The invitation came by Facebook: Green Drinks, Capitol Roasters, 5:30pm.
What was this? Green beer? No, it wasn't that kind of green. As far as I could tell, this was a meeting of people interested in environmentally friendly technologies and jobs, a place to meet others who share the conviction that we need to live more lightly and intelligently on this worn out planet.
Since 1971 I have tried to do exactly that. We began in northern Virginia in our little 1940's era log house by getting chickens, buying organic food, and raising a (pitiful) garden. The goal became a place in the country, far from cities and traffic. We would buy land, build a house, live simply and make our living from our land.
Readers of this blog might remember my posts about those early days and our lack of knowledge about country living. We were green all right--greenhorns. We managed, though. We built a passive solar house, put in a spring water system, built a solar food dryer, lived without electricity and began learning how to provide our food and our living from this hilly land. By 1982 we sort of had it together. Then the recession hit and hard times hit us too. My then-husband went back to the safety of northern Virginia. I stayed, remarried and carried on. Went to college, got a job, left much of the farming behind, got a masters degree and kept working. Got into storytelling and finally realized that what I really wanted was the place I had had--the gardens, the simplicity, the self-sufficiency. We've been working our way back to that place over the past 5 years and this time I'm armed with experience, knowledge, and a little more money.
I am also an unabashed foe of mountaintop removal and any other practice that destroys the irreplaceable beauty of West Virginia. I'm not real happy about any change to the place I live that involves bulldozers and other heavy equipment--unless it's to repair our deplorable state road. At work I instituted recycling and found ways to cut our energy consumption. I buy used, renewed, recycled, re-purposed. I try to live as gently on this earth as I can, although my daily commute of 100+ miles probably wipes out my efforts in other areas.
So I thought I might be meeting people with similar goals tonight. I was wrong, and I was right.
Green Drinks is an international movement of people who work in environmental fields to get together and discuss topics of mutual interest. Now I don't work in an environmental field, although perhaps the library is the ultimate recycling center in some ways. I am not an activist either; I am one of those self-reliant, independent mountain types who does her own thing and relies on herself. Self-sufficiency pretty well sums up my life goals--to be able to support myself and provide my myself and mine.
The group I met tonight, however, were networkers, movers and shakers. One worked for Citizen Action Group, another advocated for increased rail service as a means to reducing reliance on oil. Another was growing her business called Mission Savvy, an online clothing store that sells animal-friendly clothing. Her mission: "Mission Savvy pairs eco fashion designs with pressing issues in animal welfare to create an expressive style where consumers can feel comfortable in their clothes and confident as advocates." Wow.
Another attendee organized the recent Sustainability Fair; yet another worked to provide housing for low-income families. There was a "green" builder or two, the manager of the local Home Depot, two graduate students, and several others all devoted to making this planet a better place.
I felt humbled. I've worked to provide for myself and to treat my little bit of earth as kindly as possible, and yet here were all these people working not just for themselves, but for all of us, to make our state the best possible place to live and work. I learned much; I had little to offer the meeting but my ears and my mind.
As I drove home, I thought about what I had heard: the frustration with West Virginia's political scene, some history of the state from a different-and no doubt valid-point of view, some visionary ideas for the future, and strong commitment to continue to work towards a greener future.
I felt hopeful and inspired when I left, particularly by the work of some of the younger ones in the group. They see the state realistically and still see possibilities to move into a future that positions West Virginia as a desirable, environmentally friendly and business friendly place to live and work. With such people leading the way, our state may one day move passed our dependence on coal and extractive industries. We need to do that, and that fact is underscored each time the economy takes a dip and coal production drops, each time another giant powerline is proposed, each time a miner is killed or a community's water sources contaminated. It's time, and past time, to get out of past ruts and find a new driving lane for this state.