Monday, January 12, 2015

a big deal, I guess...

Yesterday we had our celebration of the community's victory over the SWEPCO power line. We had about 250-300 people join us.

As one of the leaders of Save the Ozarks, I could not walk through the crowd without being thanked and praised for my contribution, which consisted largely of writing newspaper editorials, digesting documents, researching legal strategies, communicating with various regulatory agencies, consulting with the legal team, and trying not to do anything overly stupid, and not necessarily in that order.

Back in 2009, I was named an Arkansas Living Treasure for my work as a craftsman and in crafts education. That went largely unnoticed in my community. At this point, due to the battle against SWEPCO's power line, I'm learning how it feels to be a minor celebrity in my own home town.

It has been interesting working at the point of a community wide effort. People have asked if I have advice for others facing a similar power line. My advice: start 30 years ago and build your community through loving engagement with others. The real secret of our success in stopping the power line was that SWEPCO had no idea what they were getting into. One county judge had warned them, "If you want to build this power line, stay as far away from Eureka Springs as possible."

Strong communities have greater power than rich corporations, if  (and only if) the folks within those communities have the confidence and where-with-all to stand up for each other. SWEPCO has been working on plans to build a network of extra high voltage power lines across Arkansas, and has applied to the Arkansas Public Service Commission to spin off their transmission lines into a new AEP subsidiary, Southwestern Transmission Corporation. You can say that Save the Ozarks threw a monkey wrench in the works. Throwing a monkey wrench is a slang expression that refers to sabotage of industrial equipment, or bringing to a dead stop something that has machine like inevitability.

If you want corporations to have their way and the power to industrialize all the wild and open spaces, keep education just like it is, with kids sitting in desks and doing nothing.

The photo above is of my old monkey wrench. It was a gift from my Grandfather Bye when I was about 4 years old. It was old, pretty much useless and worn out when I got it.  I remember when it was new to me, and I found pleasure in how it worked and the sense of power it seemed to convey. Even a worn out monkey wrench when thrown with careful aim is useful for stopping what we think is moving forward with mechanical inevitability. Real tools (even old worn out ones) have the capacity to stir the imagination and awaken the intellect, just as I hope this blog is a tool that stirs yours.

Make, fix and create.

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