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American Pioneers, Awake
What do you call them? Are they environmentalists, conservationists, preservationists, naturalists, futurists, outdoorsmen, pioneers?
I'm not sure. Some say they're crazy. They're not. But there are so many shades and nuances that one can rapidly lose his tongue down a rabbit hole of political incorrectness. So for all of my earthy transgressions and missteps of nomenclature, I apologize and will try to mend my ways.
What I do know is that all listed here are nature lovers - that is the common glue and the bond. They greatly treasure the natural beauty and bounty of the oldest mountains in the world, this place called Western North Carolina.
Many of the following groups and their members are on a mission to preserve, save and improve this region. So whether or not you completely agree with their stance, which are many and varied, consider each to be a knowledgeable source and inspiration for us who strive for a greener home, no matter how modest, both inside and out.
Greener is more than a state of mind. Oftentimes it is united action with an attitude, and certainly for a good cause by those with a good heart. Simply stated, they are gatekeepers, watchdogs and stewards of the mountains. They hope and act to keep it greener and cleaner, for us, our children, and our children's children.
How can one criticize this most natural and noble cause? For it is their individual and collective unselfishness, their desire, their passion, to leave a natural heritage, a sturdy footbridge into the future, that is most commendable. Hats off and boots on to each and every one of them, these - our - new American pioneers:
Canary Coalition: A grassroots effort to monitor and protect the quality of air in North Carolina.
Earth Share of North Carolina: To help businesses and individuals find appropriate environmental and green groups to financially support.
Environmental Defense: This 400,000 strong membership seeks solutions for the environment's most pressing problems.
Friends of the Black and Great Craggy Mountains: This watchdog group focuses on the natural preservation of the Black and Craggy Mountains, located 20 miles northeast of Asheville and includes Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak in the eastern United States. Home to much old-growth and spruce fir forests, as well as rugged topography, this group is greatly concerned about new construction and developmental pressures - and for good reason.
Highlands Plateau Audubon Society: Serving Highlands, Cashiers, Franklin and Scaly Mountain, this chapter of the National Audubon Society's mission is to enjoy and protect the region's wild birds and their habitat. Not a bad way to spend one's time.
Long Branch Environmental Education Center: Located northwest of Asheville in Buncombe County's Newfound Mountains, this ecological sanctuary and land trust focuses on local self-reliance. They implement environmental design, organic food production, renewable energy, shelter design and construction. From their environmental and educational toolbox they apply appropriate technology, resource conservation, recycling, wildlife protection and improved environmental quality. It's a big job for a little place, but they're happy to do it.
North Carolina Conservation Network: A statewide network of over 120 environmental, community and eco-justice organizations focuses on protecting the state's environment, public health and safety.
Sierra Club, North Carolina Chapter: This venerable environmental protection group has a wonderful listing of roadless areas to explore - many of which are in WNC. Now there's no excuse for not finding a fine woodsy place to reconnect with nature and your loved ones.
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy: This nonprofit, nonpartisan group promotes alternative energy choices to combat global warming problems with a local eye on protecting communities throughout the Southeast. The bumper sticker, "Think global, act local," has new meaning.
Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project: A favorite nonprofit of greener advocates who promote empowering citizens to save and restore biodiversity in the region. SABP protects public land from development and encourages private owners to practice sustainable property management. The group pursues its goals through public education, legal advocacy and grassroots organizing in the Southeast.
Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy: An active volunteer-based land trust, this group has protected over 21,000 acres in WNC. The Conservancy works with individuals and local communities to identify, preserve, and manage the regionís important lands and natural resources. And you are invited to go take a hike, many hikes, which are available for the public and guided by Conservancy members. It's a great way to meet new folks and discover muscles that you didn't know you owned.
The Nature Conservancy: Its active North Carolina chapter is noted for the preservation of valuable acreage, including its $25 million capital initiative "to save North Carolina's last great places." A million here, a million there, can add up to protecting some real good country, forever.
Union of Concerned Scientists: Citizens and scientists of this intelligent group continually search for environmental solutions. A great website for the serious minded and, well, concerned.
Western North Carolina Alliance: A grassroots environmental organization dedicated to improving the quality of life within the region, whether you live downtown, uptown or way out of town. One of WNCA's core values is to protect biodiversity, a bedrock of sustainability. Check out their good work.
Zen's WNC Nature Notebook: A personal and excellent index of the region's plants and fungi, complete with photos, await you, sprinkled with inspiration and goodwill. Ya gotta love this guy's space, and sense of place.
One thing is as certain and as good as rain (if it isn't acid): this list of organizations with their big and little accomplishments - some obvious, some not - continues to grow and evolve and surprise.
Tell us about you: what's going on in your neck of the woods? Email your greener home news, events, accomplishments, reports, observations, and letters to: byron at thegreenerhome.com Or tell the world about your next big, or little, event. We'll list you on TheGreenerHome.com's CALENDAR section. Provide your event information to byron at thegreenerhome.com or Click Here.
One last thing: And we all want to know what to call you... you environmentalists, you gadflys, you modern pioneers. Whatever you are and are not -- however you want to be addressed and remembered -- may your shoelaces stay tied, your sandwich not leak (thanks, Zen), and your compass hold true. There are miles to go before I, before we... awake.
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