Environmental Justice 499: Why It Matters to You

Environmental Justice 499: Why It Matters to You

Welcome back!

If you have followed my environmental blogs for the past couple of months, you will know we have been talking about Environmental Justice.  If you’re new and this is your first Environmental Justice blog STOP! GO BACK!  You are missing out!  Click here to find the previous blogs.  For those who have stuck with me during this discussion, think of this as a capstone; a finale to Environmental Justice (hence the 499…horrible joke).  Now, this does not mean all four blogs can tell you everything.  Heck, scholars and activists have studied this problem for the past 50 years, and there is still so much more to know and understand.  However, it is the conclusion for our Environmental Justice discussion, for now.  We may venture into grad school one day…Environmental Justice 600, 700, 800?

This month I want to bring it home by talking about why Environmental Justice matters to you.  Everyone is affected by an unhealthy environment; some populations just get it worse than others.  I could go on for hours on this subject, but for the sake of keeping it to the point I will limit its discussion to climate change.

Climate Change

Climate Change is the mother of all environmental issues.  It is the historical product of environmental dislocation.  In other words, it is the manifestation of all our problems.  Maybe I should write a blog on climate change?  For now, climate change poses challenges for everyone because, simply, it will affect….EVERYONE! What does this mean in respect to Environmental Justice? Well, everything.  First, marginalized populations are and will experience the effects of climate change worse.  Second, these populations host the stressors that is causing climate change.  Take coal mining for example.  Right now, Appalachians host this stressor and it is a huge contributor to climate change.  This will impact you.  How, you ask?

  • Shortage of clean water
  • Increase of allergies
  • Flooding
  • Less snow
  • Sea level rise
  • Less rain
  • Food shortages
  • Harsher weather
  • Wildfires
  • Increase of health problems
  • Less global ice

These problems will only get worse. Alongside the impacts of climate change, environmental justice matters to you because it is an ethical issue.  It is wrong.  Folks like Martin County do not deserve cloudy, brown, smelly water.  No one does.  How many of you remember NIMBY (‘not in my backyard) from the first blog? I once read an EJ researcher say, BANANA.  BANANA stands for “build absolutely nothing, anywhere, near anybody”.  Shouldn’t that be the goal?

Let’s all BANANA!

Come back to next month where I will be talking about environmental policy in Kentucky.

Until next time,

Adam

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FOL visits Four Roses

FOL visits Four Roses

New Year – New Bourbon Tour

Hey there bourbon lovers!! I hope everyone celebrated Valentine’s Day with a little pour of their favorite drink and some roses, four roses perhaps!  Speaking of Four Roses, the Friends of Limestone squad kicked off the new year with a tour down in Lawrenceburg, KY learning all about the 10 different recipes that make up Four Roses. Currently their distillery is being remodeled and hopes to open up later this spring, it was still a good time but I will definitely be making the trip back once it is back in production!

Since the distillery is shut down, we start off the tour with a video on where Four Roses started and what makes it unique compared to all the other bourbons. Four Roses has been around for a long time, 1860 in fact! Paul Jones  who was the original owner bought the current property in 1910 and story has it that he named this wonderful bourbon after a girl who showed up to a dance wearing a corsage with four red roses. Four Roses was also one of six distilleries that were allowed to sell during the prohibition for medical reasons, you can still see some of the medical bottles that were used. Pretty neat!  Four Roses has been through a lot of rise & fall throughout the past century and currently it is rising back to the top!

That’s enough history for now, let’s talk about what goes into the bottle!  Like mentioned earlier there are 10 unique recipes put together by hand from their Master Distiller, Brent Elliott. The yellow label includes all 10 recipes, aged for 6.5 years and finished at 80 proof.  The small batch is pulled from 20 barrels and finished at 90 proof. Then the single barrel has only 1 recipe and 1 barrel finished at 100 proof after aging for 7.5 years.  All barrels are checked at 5.5 years then marked on if they will be a yellow label or move on to a small batch or single barrel.   Here is the breakdown of the 10 recipes .. it starts out with two different mash bills, mash bill E is made up of 75% corn, 20% rye, and 5% malted barley. Mash bill B is 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley.  From there, they pick from 5 different yeast strains V for a light fruity flavor, K for a spice, O for a rich fruit, Q for a floral, and F for herbal notes. Below is a list of the 10 different recipes for you to use when you are buying your next Four Roses bottle to know what you are getting out of that bottle. O stands for that it was made in Lawrenceburg, E or B for the mash bill, S for straight whisky, and V/K/O/Q/F for your yeast strain.

So if you have ever bought a bottle or drink of Four Roses and didn’t know if it was for you, try it out again! Maybe you just weren’t a fan of that yeast. Or you can be a little crazy like me and collect all 10 recipes – did someone say bourbon tasting?!

Environmental Justice: The Story of Martin County, Kentucky

Environmental Justice: The Story of Martin County, Kentucky

Hey, everyone!

How has everyone’s 2018 been so far? Our environment continues to be a pressing importance in my life and hopefully you are making it one in yours!

That being said, let’s keep talking about Environmental Justice in Appalachia!

Last month, I mentioned that this blog would be dedicated to a specific case example. One that is personal to me and has been making some news recently, is Martin County, Kentucky.

The story of Martin County is close to me because I have spent the past year studying the environmental injustices of this county for my dissertation research. What have I been doing and what’s going on with Martin County? First let’s get a baseline of the area.

Martin County is:

  • A Central Appalachian county of Kentucky that borders West Virginia.
  • Contains around 12,000 individuals.
  • Predominantly white (94 percent of the population).
  • The 115th poorest county in Kentucky.
    • The medium household income is around $25,000
    • 35 percent fall below the poverty level.
  • Where the War on Poverty was born.
  • A coal mining community.

Since coal mining is predominant in Martin County, their risk to environmental stressors is increased. Unfortunately this risk increased too far and in the fall of 2000 a disaster struck the county. One of the coal slurry impoundments broke, releasing over 300 million gallons of slurry in two hollows of Martin County: Coldwater and Wolf Creek.

What is “coal slurry?” It is the stuff that comes off coal after it’s washed. “Washed”? Why is coal being washed? Is it dirty? Well…yes! Before it is burned for energy purposes, it must be cleaned to rid various impurities, like soil and rock. The byproduct that comes off during this process is called “slurry” and it is housed in large dams call impoundments, like the one over Martin County.

Appalachian writer, Harry Caudill once said impoundments are “like a pool of gravy in a mound of mashed potato”. I really love that analogy. I feel like it gives a vivid picture of what these things are. It also gives you a good idea of what it looked like seeping into the community. The black gravy mixture contaminated local creeks, water sources, soil and killed aquatic life. For such a small community, tucked in the Appalachian Mountains, you might not think this was a big deal, but it was actually the worst environmental disaster in the southeast, exceeding the amount released from the Exxon Valdeez Oil Spill!

It was my goal to study the recovery of this disaster for my dissertation, so I started interviewing the people impacted. I soon learned that there is another environmental issue plaguing the county.  In a nutshell, their infrastructure is poor.

I found that:

  • Water lines were breaking, allowing contaminants to enter into the water source.
  • There is an average of 60 percent water loss across the county.
  • Their water smells, is discolored, and is reported to burn their skin.
  • No one drinks the water! Their source comes from bottled water.
  • People are organizing and trying to get a new water source for their community.
  • People are concerned over their health and community future.

You will probably hear more about Martin County and their struggles in the coming weeks and months as it is gaining more media attention day after day! I am not going into the details of why individuals believe their water system is inadequate; you will have to read my dissertation for that!

Regardless of the reason, this county experiences environmental stressors. It is truly unjust. The story of Martin County is a reminder that environmental stressors are not equally shared across populations!

Until next time,

Adam

Explaining Kentucky’s Three Tier Alcohol System

Explaining Kentucky’s Three Tier Alcohol System

Happy New Year Friends!

This month I am letting you in on a not-so-known secret.

On December 5th, 1933, Kentucky’s liquor laws were written to make it pretty hard to buy any alcohol. The end of Prohibition meant that every state had to develop their own rules on selling liquor, and Kentucky’s are pretty unique.

Let me break it down to each level and how that affects you & I buying bourbon!

The Three Tier System

Tier 1 Suppliers / Producers

This tier includes anyone who makes the alcohol. They include Beam Inc, Brown-Forman, and any other liquor company you’re familiar with.

Tier 2 – Distributors / Wholesalers

This is where the laws written at end of prohibition take over. Legislators ruled that distributors must receive alcohol from the supplier and deliver it to your local liquor store, effectively making them a middle man. In most states, the distributor is a privately owned company separate from the producer or supplier, (one of the biggest distributors in Kentucky is Southern Wine & Spirits) but in some states the actual state itself buys the alcohol.

Tier 3 – Retailers

This includes anywhere you can buy liquor, from your corner store to the big name liquor stores.

Why does this matter?

This system prevents producers from selling directly to retailers which means a producer and/or the retailer can not play favorites, preventing the large producers from buying up liquor stores or bars to only sell their brands. The distributor must act like a independent unbiased middle man. The purpose of this system was to promote fair market practices, for the most part it has worked!

Now what if you try to find your favorite bourbon in another state but that local store doesn’t have it?  This is because of the biggest downside of the system, producers large or small have to make deals with a distributor in each state! If you are not one of those large producers previously mentioned it is very hard to get your brand to all 50 states. That makes it difficult to find your favorite small brand bottle in a faraway place.

How does this affect the way we buy bourbon? At each of these levels the bourbon is taxed. Before the bottle even hits the shelves, it has been taxed for every year in the barrel by the local and state government! After that the distributors are taxed by the state, then as the final sales tax that we pay with each drink at a bar or bottle from Kroger. Last year that was $825 million in taxes per the Kentucky Distillers Association. All in all nearly 60 percent of every bottle of liquor in Kentucky goes to taxes or fees, with seven different taxes on Bourbon – including a tax on barrels each and one for every year it ages.


So next time you go in to buy your bourbon of choice, that bottle went through a lot more than just the normal aging process! If you want to learn more about the three tier system or liquor laws in Kentucky, check out this site!  Cheers!

Environmental Justice 356: Appalachia

Environmental Justice 356: Appalachia

Hello, again!

I hope everyone’s holiday season is going well and everyone is staying warm! As the year comes to end, I want to continue our discussion about Environmental Justice. If you missed last month’s blog, I wrote a very basic introduction to what Environmental Justice is and why it is a national problem; click here to read it, it is important for our “December talk”!

I plan for, at least a couple months, these blogs to build on one another. So, the next installment in Environmental Justice will be focused on Appalachia; think of it as “Environmental Justice 356”. Some of you not from the eastern side of the country may be asking yourself “App-a-what?” whereas others are wondering if I am pronouncing it as “App-ah-LATCH-ah” or “App-ah-LAY-CHA”.

So, what the heck is Appalachia?

  • A predominantly rural region of the U.S. consisting of 420 counties.
  • Stretches 205,000 square miles
  • Spans 13 states: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virgnia, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.
  • It is broken up into 5 sub-regions: North, North Central, Central, South Central, and Southern.
  • All Kentucky counties are located in the Central sub-region.

So, why am I talking about Appalachia? For one, a part of it is located in the commonwealth. Also, last month, I discussed the role class plays into the location of environmental “bads”; reference the “race vs. class debate”. Appalachia, and particularly Central Appalachia, is extremely poor.

  • Central Appalachia is predominantly white.
  • As of 2017 Central Appalachia has:
    • The lowest mean ($47,152)
    • The lowest median household income ($33,956)
    • The highest percentage of those in poverty.
    • The highest percentage of individuals with less than a high school diploma.
    • The lowest percentage of those with a bachelor’s degree.
    • The highest percentage of those living with a disability.
  • It has the most amount of counties labeled distressed by the federal government; these are counties with the lowest economic stability.
    • There are a total of 49 distressed counties in Central Appalachia
    • 37 of which, are in Kentucky.

Okay, so what does all of this have to do with Environmental Justice? EVERYTHING! It is one of the central reasons environmental “bads” concentrate in Appalachia. You may be asking yourself, “I remember last week he mentioned waste facility sites, is that what he means? Is there an over concentration of those?” Well, I am sure Central Appalachia has their fair share of them, but no. Environmental “bads”, for Appalachia, exist primarily because of poor mining methods from the coal industry. Recall a blog I authored a couple months ago about how Limestone extraction needs to be done properly, the same goes for coal mining. This has existed in the sub-region for roughly 150 years (Do I hear an answer to the “chicken vs. the egg debate”?) Since its entrance into Central Appalachia, it has:

  • Created unsafe living and work conditions for miners and residents
  • Destroyed mountains
  • Caused large scale disasters
  • Polluted the air, water, and soil
  • Increased cancer rates, liver problems, and skin disorders
  • Reduced mortality rates, as well as overall quality of life.
  • Increased economic problems

Okay, okay, I know that was a lot to go over in such a short time! One blog can’t, and no pun intended, do environmental justice in Appalachia “justice”. I wanted to give each and every one of you a short introduction to environmental justice issues happening right within our state. Next month we will discuss a case example of a coal-caused environmental justice issue!

Until next time,

Adam

Bourbon Holiday Gifts for Newbies and Experts Alike

Bourbon Holiday Gifts for Newbies and Experts Alike

It’s the most booziest time of the year!

Between Halloween and New Years Eve, it seems like life just gets a little bit more hectic. You are wrapping up projects at work, trying to fight away the Kentucky weather changes (aka allergies), and finding the perfect presents for all of your loved ones! Well you are in luck .. I’m going to suggest some of my favorite Bourbon lover finds this holiday season.

For the experienced Bourbon drinker .. this person might already have their favorite drink of choice and some great accessories so I suggest getting them some cool glasses to make their bourbon sipping a little bit more enjoyable. Below are my favorite to use throughout the year!

For the occasional bourbon drinker .. this person is slowly building their collection but might not know what all they need to really enjoy a good drink.

 

If you are looking for something a little bit more extravagant, there is plenty to do around the whole state of Kentucky! Plan a weekend away in horse country to explore some of the most famous distilleries in the world, there are plenty of bed & breakfast deals that include a bourbon tour. Don’t feel like making it a whole weekend or live nearby? Join up with Mint Julep Tours to go explore the country roads just for the day and then you don’t have to worry about who is going to be the DD!

Hope this helps you get some shopping done for the ones you love or for yourself! Have a safe & bourbon filled holiday!

Meet a Friend of Limestone: Irma Kocer

Meet a Friend of Limestone: Irma Kocer

This month’s profile of a Kentuckian you should get to know takes us to Lexington!

Meet Irma!

 

What’s your name?

Irma Kocer

Where are you from?

Croatia/Bosnia but also Woodford County.

Where do you live currently?

Tiny yellow cottage, Lexington, KY.

What is your profession?

Public Health graduate student and Student Coordinator for UK’s Office of Nationally Competitive Awards

Why are you a friend of limestone?

Limestone is (literally) the foundation of Kentucky. FOL is creating a multifaceted approach to educating the great citizens of Kentucky about our foundation while simultaneously creating spaces for advocacy and community engagement. I truly believe FOL is creating a grassroots effort to bring Kentucky’s prioritizes where they need to be in terms of conservation and environment. I am thrilled to be a part of it!

What is your favorite thing about Kentucky?

Autumn in Kentucky is truly magical. No matter where I have lived or traveled, the Bluegrass in that time of year is one of the best sights I’ve ever seen. Oh, and the food.

What makes Kentucky special?

Kentucky has a vast refugee and immigrant population. My past work in refugee resettlement as well as the fact that my family was resettled through Kentucky Refugee Ministries makes this an aspect of Kentucky that I hold dear. The Bosnian population in Bowling Green, the Congolese population in Lexington, the Somalian and Cuban population in Louisville, the Burmese population in northern Kentucky, and everyone in between truly speaks to the rich and colorful culture of our great state.

If you could name a Kentucky Derby horse, what would you name it?

Cheesy Grits

What is your vision for Kentucky?

My vision is a Kentucky without health and wealth disparities. It is a Kentucky where every individual, no matter their background or immigration status, has equal access to the tools they need to create the best life for themselves.

What is your favorite bourbon?

Woodford, of course! With a splash of Ale81.

What is your favorite place in Kentucky?

It’s a toss up: the backroads of Woodford County or the Old San Juan Cuban restaurant in Lexington.

What is one thing you would change about Kentucky?

We as Kentuckians often see ourselves divided into Louisville, Lexington, and everyone else. This leads to losing sight of the united commonwealth due to the variety of backgrounds and socio-economic differences. So I would change how divided we are. If we were able to come together, especially from a political perspective, we could create policies that would work for every Kentuckian instead of just those that have been representing us at the national level for years.

For you, what does it mean to be a friend of limestone?

It means supporting FOL in every way that I can. That may be in big ways such as advocacy and reducing my own carbon footprint. It may be in small everyday things like wearing my FOL t-shirt and happily explaining the mission to inquiring minds. Or a combination of both!

 

Thanks to Irma for participating!

Know someone we should talk to next? Email us at Communications@FriendsOfLimestone.com!