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Wednesday, 30 August 2006 00:00

Canary Coalition is leading in the right direction

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Too often people tend to write off efforts by the most hard-core social activists as excessive or simply impossible to achieve. These people and their movements are out of the mainstream, many say, their ideas worthy yet impractical, or that their time has not come.

Thankfully, that’s not happening to the Sylva-based Canary Coalition and its goal of elevating air quality, climate change and energy issues into a social movement on the scale of abolition, women’s suffrage and civil rights. Canary Coalition Executive Director Avram Friedman and the coalition’s board have made this homegrown organization and its message relevant, timely, and important for citizens throughout North Carolina and the Southeast.

This past weekend the Canary Coalition completed its third Relay for Clean Air, a 24-hour, 100-mile trek from the hazy tower above Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Pack Square in downtown Asheville. Volunteers run, bike or walk sections of the route, and Friedman said he is particularly proud of the fact that all volunteers have shown up for their designated leg of the relay during its entire three-year history. That means people have shown up in the middle of the night, during rain showers, and despite personal crises that may have come up.

The goal of the Relay is to raise awareness about air quality, but this year it has an even more specific purpose.

The Canary Coalition is working with Nuclear Information and Resource Service and the Southeastern Energy and Environment Expo on the “Energy at the Crossroads” Tour. It is an ongoing 18-month, eight-state schedule of meetings and seminars developed in response to the applications for new coal and nuclear power plants throughout the Southeast (including Duke Power’s plan to build a new nuclear plant in Cherokee County, South Carolina) by utility companies.

The tour will explore why individuals should make energy choices that lead to a sustainable future. In addition, it will highlight smart, affordable energy choices that are available right now that “protect the environment, create new jobs, strengthen national security and provide for a sustainable economic future,” according to Friedman.

Overall, the tour’s objective is to show that smart energy use and conservation can replace the need for more power plants, and that smart energy use is good for health, the economy and the environment. There’s little doubt that this country’s energy policy leaves much to be desired, and that our current policy is threatening our economy and upsetting the political balance around the globe.

Friedman and the homegrown Canary Coalition are waging a good fight, arming those who will listen with information and knowledge while sprinkling in some good public relations efforts like the Relay for Clean Air. We wish them continued success as they try to elevate the debate about one of the most important issues facing this country.

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