Carrboro Seeking Citizen Input on Climate Change

A new climate survey could lead to less greenhouse gas emissions and a big, green thumb for Carrboro.

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen passed an initiative in 2009 to take steps in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Seven years later, the town is proposing a plan to do even more—to cut the carbon footprint in half over the next decade.

The proposal — dubbed “Community Climate Action Plan” – was created by the town’s task force and recently brought to the board. One of its main goals is to raise community awareness and involvement in solutions to global climate change.

“Our town undertook a really intensive study of how the town could do this a few years ago,” said Lydia Lavelle, Mayor of Carrboro. “So the difference here is this is a plan that is centered around our community and looking at ways that they can do this.”

The town sent out a tweet inviting citizens to take a short online survey about climate action, which will allow the board to see what residents want to be prioritized in any implementation of the plan.

“Anything the town does, about 10-20 percent of the community really knows about it,” Lavelle said. “So this is one where we’re going to take intensive efforts to really get it out to the folks who aren’t the typical people we see out at town hall on Tuesday nights or the ones we don’t see when something’s going wrong. We want the whole community to know about this.”

Lavelle also said that the survey will allow the board to gauge whether or not the public is aware of the relevance of taking steps to a greener environment.

“Even as much as we are doing, we are a little drop in the bucket of 20,000 people trying to do what we can do. But on the other hand we can serve as a model, serve as best practices and ideas for other communities.”

Lavelle said the town will officially accept or adopt the plan in the next couple of weeks. When enacted, it will become a major step to revamping Carrboro’s focus on climate change.

Help Clean Jordan Lake

That piece of litter you saw on the side of the road earlier today?

Sooner or later, that discarded trash is going to make its way into the water. And a lot of that water flows into Jordan Lake – which makes for a pretty big mess.

Seven years ago, Fran DiGiano co-founded the group Clean Jordan Lake to help address the growing issue – and since then, he’s organized thousands of volunteers to collect tons and tons and tons of trash. More than 4,000 volunteers and about 104 tons, to be precise – totaling more than 10,000 garbage bags. (And nearly 4,000 discarded tires.)

DiGiano says they’ve managed to catch up with all the accumulated garbage from years past, but since people continue to litter, cleaning the lake will always be an ongoing process.

Want to help? This coming Saturday, March 19, Clean Jordan Lake is holding its annual spring cleanup, from 9 am to 1 pm. Volunteers will meet at the New Hope Overlook access to Jordan State Recreation Area off Pea Ridge Road in New Hill. (That’s just north of US-1 a little southeast of Pittsboro.) Lunch will be served and there will be a trash treasure hunt (really!) with prizes.

Fran DiGiano spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck this week.


To learn more information about the spring cleanup and to volunteer, visit

October 11, Help “Clean Jordan Lake”

You’re invited to come help “Clean Jordan Lake”!

The annual cleanup event is coming up on Saturday, October 11. It’s part of the NC Big Sweep, a series of cleanup events across the state to keep North Carolina litter-free.

Organizer Fran DiGiano joined WCHL’s Aaron Keck on the air Thursday to talk about the event and call for volunteers.

The Clean Jordan Lake event has been going on for five years – and in that time, more than 3,000 volunteers have picked up 9,000 bags of trash and 3,400 tires from the shoreline.

If you’re interested in taking part this year, head online to

Fracking Concerns Blue Ridge Environmental Defense, NC Citizens

With the rising concern of the dangers associated with fracking, many North Carolinians are deeply uncertain about what lies ahead for the state relying on the questionable method of obtaining fuel and energy.

WCHL’s Ron Stutts spoke with Therese Vick of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, and with Martha Girolami, a citizen of northeast Chatham County that has found out recently that she lives atop of what is known as the “Triassic basin,” which is one of the potential locations that fracking companies may take advantage of.

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League is a “regional, community-based, non-profit environmental organization.” They focus on issues including “industry’s dependence on toxic chemicals, utilities’ refusal to adopt sound energy alternatives, industrial development and highway construction at the expense of public health, intensive livestock operations’ effects on agriculture and the environment, and huge waste dumps.”

When asked what she personally found so dangerous about fracking, Girolami says that her two biggest issues come from the health risks and how quickly the practice of fracking is being accepted despite a lack of real preparatory analysis.

“Fracking so bad because it’s so polluting,” says Girolami. “It’s so polluting to ground water, surface water, air, air health, and it’s been so rushed. So rushed we haven’t done a health study, we’ve done no air rules. The Energy and Mining Commission has been meeting for two years, but there are big gaps in the rules they put together.”

Vick reminds of the recent legislation created that states it is a misdemeanor to disclose what chemicals are used for digging. She says that this is not how the community should be treated when it comes to this form of resource gathering.

“The community has the right to know what is being injected into the ground under their feet,” says Vick. “Our organization just passed a resolution on chemical disclosure that we hope to share with other folks, but my feeling is that the reason they don’t want people to know is because of that potential liability.”

***Listen to the full interview here***

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

For more on the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, click here.

Parking, Water, Beer, Business, And Education!

ORANGE COUNTY – Chapel Hill is adding a new parking lot downtown: on Monday, February 3, the town is opening the Courtyard parking lot, located at 115 South Roberson Street near the west end of Franklin. Town staff say there will be 53 spaces available at the new lot. (There are about 1200 available parking spaces in all in downtown Chapel Hill.)


Earth Policy Institute founder and president Lester Brown will be on campus Tuesday, February 4, lecturing on the future of agriculture in a world of dwindling water.

The lecture is entitled “Peak Water: What Happens to Our Food Supply When the Wells Go Dry?” It begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Nelson Mandela Auditorium at the FedEx Global Education Center. It’s free and open to the public.


Starting in April, ARCA will begin assembling CM18 cash recyclers at its manufacturing facility in Mebane, transfering operations from Italy. The move will make the Mebane facility the only one in the U.S. to produce cash recyclers, used by banks and credit unions to speed its balancing and inventory functions.


Twelve Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School teachers have recently earned National Board Certification: Melissa Nicholson-Clark and Samantha Howard of Morris Grove Elementary; Susan Azzu, Agnes Bernasconi, and Ashley Laver of Rashkis Elementary; Christine Cohn of Estes Hills Elementary; Jennifer Pedersen of Northside Elementary; Lisa Myles of McDougle Elementary; Miles Chappell of Phillips Middle; Beth Kinney of McDougle Middle; Holly Loranger of Chapel Hill High; and Jenny Marie Smith of East Chapel Hill High. Congratulations to all twelve!

North Carolina leads the nation in the number of teachers certified by the National Board.

Another recognition for UNC: the Princeton Review has ranked UNC-Chapel Hill as the number-one public university in the nation on its 2014 list of America’s “Best Value Colleges.”

UNC has long been recognized as a national leader in preserving affordability and accessibility while simultaneously providing a high-quality education and maintaining high graduation rates.

NC State also made the Princeton Review’s list, as the number-four public university in the nation. Williams College in Massachusetts ranked first among private universities.


Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools are participating in North Carolina’s first official pilot test with school buses filled with propane autogas, an alternative fuel designed to lower gas costs while also reducing toxic emissions.

The North Carolina Propane Gas Association is promoting the new technology in conjunction with Triangle Clean Cities Coalition and Triangle Air Awareness. They say propane autogas can reduce emissions by 80 percent compared to diesel fuel.

Other districts participating in the pilot program include Union, Brunswick, and Nash-Rocky Mount.


Carolina Brewery is celebrating its 19th birthday with events beginning on Wednesday, February 5 and running through Saturday the 8th–including the debut of a new “Anniversary Ale” and a pint glass giveaway on Friday the 7th.

Visit for a full schedule of events.

Hard Facts and Hard Heads on the Outer Banks

Every week we read another news story about access to our coastal islands.

Last year Hurricane Sandy and two other storms pushed water across Highway 12, cutting the road to shreds one more time.

The channel across Hatteras Inlet filled up, forcing the ferry between Hatteras and Ocracoke to close down.

Bonner Bridge, which crosses Oregon Inlet and connects Hatteras Island to the mainland, was closed for repairs. As the Oregon Inlet moves southward, the bridge’s support system is washing away.

Planned ferry toll increases will penalize island residents and working people who will be denied the kind of access from their homes that other North Carolinians take for granted.

When is all this uncertainty going to end?

Never, according to retired East Carolina University Geology Professor Stanley Riggs, unless North Carolina’s decision-makers come to grips with certain facts about the long-term future of our barrier islands and other coastal areas.

Riggs and his co-authors lay out their version of these facts in their book, “The Battle for North Carolina’s Coast: Evolutionary History, Present Crisis, and Vision for the Future.”

Their book explains some of the complex factors that operate in coastal zones where water and land meet. Although the science may be complicated, its application to North Carolina has simple, easy to understand lessons as Riggs explained for his publisher, UNC Press: “Shoreline erosion is the direct product of long-term sea-level rise, which has been ongoing for the past 18,000 years. As the Earth’s climate warms, the vast continental ice sheets melt and recede. Waters flow back into the world’s oceans, causing the sea level to rise. In response, the mobile coastal system has had a long journey migrating upward and landward from its starting point on the continental slope, about 410 feet below and up to 60 miles east of its present location. This history will continue as long as our climate continues to warm. To maintain a viable coastal economy and preserve the natural resources upon which that economy is dependent, the public, our managers, and politicians must understand and adapt to the natural dynamics of change on a mobile coastal system. The present approach of unlimited economic growth and development will result in ever-increasing conflicts and catastrophes.”

Using a host of maps and other illustrations, Riggs projects the short-term future of the Outer Banks. One or two major storms could lead to the collapse or disintegration of portions of the barrier islands, most likely where there has already been severe island narrowing.

So, is Riggs, like some other scientists, proposing that all people simply move away from the Outer Banks and let nature take its course?

Not exactly. Riggs does favor discontinuing the efforts to maintain most of Highway 12 and abandoning plans to repair the old Bonner Bridge or build a new one. Because Highway 12 is doomed, he thinks extraordinary efforts to preserve it should end.

But he also suggests a system of sustainable tourism based on an understanding of a changing shoreline. In place of Highway 12 and the Bonner Bridge would be a system of small ferries that would serve communities on Hatteras, Ocracoke, and other parts of the Outer Banks that prove to be stable enough to survive indefinitely.

Riggs’s suggestions for action may be more moderate than those of others. But they sound radical to the tough Outer Banks residents who have proved over and over again for centuries that they will fight hard to keep anybody and any ocean from taking away what little they have.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. For more information or to view prior programs visit the webpage at

Upcoming (April 14, 18) guest is retired East Carolina professor Stanley Riggs author of “The Battle for North Carolina’s Coast: Evolutionary History, Present Crisis, and Vision for the Future.”
(Note: On Thursday, April 11, at 5 p.m. Bookwatch guest is Pam Durban, who talks about “The Tree of Forgetfulness.”)

The recent temporary closings of the Hatteras Ferry and coastal Highway 12 remind us that our coast is fragile and unstable. How do we protect it? In “The Battle for North Carolina’s Coast: Evolutionary History, Present Crisis, and Vision for the Future,” retired East Carolina professor Stanley Riggs and his coauthors give the background we need to make good decisions. (April 14, 18)

The program will also air at Wednesday April 17 at 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on UNC-MX, a digital cable system channel (Time Warner #172 or #4.4). In addition, airing at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday on UNC-MX will be a classic Bookwatch program featuring Carole Boston Weatherford, author of “Princeville: 500 Year Flood.”

A grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council provides crucial support for North Carolina Bookwatch.

Rocky Run Farm

There is a lot of talk these days about farm-to-fork eating. In our area many people take it seriously and generally do a good job of eating thoughtfully; using fresh, local ingredients. Isaiah Allen personifies this way of living. He is currently Chef de Cuisine at Il Palio (my last column told the romantic story of how he’d come to make the wonderful Tagliatelle al Tartufo there) and will soon be Executive Chef of the Eddy Pub in Saxapahaw. And, of course, he also owns Rocky Run Farm with his wife Whitney, and the line between all of those jobs blurs in wonderful and interesting ways.

About three or four years ago Isaiah and Whitney decided they wanted to try growing their own food, even though they had no previous experience. They were trying to eat better and had been watching documentaries like Food, Inc. while learning about pollution and commodity farming. They became more and more captivated with the ideas they were hearing and wanted to do something to make a difference. They started by setting up a small garden in their front yard, growing tomatoes and basil. After cooking with their produce food, they realized that they had an itch for farming and wanted to do more of it. Through talking to people, they found out that Whitney’s uncle had some family land. Eventually they expanded onto area and made a garden, enlarging it with a small tractor. They successfully pushed the garden to a quarter acre and grew beets, carrots and a few other things.

Inspired by how well things were going, Isaiah and Whitney wanted to do more. They found a Sustainable Agriculture program at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro and took the class. This gave him the tools to do all the things that he was thinking of doing, and he now had a certified one-year degree for sustainable farming.

After school each week he’d take what he had learned and, along with Whitney, would use it on their farm. He learned about biological pest management and enjoyed watching the soil full-cycle. A simple but very important thing he learned was how to keep the soil healthy. Conventional farming teaches that soil is a sponge – dump stuff into it and the soil is lifeless. The sustainable farming that Isaiah learned showed him that the soil needs to be healthy; and healthy soil feeds the plants. He does some really interesting things to keep his soil in good condition. He takes leftover salmon bones and heads from his restaurant and uses that for compost. He gets leftover whey from a local cheesemaker, composts it and tosses that over the soil. The whey helps get rid of bad bacteria and the worms digest it, consume it and then make it plant viable. One day he went to a BBQ place for a sandwich and asked what they did with their ashes. Now he picks those ashes up once a week and uses them in his soil. With one good rain it soaks in, raising the pH level of the soil. He’s using things that would otherwise be thrown away to make his soil healthier.

They now have land in Mebane and plan to expand their farm. The plan is for there to be one acre for the house, one acre for an orchard, two acres of cover crop, two acres of fruits and vegetables and two acres of pasture for mixed livestock (they’re thinking rabbits, chickens, sheep and a few pigs). They will rotate these the way the Amish do to keep the soil healthy. The animals will be fertilizing the soil, the cover crop will hold nutrients in place until the next round. This builds the topsoil and is called “nutrient cycling” and continually improves the soil, making it better and better with each year. They intend to have a long driveway to the house lined with chestnut trees. Once these trees start to give off nuts they will harvest as many as they can, and then they’ll release the pigs they hope to have and let them clean up the rest. Then, the pigs can be marketed as chestnut-finished pork, much like Iberico pork is sold as acorn-finished.

Right now they’re doing cooking demonstrations at farmers’ markets. They give out recipes that work with what they are selling, and will be at Southern Village’s market on Thursdays, and the Hillsborough’s smaller market at the Home Depot on Saturdays.

The Allens want to make this work as a business, hoping to build a reputation with their quality products. Whitney has a degree in business and bookkeeping and is now doing an ag-business course to help out on the business side of the farm. Her accounting knowledge helps a lot. This is a team effort and a dream for both of them. As their lifes’ work, they constantly think up new possibilities. They are living their lives the way they want to, and doing what they believe in and love. Il Palio buys some of their produce and working there gives him a way to promote the farm. The man cooking the food is the man growing the food. And the food waste from that same restaurant is put into their compost. It is a brilliant circle and truly farm-to-fork.

You can follow Kari on Twitter @NoshSpiceNC.

North Carolina Must Rise To Its Unique Climate Challenge

NASA’s James Hansen recently declared that climate change has become a planetary emergency.

If humanity doesn’t begin cutting global emissions by 2015, the climate crisis will pass a point of no return – and a hellish condition for us all.

North Carolina has a unique duty to help avert climate and economic chaos – because the world’s second-largest power company is based in Charlotte.

The sheer size of Duke Energy means that its transition to clean energy could be a climate game-changer.

NC WARN and allies are pressing Duke to phase out fossil-fueled electricity by ramping up energy-saving programs, and renewable power – which are far cheaper than the nuclear plants Duke hopes to build.

In fact, Duke is investing heavily in solar and wind out West. But in the Southeast, Duke is blocking clean energy so it can keep burning coal and gas while trying to build new nukes.

Tragically, our society has been very slow to respond to the climate crisis.

Indeed, the acceleration of bizarre weather and rising storm surges can feel paralyzing.

And our government is surely failing its duty.

But NC WARN and allies have a strong chance of persuading Duke Energy to join the Clean Energy Revolution.

North Carolina must rise to this extraordinary moral challenge.

News Around Town: Foushee, Old Tree

ORANGE COUNTY – Newly elected State Representative Valerie Foushee will take her oath of office on Tuesday, January 8, at 4:00 p.m. in the Orange County Courthouse in Hillsborough. The ceremony is open to the public; District Court Judge Beverly Scarlett will perform the swearing-in.

Foushee was elected in November to represent District 50, replacing outgoing State Rep. Bill Faison.


Chapel Hill town crews have begun picking up Christmas trees and wreaths for mulching on the regular yard-waste collection schedule. If your trash gets picked up on Mondays, your yard waste will be collected on Thursdays; if your trash gets picked up on Tuesdays, your yard waste will be collected on Fridays.

If you leave trees or wreaths by the curb, make sure to remove all decorations first.

Is Resiliency an Economic Priority?

A few weeks ago, I was in Iowa and South Dakota and saw first-hand the fields of stunted, parched corn that are the result of the worst U.S. drought in 56 years. Sioux Falls had .01 inches of rain in July. It was on everyone’s mind.

I spent some time with my brother-in-law who farms corn and soybeans. He told me that the local economies across the Midwest, especially farming communities, were going to take a big hit. And he noted that national food prices will rise significantly at a time when low- and middle-class people in our fragile economy can least absorb them.   

It’s no secret that we face a future that will feature more instability due to climate change, peak oil, and the evolving grip that the ultra-wealthy have on our society.  

Unless I’ve completely missed it, our local discussions and efforts to improve our economy seem to exhibit no significant discernible theme of prioritizing economic development strategies that increase our odds of weathering the turbulent transition years that are upon us.

Chatham County recently celebrated the ground-breaking for a Walmart just south of Chapel Hill. Setting aside the many documented damaging externalities that come with these sales-tax-generating behemoths, there has been no consideration of how a Walmart affects our sustainability and resilience.

We know that fuel costs will rise. We know that climate change will mean higher food prices, as will rising fuel costs. Aside from child labor and cruelly low-paid overseas workers, Walmart’s success has been built largely on transporting products extremely long distances and taking advantage of the high yields from agri-business.

Communities that have consciously grown their local agriculture, promoted alternative energy including biofuels, and retained control over their local water will have the most vibrant economies in the next couple of decades of stormy transition. Local business leaders are understandably anxious about how to pay for community essentials in the face of the betrayal of leadership and loss of support from the greater society. However, if we are not careful, we may have short-term success with a few “silver bullet” solutions, yet find ourselves ill-equipped to meet the unique challenges that only a self-reliant, community-based economic system is capable of doing.