Roots and Fruits: Our Past, Our Future

The Sun-Soil System: Our Roots and Fruits
The Sun-Soil System: Our Roots and Fruits

The point: to focus the skills, knowledge, experience and good will of those who have moved here for good and those who have lived here for generations towards a healthy future for ourselves, our children and the land that supports us.

It is about roots and continuity, about adaptability and ingenuity, about a deep and perpetual love of our lineage of kin and culture, county and country.

It is about sustainability. That’s a good word, but it suffers from too wide a scope and too frequent usage to mean different things for different people.

What does it mean here and now as we look forward to Floyd County’s future in a rapidly changing world of morphing climate, economy and relationship to work and travel, agriculture and commerce?

That was the central issue at last night’s SustainFloyd open meeting, though the practical focus was more immediately on the upcoming 350 event, since a sustainable atmosphere is an urgent matter whose fate, to no small degree, will be set in Copenhagen in December. Our efforts are part of a much larger work that cannot be deferred until later. Be sure and visit and see how your community can participate.

It was disappointing but not surprising: those who came last night were mostly those already in the choir. There was a good bit of conversation of how to bridge that gap, to share with the  reluctant or unconvinced of all stripes,  and especially with the more traditional and deeply rooted segments of our community who need to understand that, with regard to the word “sustainability”, the “new” focus on the future of Floyd is really only a desire and urgent need to return to what many of them already know and practice in living in right relationship to the sun-soil system that has sustained us for many generations.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Fred, you have a couple of problems to overcome in my view…

    One, as you mentioned, to the non-choir, much of what you are saying is exactly what the modern American culture has been telling them to move away from. Growing your own and putting up the results of that production, making do with less, spending more to buy locally produced products…These are things that marketers have been doing their best to drive out of everyone’s mindset for the last half century. It’s a lot like the industrialized countries of the world telling the developing countries “too bad, you started too late, we’ve discovered that our way of life is killing the world so you need to stay where you are while we keep right on destroying the world.”

    Two, most of the folks who are questioning the very existence of these crises, get their new and views from the same places. Unless you can institute a method of blocking the dissemination of outright fabrications, you will never convince these folks that their news sources are not being honest.

    At least you seem to have a choir…many parts of this country are totally without one. You should read the response I received from my Congressman about our energy policy…But then again…I expected nothing else from Ron Paul.

    And I see your photo is pre-gulag…Great shot though…

  2. Fred, If I were in Floyd, I would definitely be at the meetings! I will check out to see what we can do in Chattanooga, TN! I am all for preparing for the hard times to come!

  3. Gary, I showed my wife the “CO2: THEY call it pollution. WE call it life.” video (which I assume has been widespread on TV) and she thought it was a Saturday Night Live skit. She was devastated to find out it was an expensive ad for the Business As Usual half of the country. Appalling, recalcitrant, willful ignorance. What can I say?

  4. Thanks for the update, Fred. It sounds like a good start. Communicating the mission in a way that will draw the different factions –or at the very least that they will understand it–is a crucial step.

    The photo –as always– is beautiful!

  5. You wrote on 07-30-2009: It has been perhaps the coolest and wettest July we can remember.
    Let’s revisit this quote next year. I think you may find the record will have been beaten.

    My friends who are actual farmers, feel that the Global Warming crowd is spreading false information. They see that the colder weather is cutting into their livelihood and would welcome warming trends.

    I think we need to work on reducing the pollution we can see, like poisoned rivers and wetlands, spills of industrial wastes, etc. and leave the fanciful computer models alone until the source data is available for peer review.

    There is so much that needs to be done to improve our care of the earth, especially our aquifers, that it seems senseless to raise costs during a major recession by suppressing domestic power generation.

    Having spent hours watching the beauty of wind farms, I wonder what you would do if the mountains around Floyd and Goose Creek reverberated to the thrum of those mighty towers and sprayed bird parts over the nearby landscape.

    There is no free lunch. Generating power is a matter of converting matter or motion into electricity. Except for nuclear power, they are all quite noisy processes and are best done at a distance from our homes.

    I am with you on conserving energy and minimizing our footprint on the earth. I think we favor different solutions to the increasing levels of pollution that surround us.

    We should celebrate our agreements and work together to improve the environment. Where we have differences, we should look at all the data without regard to who has blessed it.

    There are highly trained scientists on all sides of this issue and they need to keep the communications lines open until the data agrees with observations of the physical universe.

  6. David, of course it’s important to distinguish between weather and climate. There will be odd mixes of air masses as there always have been creating day to day local-regional weather patterns even while the overall global temperature AVERAGE goes up by degrees that may seem to most of us imperceptible. Meanwhile the melting glaciers of the Himalayas from which hundreds of millions get their drinking water are undeniably melting–among numerous other examples from land and oceans. The average temp diff between the last ice age and today was about 6 degrees C. Six degrees in the opposite direction doesn’t sound like much. It is.

    Rising costs: yes, we (read: the generations that come after us) will pay the deferred costs of not dealing with this matter forty years ago when the trend first became evident. I think we’re in for minor shocks, them spasms, then convulsions in our transition away from fossil fuel based society. That transition is what the local efforts ahead will be about: an environmentally sound and socially just future for all in our community.

    We’ve seen it coming since at least my first long look at it in 1970. It seems we are going to pay dearly no matter what we do at this point. Agreed we have no good transition from fossil fuels we’ve come to depend on( and that by the way have contributed to the highest CO2 level today of any since well before recorded human history–back at least to 400,000 years ago.) I’m not bullish on wind for anything more than point of use generation.

    And I concur: we need to “live within our means” and make changes in our energy, CO2, food footprints, and co-incidentally, these are ALSO changes that can contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gases of all types. Win-win.

  7. I recently saw a program on Shotime that attempted to debunk much of the organic food movement, and I’m curious as to what your opinion is on their points. Some of them are as follows:

    Surveys had 71% of participants preferring non-organic produce by taste test.

    Researchers including the American Cancer Society have found no link of non-organic foods to cancer or any difference whatsoever in nutrtional value. There is an argument that organic foods are more dangerous than non-oorganic in that both use pesticides but organics don’t use synthetic pesticides. The problem is that today’s synthetic pesticides are much less toxic than the much stronger non-synthetic pesticides that organic food needs.

    Because organic food requires more land to get an equivalent yield as non-organic, we’d only be able to supply a little over half of the world’s food consumed if we went completely organic.

    Reading labels to determine where your food is from is not reliable as a US grower that grows in another country can still report that produce as US grown.

    The organic food movement, similar to the green movement, is popular because of its “political cache”. Basically, people want to identify and advertise themselves as “caring more” and “doing the right thing”.

    Appreciate any thoughts on this.

  8. Jim, briefly as I’m up to my elbows in alligators (kindly ones, but nibbling nonetheless)…

    I don’t know if you’re talking about “certified organic” or nominally organic, I gather there are differences in what can be sold by certified orgs.

    I’d be interested in seeing the studies you refer to re “synthetic vs non-synthetic” LD 50 data and the null findings of pesticides and cancer comparing these two sets of herbicide-pesticides.

    Organic I think has become somewhat meaningless, and frankly, I look for “locally grown” knowing the vast majority of local growers take great pains to practice companion planting, rotational planting, mulching vs herbicide and that sort of thing. Even the purest organic lettuce shipped 2000 miles to my salad bowl carries increased risk of contamination somewhere along the way and will have lost some nutrient value perhaps and flavor for certain.

    We need to insist on responsibly grown food rather than rely on terminology and emotional expectations. My two cents.