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May 13, 1997

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

by Larry Grantham

The "good" news is The Southwest Alabama Earthday Conference/ Earth Day Forum hosted recently at The University of South Alabama, Baldwin County Campus, Fairhope, AL. The forum focused on environmentally sustainable businesses. Participants had the opportunity to learn more about sustainability and share their personal concerns about working toward implementing sustainability now and in the future.

Adelaide Miller presented information about kenaf, considered a sustainable agricultural product. She reviewed the role of her business, American Kenaf Inc., located in Gulf Shores, AL, which is currently growing kenaf in Baldwin County.

Steve Whipkey presented slides and discussed his concerns about open-pit mining in Alabama. He took up this issue several years ago when an open-dirt-pit operation began literally in his backyard (right up to the property line). He discovered that there are no regulations or limits on such operations, and when such businesses are finished, they can walk away leaving behind the environmental devastation they have done. Mr. Whipkey has set about seeking changes in Alabama laws to make the owners of such dirt pits accountable to their neighbors.

The keynote presentation by Mickey Feltus gave the forum participants a cause to hope for transitions in the near future from "unsustainable businesses" to "sustainable businesses." Mr. Feltus, who works for the US Department of Energy, empowers communities in the Atlanta, GA, area to implement sustainable practices. He encouraged and advised the forum participants to take note of the need for those who operate in an unsustainable manner to start making changes. Mr. Feltus, a Fairhope native, plans to return to the Fairhope area when he retires.

The "bad" news was the limited participation in the forum. Forum attendance was much lower than expected. We would, however, like to thank all the attendees and The University of South Alabama, especially Elliott Lauderdale, one of the conference committee members and a USA faculty member.

The "ugly" truth is that most mainstream media representatives (newspapers and TV stations) in southwest Alabama fail to pay any attention to those interested in implementing sustainability in Mobile and Baldwin Counties. But the organizers of the forum do want to say "thank you" to those media representatives who did provide announcements of the forum. Honorable mention goes to Dan Daniels of WABB 1480 AM who attended the forum as a concerned citizen.

The Southwest Alabama Earthday Conference/ Earth Day Forum was presented at no cost to the public and with minimal out-of-pocket expense. For information/suggestions concerning activities such as this forum, contact Larry Grantham.

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