Around April Fools’ Day 2013, some of my Eureka Springs friends and neighbors opened their mailboxes to letters informing them of SWEPCO’s (Southwestern Electric Power Company) intention to construct an energy superhighway through the heart of the Arkansas Ozarks. Word quickly spread that this 345kV line was to run approximately 48 miles, claiming a 100 foot wide swath through forest, river valleys, national treasures (Thorncrown Chapel and the Trail of Tears) and agricultural lands with promises of herbicide spraying in perpetuity, possibly from helicopters. Time to object: 30 days.
This news devastated individual home owners, some of whom would have the powerline pass within feet of their homes. It shook business people dependent on the nature-based tourist economy, angered local lovers of Ozark caves, waterways and trees, troubled naturalists who understood the vulnerability of the area’s unique karst terrain, piqued historians, and distressed anyone dependent on clean drinking water to survive.
Eureka Springs is my first experience with a small town (population about 2000, with the entire county coming in under 30,000). Sometimes the intense public dissension injected into seemingly simple issues like parking meters and walking trails surprises me. But SWEPCO’s threat called forth a different response, a unified response largely catalyzed by a dogged, procedurally savvy, quickly formed group called Save the Ozarks. http://savetheozarks.org/
SWEPCO had proposed multiple routes for consideration by the Arkansas Public Service Commission for its project. A perfect plan for dividing and conquering the opposition. But the Heart can’t be divided. The founders of Save the Ozarks (STO) understood the revolutionary value of standing together beyond personalities and proposed routes. And so the message from our local lips became: “We oppose all routes.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuCSDJZMqfw
The uncertain road was trying and long, particularly for those at the center of STO, but on December 30, 2014 SWEPCO finally withdrew its application, citing a lack of need (which STO’s experts had pointed out from the beginning). Across the Ozarks, most everyone, perhaps even the Ozark Big-Eared bats, breathed a sigh of joyful relief and gratitude to Save the Ozarks and all who contributed to the defense of our Ozark homeland.
Sometimes things are just too important to let personal agendas and annoyances get in the way. The Heart transcends boundaries and differences. It gives the wisdom and the will to act together to defend and heal what matters, whether that is the homeland of one’s family, beloved countryside, or the planet.
What experience do you have with united, heart-full action?