Thursday, April 16, 2009

The other side of the tracks

Some miles after I left Tuscaloosa I began to feel some hostility toward me and my motor home. I'd put up a sign in the window saying "WAKE UP to the CLIMATE EMERGENCY" and I saw people driving up to my vehicle, when it was parked, to check the sign. Unfortunately I never had the chance to ask people what they were thinking, but it didn't seem friendly.

In the Birmingham area I spent the first two days in a poor southwest section of town, and described some of my observations in the entries from those days. Then I crossed into the northeast section of the city, a beautiful place with many wealthy neighborhoods and gorgeous homes. The businesses were much more interesting and attractive.

As I walked north into the rural area, I realized I was in a more settled and economically viable farm country. 
A few days earlier I'd heard on NPR that Alabama farmers were up in arms due to a rumor that the EPA plans to charge a head tax on cattle because of the methane. I wondered if the hostility I was sensing came from that connection of global warming and taxes. If they read my flier they would see that climate change activists support small farms and recommend shopping and eating local. 
Not everyone is a farmer; in fact most of the rural dwellers probably commute into town, causing traffic congestion 15 and 20 miles out of town, near the interstate exits. 

I continued to feel hostility toward me and for the first time I was asked to leave one shopping center where I wanted to park for the night, and was also rejected at a gas station. One police officer, from whom I requested information on parking in the village, did not return my greeting when I said "Good morning," and treated me with utter condescension. That day as I walked in the beautiful countryside I felt a Joyce Carol Oates edge, as if at any moment reality could take a twist for the worse. 

On April 15th there was a lot of talk on radio about tea parties and the signs below seemed to capture the worst attitudes of the far right. 

The truth is that I am safe and sound, and that entering the little library in the town of Springville was like a breath of fresh air. I learned that people couldn't remember the last time they had their heaters on so late in the year, and that the other librarian didn't come in early because she was caring for three baby goats born overnight. One woman told me that she and her husband moved up from the Alabama Gulf Coast after damage to their business and home from nine hurricanes, culminating in Ivan, convinced them to leave. "But the coast is very beautiful and most people, including my parents, stay and rebuild," she said. 

I'm leaving tomorrow for two weeks back in Bethlehem, but I will be back in early May to continue the Climate Walk.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are coming back to the valley at its best
"Forsythia bravely bloomed,so radiant and so fair.TIS SPRING!TIS SPRING!TIS SPRING!"