested in our community. I devote significant time each month to visiting existing businesses, like Nakatetsu Machining Technologies, to hear first-hand what the needs of our job creating industries are.

And, we have added urgently needed development inventory in the form of two new pad-ready sites at the Washington County Industrial Park that is home to Nakatetsu. These sites can accommodate large businesses needing 200,000- to 500,000-square-feet locations. As a Select Tennessee Certified Site, the industrial park is certified competitive as the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development works to locate new businesses in our state.

Another construction project is one you may not notice unless you make a point to look for it.  Renovations to our Historic Washington County Courthouse on Main Street in Jonesborough are underway.  The 105-year-old clock tower has been freshly painted, with structural work underway that will preserve the building for future generations.  Renovations continue through this summer. 

Also, many of you are aware that in late 2018 BrightRidge began deploying high-speed fiber optic and fixed wireless internet. Beneath the headlines, your county government placed a strong focus on ensuring BrightRidge also provides rural residents with a new high-speed Internet option.

At the same time, Jonesborough and Johnson City are now among a handful of communities nationwide with 10 Gb symmetrical internet available. In today’s economy, world-class broadband infrastructure is essential in both education and economic development.

And, tucked away near Telford, BrightRidge and Silicon Ranch also broke ground in 2018 on a 5-megawatt solar farm which is now providing clean, low-cost energy to residents, schools and businesses alike through the region’s first solar community offering.

In looking ahead, I believe the cornerstone of a successful future for Washington County will come through developing new partnerships.

Aerospace Park at Tri-Cities Airport is a prime example. This effort required cooperation between cities, counties and the state to construct an aerospace-oriented business park essential to attracting new high-paying jobs to Northeast Tennessee.

Similarly, Johnson City’s recognition as the Top Mid-sized Town in the 2018 Top Adventure Town contest rewards years of focus and investment in improving access to the mountains, rivers and attractions of Washington County.

And, most recently, the Tennessee Department of Transportation has granted $2 million to the Washington County Economic Development Council’s for railroad connectivity improvements. These improvements, which only happened by working together, will bring greater access to area industries serviced by the railroad. 

In closing, I again thank you for this opportunity to bring citizens up to speed on progress to date, and know that as Mayor, I strongly believe our brightest future will only be realized through strong cooperation between county departments, constitutional offices and the commission; between the city and county; and where ever it makes sense on a regional basis.

Mayor Joe Grandy

A message from the mayor — Jonesborough: ‘We have so much of which to be proud’

Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest

I’ve been honored to be the Mayor of Jonesborough this past year and it’s a blessing to write this letter to you during the Herald & Tribune’s 150th year anniversary and its 2019 Progress Edition. I’m looking forward to leading our town forward as we complete important projects and begin planning new endeavors that continue to build on our town’s progress. I’ll share those plans later in this letter.

We have an independent, diverse-thinking board consisting of Vice Mayor Adam Dickson and Aldermen Terry Countermine, Virginia Causey and Stephen Callahan. They all bring valuable insight, ideas and love of our own town during our board discussions. Our board and town staff promise to spend wisely, protect our future by remembering our history and enhance our quality of life.

First, our town has many successes I wish to mention. We are certainly proud that our town had an outstanding audit with zero negative findings this past year! Our board is appreciative for the leadership Abbey Miller, Bob Browning, Craig Ford and town staff used to achieve this excellence.

I was excited to sign contracts recently with contractors to begin work on the historic Jackson Theatre. A theater that will accentuate the business of our town’s retailers and wonderful restaurants while improving our quality of life. Today our Jonesborough Repertory Theatre and Wetlands Water Park are profitable and the addition of the Jackson Theatre should only grow profits for our town. These profits allow our town government to keep our taxes and fees low while growing a town that thrives into the future.

A few more successes are that we continue to replace old water lines and meters, and soon will occupy a new maintenance facility that will serve our town for the next 30 years.

Our greatest success is the people of our town that volunteer their time, energy and expertise on committees, in performances, at our parks, mentor our youth and as helpers or leaders during events. We have so much of which to be proud but we the people are Jonesborough. 

As your mayor my vision going forward is for our town to continue strengthening its financial balance sheet while investing attention to outdated facilities and enhancing our town’s special quality of life. We can do that with wise spending while exploring ways to increase our revenue growth throughout our city limits

We also should realize we’ve saved tens of thousands of dollars by changing the way our IT systems are managed in the future. I hope to gain the board’s support in reviving a treasure we have at Persimmon Ridge Park. This park was born when former mayor Jimmy Neil Smith had the foresight to begin Jonesborough’s rebirth by monetizing our historic past and storytelling. I am so thankful for that vision because many towns our size died or became stagnant.

At Persimmon Ridge Park, we can perfect the hiking trails, better promote the addition of Frisbee golf, add new features that promote health and fitness, improve the safety of playing surfaces used by our youth and rebuild structures that don’t rise to the excellence we expect in Jonesborough.

We’ve known for years our youth needed better facilities for soccer and I’m hopeful we can make this a reality in the coming years. This can be accomplished economically in addition to adding features of a pet park. The lives of our youth and our own can be much too sedentary so making our parks attractive to all will benefit our community for years to come. 

Our board invites you to come attend our town meetings the second Monday of every month. 

Good things continue in Jonesborough.

Mayor Chuck Vest

How does your garden grow?


In the last column we covered some of the many ways gardening benefits us and the environment. Since then, I’ve heard a lecture that brought out a few more. Growing our own food is autonomy. In other words, being a producer instead of a consumer gives us a degree of freedom. Sharing the bounty from our gardens improves the lives of others and creates powerful social links. Lastly, cooking what you have grown yourself feels great. Read on to learn more about enjoying the benefits of gardening.

The 17 degree temperature I woke up to this morning doesn’t feel like gardening weather, but there’s still plenty to do. I’m actually a bit behind. January would have been the perfect time to make a garden plan and buy seeds to start indoors last month.

A garden plan should take into consideration how much food you want to grow for the number of people in your household and include a diagram of which plants will go where. Information for starting a garden from start to finish, including calculating how much to plant and how to preserve your harvest, can be found on the internet or in a large number of books. One of my favorite books is “Back to Basics” by Reader’s Digest.

I like to get some cool weather crops like kale, spinach and lettuce in the ground early. They do well under row covers when spring frosts nip at the garden in April and it yields a longer harvest before the lettuce and spinach bolt in our southern summer heat.

Today I started some seeds left over from last year and began building hugel mounds to expand my garden space. Hugel mounds are popular with permaculture gardeners because they mimic the natural soil building process of forests and reduce the need for irrigation while using up yard debris. See to learn more.

I’m slowly learning to incorporate permaculture principles into my garden and registered for a free online course. It’s the smartest, most sustainable type of gardening I’ve ever seen and can be adapted to any size space. Based on cooperation with the environment, rather than competition, it’s less labor intensive and costly than conventional gardening over time. Visit for more information about the class.

Permaculture is also one of the best ways to secure a personal food supply in a sometimes insecure world. Check out the Youtube video “Surviving Collapse” with Geoff Lawton to learn more about that.

It certainly isn’t the only way to garden though. When I started out gardening years ago, a neighbor plowed up a plot of ground and I planted vegetables in rows. It worked but it took a lot of weeding and watering to maintain it. The workload lightened as I learned about landscaping cloth and mulch.

Eventually I graduated to raised beds. I found they’re better for the soil, save water and produce higher yields. Raised beds sit above the level of the ground at any height and in many configuration including steps, tiers and keyhole designs. They can be mounds of dirt or boxes placed on the ground, on decks or a cement pad to accommodate variations in personal mobility or the use of adaptive gear like wheelchairs or walkers. Many types of raised beds can be purchased already made and ready to set up.

Whichever type of garden you choose, a soil test provides valuable information about a garden’s pH and which nutrients can be added to help it thrive. Your county Agricultural Extension Office can help you get that done for around $20. They can also put you in touch with a master gardener or horticulturist to help answer questions about gardening.

For those who don’t have yard space for other types of gardening, container gardens or variations on vertical gardening can turn a deck, balcony or even a window sill into a productive garden space. Almost anything that holds dirt can be used for a container garden and pallets are an easy, inexpensive way to grow vertically. I found some great pallet ideas at

If gardening of any kind won’t work for you, The Appalachian Resource Conservation and Development Council website has information about CSA buying options and farmers markets. They also offer a program called Build It Up East Tennessee for home gardeners and a field school for beginning farmers.

We’ve barely scratched the surface so I encourage you to search the internet, visit your local library or contact one of the resources mentioned above to help you get started. I also suggest you incorporate a shovel full or two of humor into your gardening venture. Gardening, above all, should be fun and enjoyable. Happy gardening!

Looking through a different lens: New columnist promises to find story behind the faces

Above is a photo from Waters’ college project in Lafollette, Tennessee.


When I ask someone to tell me their story, I never truly receive a straight answer — or really an answer at all.

On the other hand, when I ask “What’s the root of your story? What makes you tick? What tragedies have you endured?” That’s when I get responses.

The tiniest tilt of how you approach a situation can sometimes unveil everything you’re searching for.

This whole idea of pulling out the deepest parts of a stranger’s stories began before I was tasked to write feature stories and blogs about the locals of Jonesborough.

It all began with a photojournalism project in college at the University of Tennessee.

My tight-knit, advanced photojournalism class traveled to LaFollette, Tennessee where we were to capture the story of locals and then share our findings in that week’s edition of the LaFollette Press. There, I met a farmer who had the gift of snapping his fingers and his 500 pound pig would roll over, a teenage fisherman with big aspirations, and an antique shop owner who may or may not sell a local favorite of peach-infused moonshine. I discovered sunrise views of the Smoky Mountains from LaFollette backroads, I captured smiling faces that will stick with me forever and I was taught what it means to have pride in the place you call home.

When I began my position as the Tourism and Marketing Director in Jonesborough, I started writing a series of feature stories on artists at the McKinney Center. The purpose was to expose their intellectual art backgrounds, rich experiences and provide a way for the reader to connect with the instructors before signing up for their class. But to connect with these local artists, I drew from my experience in the tiny town of La Follette and looked for the story within the story — or rather the story within the person I was interviewing.

Chasidy Hathron shares her art.

I had the opportunity to write a story about Chasidy Hathron, a well-known artist in the region. I still deem that as one of the most intentional and truest conversations I’ve had with a complete stranger. She gave me a tour of her art gallery-like home, allowed me to peer inside her studio that housed the most unique antique British table, and told me the tales of trinkets on her shelf she deems as memories. She taught me that keeping little treasures like harmonicas and old coke bottles can be objects that encompass memories of people we’ve lost. She taught me the value of encouraging confidence in a child by showing them that they are special to someone. And the importance of simply sitting down with someone to have an authentic conversation. I left that day feeling like I knew just a little bit more about life.

Through the time spent interviewing and photographing these people, I found friends, I laughed and cried. I hurt with them. I hurt because I could understand their pain and sometimes because I couldn’t understand their pain. And I met people who were just like me and people who were just opposite of me.

No matter the person or the story, I always walk away with more than responses to my questions, “What’s the root of your story? What makes you tick? What tragedies have you endured?”. I walk away with answers to life’s questions.

This column will be the space where I answer a few of those questions for myself. It’ll be the place I can showcase the stories I encounter through Jonesborough’s community members. And most importantly, it’ll be the puzzle of answers to life’s questions that, one by one, Jonesborough’s locals are piecing together.

Eating the elephant just one bite at a time


Sometimes looking at a large problem can feel overwhelming, leading us to ask, “Why bother trying? It’s too big for me to fix.” Climate change, as well as other environmental challenges, can feel like that given its scope, dire consequences and the speed at which it’s happening.

We’ve probably all heard the proverb that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Like most large and complex problems, the best way to solve the climate change problem is by taking many bites. Fortunately, we don’t have to eat the climate-change elephant on our own.

While scientists unravel the causes and cures and and legislators develop strategies for tackling the problem at the government level, each one of us can help. That’s because climate change is so intricately linked to our daily lives. The decisions we make each day — in our homes, our yards, our commutes, our shopping habits — either contribute to the problem or take us a step closer toward solving it. All that’s required for us to play our part is for us to want to. No matter what our lifestyle, occupation or tax bracket, there are small things we can do to make a real difference. When all of us all over the planet are doing them, they will have a big impact.

One of those things brings a host of other benefits with it and this is the perfect time of year to begin thinking about it. I’m talking about gardening.

Gardening is a great way to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses generated by our activities that contribute to climate change, otherwise known as our carbon footprint. There are several carbon footprint calculators available online for those curious to know what size footprint they’re leaving on the earth.

The Earth is basically a large greenhouse spinning through space around the Sun. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses that accumulate in the atmosphere trap heat from the sun that gets absorbed by the Earth’s surface. To a degree — pun intended —  this is one of the things that makes our planet habitable. The excess of carbon dioxide that we’ve been generating over the past couple centuries, though, has tipped the balance towards dangerous warming of the global climate. The effects are being seen in things like polar ice melting and the associated sea level rise, more and increasingly severe weather outbreaks, flooding and droughts.

Plants take in carbon dioxide and make oxygen during the process of making their food from air, water and sunlight known as photosynthesis. Whether it’s flowers or fresh produce, a garden can help fight climate change by using carbon dioxide that’s already in the air. Gardening also helps reduce pollution from transporting produce and also reduces erosion and water runoff. Flowering plants feed pollinators, which in turn, help feed us.

But the benefits don’t stop with the environment. Gardening gets our bodies moving in ways they don’t normally move. Check out the book “Move Your DNA” by Katy Bowman to learn why that’s important.

Gardening has also been shown to reduce stress, depression, cholesterol and blood pressure. Taking time to interact with nature, including gardening, also helps us be more productive and sleep better. Vitamin D, needed to regulate a number of important processes in our bodies, is made in the skin from sunshine, which shines abundantly in the garden.

Gardens can give added resiliency should conventional food production and distribution routes be interrupted. They provide us with beauty, healthy and inexpensive food and a never ending source of wonder, learning and inspiration. They help connect us to nature and live in harmony with seasonal rhythms. Gardens also provide an outlet for nurturing and a sense of accomplishment.

Gardens can be small or large and can take many forms, including traditional landscaping and garden plots, permaculture plots, raised beds, container gardens and window gardens. That makes it easy for nearly anyone to enjoy the benefits. For those who can’t — or think they can’t — garden themselves, local produce can be purchased through farmers markets and community-supported agriculture programs, known as CSAs, which also benefits the environment by the lower carbon footprint of local producers.

Interested in finding out about the benefits firsthand? Check back as we continue the conversation about different types of gardening, developing a garden plan, local resources for gardeners of all levels of experience, CSAs and more.

Climate bill pays dividends

By Lorelei Goff

We started off 2019 with a conversation about why we have reason to hope for the future of our environment. Today, I’d like to continue that conversation with something more tangible — a strategy.

On Jan. 24, House bill 763 reintroduced a bipartisan strategy for curbing carbon pollution, which contributes to climate change, and growing jobs across the nation. Unlike most bills that make their way through Congress, this one aims to put more money in our pockets.

Exactly what is HR 763 and how will it affect us here in Northeast Tennessee? It began as HR 7173, The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2018, introduced into the house with nine bipartisan cosponsors in November. A companion bill, S 3791, introduced in December by then outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), awaits reintroduction to the Senate in the coming months.

HR 763, The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019, calls for a fee on fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. The fee will increase over a set number of years and will act as an incentive for moving away from fossil fuels to cleaner, cheaper energy sources. At the same time, it will reduce carbon pollution by 40 percent over the next 12 years and about 90 percent by 2050. This will help to limit global temperature rise and reduce illnesses and medical costs linked to the air pollution that drives climate change.

Businesses can offset the fee by capturing carbon emissions and keeping them out of the atmosphere. To protect American industries and jobs, the act calls for a border carbon adjustment fee. This fee will keep the playing field level for American companies and prevent jobs from going to other countries with cheaper labor and resources, as we’ve seen happen in our region all too often in past years. The act will also protect our region’s farmers with an exemption to the fee.

The plan is considered revenue neutral because the fee is not a tax, which is considered revenue for the government. Instead, fees collected will be put into a trust fund for the American people and distributed to us by the Treasury Department each month. The dividend will increase each year as the fee rises, topping out at roughly $3,500 per year, or nearly $300 per month, for a family of four.

Under this plan, more money will be returned to people than is paid in increased costs on fossil fuels and goods. In other words, we’ll get cash and a cleaner environment for helping to save our planet. More cash in our pockets to spend as we want each month, means stronger local economies and increased jobs. In fact, the plan predicts an increase of 2.1 million local jobs across the nation.

The most dire reason to enact a carbon pricing plan like HR 763 came to light in October with a special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. According to the report, impacts of climate change, like hot and cold temperature extremes, severe weather outbreaks, sea level rise and diminishing arctic sea ice, are already happening. Projections for just another 1 degree Celsius rise in the average global temperature warn of catastrophic droughts, famines, natural disasters, and increased cost of living and poverty.

It also poses unique challenges to our national security. Officials in the Department of Defense have said that climate change poses immediate risks to national security and called it a “threat multiplier.” 

Limiting global temperature rise to an additional .5 degrees Celsius from where it is today, could mean a huge difference in terms of droughts, flooding, loss of ecosystems and giving humans time to adapt to a changing climate. To do that will require what the report calls “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

The United States ranks second in carbon emissions, behind China and ahead of India and Russia. More than 40 countries, including China and the European Union, already have carbon pricing plans of some kind, most being of the carbon tax or cap and trade variety. Many are making long strides in clean energy development. China has made significant cuts in coal use and is investing hundreds of billions of dollars in clean energy.

The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act would again place America among the leading nations of the world in finding climate change solutions. It will also help to keep us competitive with other first world countries in developing technology and energy strategies as we move through the 21st century.

It’s important to let our elected officials know we want the cleaner environment, better health, climate change mitigation and economic growth HR 763 can deliver. Our voices or our silence will influence our future.

Think twice before embarking on your own version of ‘Wedding Crashers’


It can be nerve-wracking walking into a room full of strangers knowing you won’t recognize one person. But it’s even more nerve-wracking when you have a secret you hope no one figures out that night — that you weren’t actually invited to this gathering.

You’re actually a wedding crasher.

It was a random weekend in May and I had driven to Knoxville to spend some time with my best friend, Jill. We had no official plans.

Well, I didn’t have plans. Jill, however, most certainly did — for the both of us.

Jill’s undying wish was to crash a wedding. I wasn’t so wild about the idea of potentially getting caught, but for some reason my friend was convinced it’d be thrilling, we’d get to dance and we could look back fondly on the night we decided to become wedding crashers.

After a lot of convincing from my seemingly fearless friend, I reluctantly agreed.

But how does one know all that vital wedding information like the time, location and the names of the bride and groom?

Nowadays it’s easier than ever before.

So for anyone considering crashing a wedding, here’s tip no. 1: Gather all your information beforehand. That task has been made easy thanks to social media and websites such as

We googled “Knoxville, Tennessee wedding” and the date and, before we knew it, we had a buffet of wedding opportunities before us. Did we want to go to a wedding in West Knoxville? That was a little too far away. What about one in Knox County? We didn’t want to run the risk of getting totally lost out there (which Jill and I had a tendency to do in Knox County). So we opted for a close by, downtown wedding in a cool, new wedding venue.

Believe it or not, the time and location wasn’t the most vital piece of information. We needed to know the bride and groom, where they were from and any details actual guests would know.

The bride was more than giving when it came to the “about us” section on her page, so we did our wedding crashing homework and made our way to that wedding we were never supposed to attend.

Jill and I slid through the doors behind an unsuspecting couple and sheepishly grabbed a glass of champagne (which, due to my nervousness, I never actually drank). Then we looked around for the most inconspicuous table to stake out.

There was an out-of-the-way loft with two tables that didn’t seem like the type of place the bride and groom would want to seat the bridal party or family members. Plus, it would give us a good view of the room, making it easier to dodge the bride and groom.

We realized we’d have to share our large, round table with others, but we couldn’t have guessed who we’d be sitting with…

Out of a large group that came up to our tucked away balcony, a man and woman proceeded to step out and sit down with Jill and I. As any good wedding crasher would, we made sure to ask them who they were there for before they had the chance to ask us. (Which brings me to tip no. 2: Ask people before they ask you who they are there for, the bride or groom. And when they respond, always say the opposite.)

When we asked the man and woman who they were there for, the man said, “Oh, we’re wedding crashers.”

That’s when I imagine Jill’s spirit left her body and some part of me had the good sense to nervously laugh in a way I could probably never mimic again.

I thought we were done for.

Before Jill and I could come up with whatever words might have spilled out of our mouths, the woman said, “Oh, no. He’s joking. We’re the bride’s family.”

Somehow we had found a table with possibly the most important people at the entire wedding. Jill and I, the most unimportant people there, were sitting with the bride’s brother and sister-in-law.

I think Jill was still trying to regain consciousness at this point.

We made very little small talk (we figured we should quit while we were ahead) until the bride and groom had their first dance.

To make matters worse, as we all gathered at the balcony to watch, Jill said to the sister-in-law that she can have her spot to be able to see better, to which the sister-in-law replied, “Oh, it’s okay. We’re all here for the same reason.”

Jill had no words in reply, along with a huge pile of guilt growing by the second.

Later, as everyone headed down to the main floor to get in line for food, I suddenly noticed the line passed right by the bride and groom’s table, ensuring that each guest would get a chance to visit with the couple as they stood in line. Of course, this would have been no problem if you happen to know the bride and groom.

At that moment, there was all but a Marina-shaped hole through the front doors.

I grabbed Jill and explained our new predicament, as if sitting with the bride’s family, lying to them about having known the groom through Jill’s husband who “grew up with him” and withstanding the wedding crasher joke wasn’t enough. (And here’s tip no. 3: Make sure you have a story ready for how you know the bride and how you know the groom, just in case you need both stories for a guest from the opposite party.)

We exited to the restroom (probably to do some deep breathing exercises) and decided Jill wouldn’t get to dance in the big ballroom like she wanted to after all. We had to get out before the whole thing unraveled.

We both agreed we needed to take some time to unwind from the most white-knuckled wedding either of us had ever been to (including Jill’s own wedding last March). We opted to change at her apartment, go through Cookout like we used to during our college days and relive what had happened that night.

Part of me thinks wedding crashing is really more scary than thrilling. Part of me wouldn’t do it again. And part of me is totally convinced I would do it again but this time we’d stick it out and stay for the dancing.

Then there’s the part of me that will always wonder if the bride’s brother was onto us when he said “we’re wedding crashers”. Were they convinced of it when they got back to see their table guests had vanished?

I guess we’ll never really know.

Remembering to thank our friends – the forests and their trees


In a timely article in Scientific American on December 5, the author, Han de Groot, states that “The best technology for fighting climate change isn’t a technology.” It is the natural systems and among these, especially, forests and their trees.

The recent dramatic report from the UN climate panel on the state of the planet found so much carbon pollution in the atmosphere that “negative emissions technologies” are now also needed. At that – removing carbon dioxide from the air – trees have been expert agents for millenia.

Remember the “Keeling Curve” which shows the atmosphere’s rising carbon concentration, as measured daily by the U.S. Weather Service in Hawaii since 1958? The curve’s steep decline from April to October annually, as the trees absorb CO2 during photosynthesis to build their foliage, trunks, stems, roots? In their tissue, in surrounding soil and in homes where their wood might end up, the carbon can be bound for hundreds of years.

A single tree can store an average of 48 pounds of CO2 in a year, the author affirms, and recent research shows “intact forests [can sequester] the equivalent of the emissions of entire countries such as Peru and Colombia.”

In a lecture at ETSU, Vandana Shiva, recipient of the Right Livelihood Award, spoke about the efforts by women in Uttar Pradesh, India, as they sought to preserve the array of benefits which forests provide. When the Green Belt Movement, lead by Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai planted over 50 million trees in Kenya, the principal aim was to restore and maintain the means of subsistence in rural communities, their water supply and other, economic and social benefits.

Now, trees also embody nations’ hopes for climate mitigation. China is building a “Great Green Wall” of trees and grassland across Inner Mongolia, were desert had been expanding, creating health hazards in Beijing and drowning farms and villages in the countryside under sand and dust. Like Franklin Roosevelt’s “Tree Army,” a Chinese army of over 60,000 soldiers, relieved from military duties, is engaged country-wide to create 88 million acres of new forest by 2050.

Nicaragua, battered repeatedly in recent years by devastating drought and flooding, is undertaking a “Million Trees by 2020” project. In Louisiana, said to lose a football field of land every hundred minutes to sea level rise and naturally occurring land subsidence, volunteers are planting mangrove forests in the coastal wetlands, seeking resilience and land protection for communities.

In India last year, 1.5 million volunteers planted 66 million trees, of twenty different species, in a single day – part of that country’s pledge in the Paris climate agreement to substantially increase tree cover. If it reaches its goal, says former New York city mayor Michael Bloomberg, it will eventually store more carbon in its forests than it emits every year.

The many dimensions of this new development in tree planting – ecological and social, economic and political – have one thing in common: beyond their many benefits we have always known about we now look to trees, through “negative emissions,” to also help heal the climate.

Another good reason to be “tree huggers.”

Nuclear war and a world yearning for peace


On Veterans Day, an Associated Press article reported on the Armistice which ended World War I. Focused on “The end’s terrible toll” it noted hundreds of soldiers being killed even after the truce had been signed, the result of misunderstandings, of the hatred built up in years of unprecedented mutual slaughter, or the “inane joy of killing” in wars.

Nine million soldiers and more than 14 million people had perished in the war. Among other novelties and “epitomizing the ruthlessness of warfare” was the use of poison gas by all the major powers. This had caused more than a million casualties and close to 100,000 deaths, despite being expressly forbidden in the Hague Peace Convention of 1907, whose Article 23 states: “It is especially forbidden to employ poison or poisoned weapons.”

President T. R. Roosevelt, the first statesman to earn the Nobel Peace Prize, promoted international diplomacy and peace treaties. In the 1908 State of the Union address, he advised the Congress on the Hague Peace Conference: “The civilized nations of the world (are engaged) in temperate and kindly discussion of the methods by which the causes of war might be narrowed and its injurious effects reduced.”

A modern version of the “poisoned weapons” ban — the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons — was accepted and ratified by all but four nations (North Korea, Israel among the latter), in 1997, and enforced against Syria under the Obama and Trump administrations.

Likewise banned internationally, since July 2017, are the far more ruthless and destructive 20th century weapons of mass slaughter, nuclear bombs.

For the mounting risk from these the Doomsday Clock, a universally recognized symbol of the world’s vulnerability to civilization-ending catastrophe, was moved to two minutes to midnight in January 2017. “Major nuclear actors are on the cusp of a new arms race,” the scientists said, “that will increase the likelihood of accidents and misperceptions. Across the globe, nuclear weapons are poised to become more rather than less usable because of nations’ investments in their nuclear arsenals.”

When the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted at the United Nations in 2017, 122 nations agreed with the warning by Albert Einstein, and by hundreds of international organizations whose umbrella group (ICAN) then won the Nobel Peace Prize, that “at any price” the practice of war in which nuclear bombs might again be used, must end. The treaty will go into effect when 50 countries have ratified it.

Some US towns, cities and church denominations already have endorsed the treaty. It should be adopted by the US government and $1.7 trillion, now planned for modernizing the nuclear forces, dedicated to addressing pressing social and environmental needs. The Administration should not abandon an earlier nuclear-arms limitation treaty (the INF), successfully negotiated with Russia by President Reagan, which resulted in the destruction of almost 3,000, mostly Soviet, missiles.

And, as President Roosevelt urged of the “civilized nations,” one would have liked President Trump to participate in a US leadership role, not skip, the peace-treaty negotiations begun in Paris on the anniversary of Armistice Day.