"Denny Haldeman,  an environmentalist “focused mostly on helping people ‘get it’ about the ethanol and biofools scams to devour forests, food and soil,” will speak to “The Biofuels Myth” as part of the discussion of corporate control of agriculture on Saturday morning at the 17th Annual Heartwood Forest Council.

The council, gathering this year in southeastern Missouri over Memorial Day weekend, is an event that brings together  “small farmers, forest defenders, scientists, wildcrafters, foresters, community organizers, river-keepers, permaculture activists and more” to share knowledge, tactics and community around issues that threaten forests and the people who put down roots alongside them.

Indiana environmentalist Andy Mahler, a co-founder of the council who now serves as membership director, says he expects about 200 people to attend.

The scope of the event encompasses three principles: provide an opportunity to stop ongoing or new threats to forests and communities; highlight the efforts of people and communities who are demonstrating more sustainable practices; and offer tools and techniques that anyone can use to promote and enjoy the work of safeguarding forests and communities.

Mahler says the workshops and discussions aim to “give people the ability to choose a positive future.”

A $35 non-Heartwood registration fee (meals are extra) gives you tent or cabin space and lets you participate in workshops that address issues including forest management, the effects of acronyms such as GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations), and sustainable farming.

The first session on Saturday morning focuses on lead poisoning, including a discussion of the little town of Herculaneum, Mo., home to the nation’s most prolific lead smelter and to a population and environment radically affected by this poison. Many think Herculaneum may well be the next Love Canal and force the government to buy out home and business owners whose town has been inundated with the toxic residue of lead smelting. Andy Mahler calls Herculaneum “a case study in what not to do.”

In the afternoon, you can lighten up with a workshop entitled “Making Your Own Natural Health and Beauty Products,” and catch not one but two films: one on civil rights activist Ivory Perry’s work against lead poisoning, the other on the devastating effects of the coal mining technique of mountain-top removal.  

Sunday is devoted to forests, farming and field trips. You can join an early Sunday bird walk, hear about forest management, learn about help for small growers and take a field trip to Pioneer Forest and Elephant Rocks State Park.

Though many of the workshops tackle difficult subjects and situations, Mahler says the intent of the weekend is to create a positive experience and outcomes. “The purpose isn’t to frighten people but to highlight the community of people who are doing the work to put in healthy and more sustainable practices to free people from bondage to the current corporate/industrial system.”

Online information and registration at www.heartwood.org/forestcouncil.



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