Russell Honicker, November 13, 2014

Title

Russell Honicker, November 13, 2014

Subject

Environmental activism
Photography
Sustainability

Description

Russell Honicker was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1957, and grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. He grew up in a family of six and both his parents worked. He grew up under the supervision of his sisters. He became interested in environmental activism as a child when his father brought in newspapers and pictures that did not run in the newspaper of the Vietnam War, as well as journalists, scientists, and environmentalists that were against nuclear power and other issues at the time. Russ went to New York City after having various jobs and started photographing people, places, and issues in different areas in the United States and in Latin America. He was always interested in what was happening in the world and what we can do about these issues. His photography was a way to let the world know what was happening.
Russ has played a significant role in environmental activism in Cooperstown and is involved in several anti-fracking campaigns and sustainability projects in the community. He has done research on the effects of fracking and other environmental issues in Cooperstown, bakes bread, and is currently working on a narrative of his life and the environmental issues in the community.

Creator

Falicia Eddy

Publisher

Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta

Date

2014-11-13

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
43.1mB
audio/mpeg
43.2mB
audio/mpeg
12.8mB
image/jpeg
910 × 1271 px

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Identifier

14-024

Coverage

Upstate NY
1957-2014
Cooperstown, NY

Interviewer

Falicia Eddy

Interviewee

Russell Honicker

Location

55 Beaver Street
Cooperstown, NY

Transcription

RH = Russell Honicker
FE = Falicia Eddy

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

FE:
This is the November 13, 2014 interview of Russell Honicker by Falicia Eddy for the Cooperstown Graduate Program's Research and Fieldwork course recorded at Russell Honicker's house, 55 Beaver Street in Cooperstown N.Y. So Russ, can you tell me a little bit about where you are from and how you grew up?
RH:
I was born in Mobile, Alabama and I grew up primarily in Nashville, Tennessee. When we needed heat we turned on a dial and wires turned red. That was electricity.
There were six of us in a two bedroom house. My two sisters slept in one room, my mother and father slept in another, and my brother and I slept in the dining room. We grew up feral. My father went to work in the afternoon, and would get home at 1, or 2, or 3 or 4 in the morning. My mother- [had] four kids in 5 years-she found a way, she created businesses in other places, so we were kind of wild. We did things. We sort of took care of ourselves. We fought between ourselves. Battles, my older sisters, my younger brother, and I.
But how we grew up, it was a funny time. I was born in '57 so I grew up in the 60's. The Vietnam War was going on and [I] came into consciousness with that. My older sisters bringing the Beatles into our house, Arlo Guthrie. My father bringing newspapers into our house, and photographs that did not run in the newspaper. What was going on. And bringing journalists into our house who had been in Vietnam, and then later, bringing scientists who had worked on the atomic bomb, and distinguished medical doctors, and radiologists, and energy activists. [They were] trying to stop the world's largest nuclear plant from being built on the source of Nashville's drinking water and my household seemed to be in the vortex of this opposition. So lots of different issues, artists, journalists, and hippies. A confluence of lots of different people, that’s how I grew up; first wild, and then in the midst of all of these happenings of the 1960's, until I left.
Then I went to NYC in my early 20s and maybe that’s where my real growing up was, on my own. I was a college drop out of epic proportions. I dropped out of many places. Kind of wayward. It wasn't until I was 20 that I figured out I could do something pointing a camera. Three years apprenticeship and then I went to NY and tried to make my way as a journalist. That is where a new education started.
So I spent a couple years beating my head against the wall and then went back South, and went back to college as a freshmen at 25. That was kind of wonderful, and then I left the country. I went to Nicaragua. They were having a revolution. [I] photographed there for three months, and El Salvador, and Honduras, and Guatemala. [I] saw a little bit of something else, and came back and graduated from college. Then went to work at a newspaper in North Carolina for a year, [got fired], and then I taught for a year. A short stint chipping stones between the two: [I worked] on a farm near where they were going to build this nuclear plant that I mentioned we [had been] fighting for years. Then after that, I went back to New York. I was 30 and I had more experience under my belt. I had another go at New York City, and now I'm in [upstate New York]. We left New York City after some years, and we came to this small town called America’s perfect village, Cooperville, Cooperstown, [it was] twelve years ago, something like that. Thirteen years almost, so life goes on. I hope that answered your question [laughs].
[TRACK 1, 07:40]
FE:
It did, it also brings out new questions. What were you doing in NYC, what was your career goal?
RH:
Survival, first I think was more of a goal than really thinking about a career. First, it was surviving. I had a picture published in a New York City weekly, the Village Voice. And people saw it and one fella in particular saw it, and this was when I was still living in Tennessee. [Andrew Phillips] came to Nashville [after seeing that picture], to make a film. His influence in my life can't be overstated. He convinced me to leave the South and take my work to NYC.
There was a big accident, Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania [1979]: there were large demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and I made my way there. Demonstrations at the Pentagon, and demonstrations on the mall. And I took all that I shot over a couple days and went to New York with no money in my pocket, pawning some of my camera equipment to pay for my trip from D.C. to New York.
I did have a goal. I had a friend who had a cover of Time Magazine, Time or Newsweek. He had photographed this fellow [James Earl Ray] who was convicted of killing Martin Luther King. My friend, Gerald Holly, had gotten the last picture of [Ray] before he broke out of prison, Brushy Mountain Prison, I think it was. So that had gotten [Holly] a cover photograph and the stories I heard from Gerald I thought that would be a nice way to help fund my new life if I was to get a cover photograph, and anyways I took my work to a magazine and somehow they told me to come back the next day. And they processed what I had to show them, and I had some already processed, and they encouraged me to go out and photograph angry Americans. And so over the course of a year or so that is what I did and oh my gosh, I don't know, stories. You want me to talk for an hour and a half. I could just go on.
FE: Go on.
RH:
I discovered some things about journalism I guess and then I went back to college and then got into journalism on a small town tri-weekly paper, and then sort of, kind of worked my way in. And then I got back to NY and got back into other venues and other jobs and experiences and the streets, the hustlers, drug addicts, homeless people and business men, multibillionaire business men. All kinds of damn people I photographed and it was what I did, and now I'm here. And on a different bend.

[TRACK 1, 12:05]
FE:
How does photography play a role in some of the causes that you are interested in?
RH:
I thought I could document it. And so how did it play a role? I don't know I got some things published.
FE:
What about environmentalism?
RH:
Yeah, it’s all environmentalism. It's all environmentalism, how about it. Has it accomplished anything? No, it has accomplished zero. The world just keeps spinning in whatever direction it is going. Its human nature. Have I affected human nature and the corporations and the direction our economy is going and how we exploit the earth? No, but it has been my own education and it’s affected me and how I live, I think. It pushed me out in the world and helped me fuel my waywardness, dissatisfactions, and a kind of impulsiveness perhaps to get the hell out of wherever I am and go somewhere else for a while and see things, meet people, experience and try to get new ideas in my brain.

[TRACK 1, 13:57]
FE:
So, how did you develop your career before coming to Cooperstown?

RH:
Develop my career, [the word] “career” in my life is a bizarre juxtaposition because my life has gone in many different directions and is yet going in another direction. Career, I don't know there must be some way to think of it all under a kind of a rubric of a career. I'm just trying to take it all in, and photography was one way to take it in. And right now I'm trying to write about things that I've seen and experienced and the impulses that I mentioned and how I express it and trying to make something, a narrative is maybe what I wanted to do before I ever picked up a camera. I'm just getting around to it and I'll be sixty in two and a half years, and I'm just now getting around to it. So career, it’s just strange.

[TRACK 1, 15.23]
FE:
What brought you to Cooperstown?
RH:
A broken down car, but I guess more existentially I married a woman who grew up here. After a dozen years together in New York City our life changed rather dramatically after 9/11. Something as fundamental as real estate changed, and we couldn't afford New York, and the way we were living. We or maybe me, didn't want to make the compromises to live in other places in that urban environment. And I felt like I was and had been beating my head against the wall for a number of years and so we tried something new and I ended up here and here we are. It wasn't a seamless transition. I drove all over New England and into Canada and all sorts of places to see where else I would live other than down the street from my in-laws, but here we’re in a house four doors away from my aging mother-in-law, and my brother-in-law lives four blocks one direction, and my sister in law lives two blocks in the other direction. It’s a hell of a thing, I wasn't very successful in realizing my dreams there, but what the hell, here we are.
[TRACK 1, 17.10]
FE:
Well, what do you like about living in Cooperstown?
RH:
I like being able to walk right out of town, and being totally lost in nature. I love that. And it’s everywhere you are it seems like it's got all the elements of conflict and battle and issues wherever you are. I think I’ve learned that in the last year. You could be in the desert squatting in a run-down building, or you can be in a small town, or in a big city. Wherever you are there are the same issues, the same fights you’re going to see it. And here were are fighting fracking and I was in the desert for three months last year and it was gold mining. It was projected for the Sierras of the southern peninsula of Baja. If I was in another place I love in New Mexico it would be open-pit coal mine and another coal station, and if I was in the Bronx, a few years ago it would be fighting a water treatment plant, or it could be a land fill. It can be a golf course right on the source of your drinking water, as we know very well. In Cooperstown, that's what we have.

[TRACK 1, 19.07]
FE: Can you tell me a little more about issues in Cooperstown?

RH:
Well, the primary issue is water and how we use it, how we protect it, and how we use the land around it. Industrial tourism is what we have here to create a monoculture for golf-what effect does that have on our drinking water? Cooperstown is a national tourist destination. So resources are to accommodate several hundred thousand people in a small place over the course of a few weeks- which is what we do every year here. There are a lot of things we could be doing differently. And I've been involved since I got here actually. It started with being part of some peace organizing and starting a petition, and then learning about freedom of speech in a small town. Who is free to speak? Who is under the thumb? Not wanting to make waves in a small town, with neighbors, or with their employer? And here, there is one employer for the museums, hospital, and the big hotels. It’s one employer. That employer is the driving force of the industrial tourism that we have here. So there are two different viewpoints that clash. One viewpoint has more power, money, and influence. The other viewpoint is the grassroots and that’s another story.
[TRACK 1, 22:12]
FE:
Well, so you mentioned fracking, what was your involvement in the issue?
RH:
From the very beginning, once I got on to what fracking was about, I alerted people that thousands of acres surrounding this village are leased out. Everywhere you go, down Route 28 towards Oneonta, down Route 33 towards Cherry Valley, or towards Springfield, or another direction outside of town down Route 80. I went to the county court house, looked at land deeds, and found out that if those leases were utilized that it would be the end of this place. Totally. There would be no tourism, there would be no fresh air or water.
It would happen here what has happened in countless other places that we know of in Wyoming, Pennsylvania, and Texas of aquifers being contaminated and particulate matter in the air from constant diesel truck traffic, and compressor stations moving gas, ponds and chemical spills, you name it. It seems to be such a polluting industry. It’s hard to paint the picture in a few words but everywhere they do it is a nightmare. They are changing the landscape in Wisconsin, mining the sand. [Other places, the Southern Tier of New York], where they are taking the drill cuttings, it is changing the air there through truck traffic pollution. Thousands of trucks moving hundreds and hundreds of thousands of tons of radioactive, heavy metal laden rocks, [the cuttings] are brought up from thousands of feet below the ground. Concentrated. It cannot be sequestered from the water that falls from the sky. Leachates out of dumps, or water treatment plants where a leachate from these dumps are processed, leaves intact the contaminates which go down the Chemung River, Susquehanna River, and on to the Chesapeake bay. We know it’s a nightmarish process. They are spreading the stuff on the roads in New York State, putting it in dumps, spreading it across farmland. We [environmental activists] know it’s going on.
There have been many, many, many activists across the state who have been working on this and speaking out. People up near Seneca Lake in jail right now trying to stop a big salt cavern underneath the lake from being used as a gas storage. People now in the Southern Tier are trying to stop drill cuttings from coming into Chemung County, in Delaware County right across the way from us here trying to stop pipelines and compressor stations. It all continues. This activity just continues even though New York is said to be in a state of moratorium on fracking. We are in a midst of a humongous industrial build-out for the gas industry to move gas out of Pennsylvania, North, to be exported out of the country. That is the struggle of the day I think right here, that’s the struggle of the day.
[TRACK 1, 27.27]
FE:
What do you do in your own life to try to be more sustainable?
RH:
Well, I’m burning wood right here as you see the fire is keeping us warm and it’s not an oil boiler. A lot of the wood was just dumped right here. It was going to be in a woodpile over at the village dump. I came back from Mexico just as they were cutting down all the trees on Main Street. I said my driveway is closer than driving their trucks to dump it somewhere else. So I don’t know it’s all laughable, splitting wood, I mean. I spent quite a bit of my energy splitting wood.
We grow food in the backyard. I built a large bread oven that I was going to try to fire, keep hot with wood; and that was a learning curve. But that was my desire to bake a hundred loaves in the morning for the village markets. That was an effort to try to be sustainable, and I learned a lot about that. But we bake bread two loaves at a time in our electric oven which is a nightmare, but I bake maybe a dozen loaves over the course of a day, when I bake. But at least I keep the oven heated up and don’t cool it down. I mean that’s a little savings right there but of course it’s all laughable. We’re trying to connect with people around us who grow food and trying to disengage as much as we can from the industrial food train but of course it’s not enough. I mean it’s all going to change and we all have to go a lot further than [anything] we do here. There’s a lot to be done, a lot to be done.

[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]
FE:
So what are some of your [recent] environmental projects?
RH:
Falicia, you asked about sustainability. We got a big old tree delivered here from Main Street. Very tall, old, dead tree; too punky to split, too punky for firewood. And we put it in the back yard after digging out a bit of a hole and made a mound, and in German a mound is called a hugell and we made a hugelkultur. We dug out the path of the garden and put it on top of this wood. That is our tiny little ant step towards sustainability. Things grow on that mound, which is over 7 or 8 feet tall and 10 feet wide, a big chunk of wood. That will water the plants and make the soil the plants live in ever more fertile. That is a resource, without doing anything, into the future. That is in place. That's our latest little step. Straw bales that we grew food out of and what's left is compose. We will dress up the garden, the raised beds that have the garlic already in place, and be ready to sprout up in the spring. We will plant some things and we have some bean seeds. We will put in some potatoes and onions and that is the sustainability thing. What is your next questions?

[TRACK 2, 02.05]
FE:
So after sustainability what are some of your recent environmental projects in Cooperstown, starting now?

RH:
Recent environmental projects. You know we had a town meeting along Main Street; that was recent. The whole town came out together and we baked bread and people made food. We sat and caroused a bit with our friends so that was a nice thing out in our environment. So far the revolution, the Unadilla Liberation Front has not had any movements of late towards the environment. The front lines and things are going well. [Laughs]: Alright, I’m pulling your leg, what is your next question?

[TRACK 2: 03.11]
FE:
So you’re talking about Unadilla Valley, The Unadilla Liberation Front, what is that?

RH:
Unadilla Liberation Front? I got a Christmas post card in the mail a few years ago. It looked like it had been carried through mud and it looked like it had been tracked in the snow. I opened it up and it said there would be no Christmas that year until a $34,000 ransom was paid. That Santa Claus had been made hostage and this was written in different letters, cut out of different magazines and newspapers. Saying the ransom had to be paid to the Unadilla Liberation Front, that was my first exposure to that revolutionary group known as the ULF. My good friend who is now a four star general is head of that liberation front. And you, Falicia being a graduate student if you would like you can get your number, your Unadilla Liberation Front number. [Laughs.] Okay, next question.

FE:
So what do you guys do in Unadilla Valley?
RH:
Oh its just. So lets see I think George is putting up notices for Unadilla Liberation front meetings at the usual place it says, at the grocery store. But unfortunately, these notices are taken down by the management within one hour. To get the word out it’s a ever clandestine and uh fun thing that George does. I have to say I haven't been very active in the movement of the Unadilla Valley but I’m just glad and thankful to know they are out there. Oh, the numbers are huge, oh, the numbers are huge so I better stop there. What's your next question?

[TRACK 2, 05.54]
FE:
So you were telling me a little bit before about your book, um what is it about?
RH:
No, it’s a constant sort of writing, it’s an impulse. Did I say my impulses earlier? Wild impulses of a wayward hayseed from Tennessee living in the North. Living under the strictures of marriage but still having a wild green growth inside of me that shoots up and out to bend towards the light, you know what I mean? [Laughs].

[START OF TRACK 3, 0:00]
FE:
Okay so about environmental ...projects that you are working on?
RH:
Projects... Well the main focus of late has continued to be the effects of fracking and the continued build out. Specifically coming towards [Cooperstown] a compressor station which will put up tons of VOC's [volatile organic compounds] into the atmosphere. People will breath it. It will travel. It's a daily operation. This thing will be putting out particulate matter from horse powered diesel engines running 24 hours a day, thousands of horses pushing gas down the line. Real environmental assaults, very real to be built near us. Also a very wide pipeline to go through places where there are forests now, some beautiful forests, and wetlands. The effects of clearing these trees through a forest are a severe environmental assault. And this assault will continue for decades into the future as they spray pesticides, herbicasides,...uh poisons to keep trees from growing-up-all-around in the path of this pipeline. To keep vegetation down, and to keep the evidence of a break [visible] from the air. Talking about that!

[TRACK 3, 1.52]
FE:
How is that going to affect Cooperstown?


RH:
All along the path of these pipelines the land is leased out for gas drilling. It is an open pipeline. For all intents and purposes will be utilized by the energy companies to frack. The air will be impacted within a two hundred mile radius. The air is impacted from this around the clock operation. Flaring, and transport of waste, spills, the truck traffic, the impact on the roads, increase in crime. To see the land, to see images of what has happened to the land in Wyoming, it takes an active imagination to picture this area-this beautiful area-chopped up like that.
But it's all, incrementally, day by day, continuing down the path. People are speaking out against it and groups are coming together. Pace law school has intervened to stop it, and yet our senators Gillibrand and Schumer, say fracking is a good thing in the future of New York, and President Obama wants it, and the Republicans want it. From the top down.
But here, this township [Otsego], was the first township in the state of New York to take action protecting this land. Saying this is how we design our land and fracking is not part of the design. The next town over, Middlefield has gone all the way to the State Supreme Court to have that right. There is a conversation going on throughout the country about local control to stop fracking. That is another component of the whole story. It takes some time to understand but it seems like as long as people believe in a regulatory structure that protects them; all is lost. There is no protection from industrial practices that produce waste which we cannot contain, and which would change the atmosphere by releasing methane. It's thirty or more times more potent than [carbon dioxide] which both holds the heat in the atmosphere and drives us to a hotter planet. That is what this industry does.
Another issue is that the fracking waste, the water that is injected with chemicals that are not disclosed. The law was restructured in 2005 by giving iindemnity to industry regarding the waste that goes into the ground, and what comes out of the ground: not calling it hazardous. This is hazardous waste.
But legally classifying it as not hazardous, this stuff, [water chemical waste] is [being trucked to] water treatment plants. [These plants] do not take out heavy metals, do not take out the radiation; it is flushed back into a river. And in all rivers in Pennsylvania, this is happening and radiation levels are [rising]... they have been documented. We're seeing the same thing in other industries, as in the Vermont Yankee [nuclear plant]. They're measuring the tritium [radioactive isotope] that is coming out of that plant, and a plume of radioactivity from Indian Point [nuclear plant, near Manhattan] just 200 miles South of us. It is ever expanding. The environmental challenges: how the future is going to deal with waste that we created for short term energy usage?
Wastes which are left behind, which will take untold amounts of energy to sequester human kind for as long as a possible? It needs to be sequestered for hundreds of thousands of years. So on the whole, it’s insane that we continue to produce more of it. That all of our design efforts are not channeled towards creating a way of life in our architecture and our transportation that doesn't poison us, and poison the planet. And people have known many aspects of this for a long, long time, a long time. Why is it like that? Why have we gone the direction we've gone? I don't know. I just don't know.
[TRACK 3, 08:31]
FE:
What are groups doing about this?
RH:
People are getting arrested. People are marching. The largest march ever to talk about climate change was just recently in New York City. People were just arrested recently at Seneca lake. There are people who are intervening in this county [Otsego County], and in Delaware County to try to stop the so called Constitution Pipeline from being built. A lot of different activities are done, many different types of resistance to the status quo are being waged. Such is the power of the state: power of eminent domain to take people's land. To pose before the public the army [corp] engineers-to say-”oh, these people will decide if this is the right thing to do.” And we have always seen, what has been done in Tennessee where I grew up. All the dams, and taking that energy, so much of it, and using it to build atomic bombs; creating such a devastating polluted environment. And old acreage in Tennessee: what they flushed down the Clinch River; and building the coal plants, changed the lakes in upstate NY. So full of the acid. Yeah, it could be done differently, and that's, that's the issue of the day.
And for me, when you started off this interview asking about career, something that comes to my mind is that I escaped. I got through the Vietnam War. I was not drafted. I was sixteen when they stopped the draft. I grew up reading about WWII and people's resistance to Nazism, and I wondered how I would have resisted [Nazism]? And so, how am I to be tested? I feel like this climate, these energy issues that I've started looking at, from an early age and continue to this day-that is the issue, how to react to that. That's more what I think about in terms of career. and my writing there, [points to a pile of typed pages], I don't know... its my own ideas of what it is to be human. I'm writing about things I experienced, and I'm trying to discover more about myself.

[TRACK 3: 12:39]
FE:
Can you tell me more about what you are doing in Cooperstown that is part of environmental activism?
RH:
Hm, I have to say, what am I doing? I volunteered for an environmental committee and agitated on this environmental committee to create a resolution to send to the elected trustees and the mayor to stop spraying pesticides on village property. And so I did that, the village voted and they transitioned for a couple of years, and have put out the word that they have stopped spraying Roundup and other fungicides that had been a regular practice of spraying on this baseball field, which is one of the hallmarks of this village. There is a baseball field and a museum [dedicated] to baseball. And the spraying is something that I was involved in stopping here in this village.
Right now I've taken myself off of the emailing and such. There is a tremendous sharing of information in this area, and people, professors and others have set up listserves to facilitate the sharing of information concerning the fracking in the country and in the world. I've been on listserves concerning nuclear power and what's happening in the 104 nuclear power plants in this country and what’s happening in Japan and in Europe, and in Russia with the nuclear plants. And so recently I've taken myself away from that since the election. I feel like I need to get out of an echo chamber, continue forward, and discover new ways, and stop doing what I have been doing, create new challenges, and new work for myself. That is what I am doing, I have sort of pulled away from the whole thing. We recently got storm windows on the house. That was our environmental action.We got the second floor storm windows up just in time for winter.
FE:
What messages or ideas do you want me people to get from your book, or what are your ideas?
RH:
Oh, I don't know. I'm trying to figure it out myself.
FE:
What groups were you part of ? Unadilla Liberation Front?
RH:
Uh that was all...Unadilla Liberation Front is a creation from a fellow who used to be a firefighter in New Jersey. He had fallen through floors and out of windows. I don’t know what all but he moved up here with one lung and has been a very creative person, a builder and artist and this is a brain-child of his imagination. In fact, there is no liberation front that I know of anywhere in the United States, I mean maybe in the forest. I’ve heard of great tales of environmental actions, but as far as Cooperstown is concerned mostly its getting your two to three or at the most five minutes in front of a federal regulatory agency to stand up and rant, or to have the privilege of the floor at county meetings. There are organizations here that have the word sustainable in it. Sustainable Otsego group, Stop the Pipeline group, and than there's the Environmental Working group, and the New York Gas Coordinating Committee, and I'm part of all of these. And than there is one called Frack Busters to criminalize, their objective is to get the population to understand that this is a criminal activity, that we should work to criminalize the very practice of fracking and all their [inaudible] operations; to criminalize it because people are harmed by it. Just as people are harmed everyday by the production of electricity from nuclear power plants even though it’s regulated, people are harmed by it [fracking]. And if people could understand that.

[TRACK 3, 18:47]
FE:
Well what are some of the consequences, human?
RH:
Cancers, respiratory problems, heart disease. But specifically what got my family involved was having a sister with leukemia, and learning that there is a higher rate of childhood leukemia in proximity to nuclear power plants. The nuclear regulatory commission produces this information of just how many people die each year. For each reactor, in its normal operation, radiation is emitted. It's part of a chain that we get it in our food. We get it in the air, we get it in our milk and cheese, and so forth. So I think you being an educator and thinking about museums, if we could actually deal with issues such as our agriculture and the immense pollution that is involved in growing our food. I mean, the hope is that people will change it.

[TRACK 3: 20:39]
FE:
How can we change it?
RH:
Well there are design systems to grow food that don't involve tilling the soil. We have to employ every system that we can to get as many positive benefits for each action. Harvesting water from houses, harvesting that water, and harvesting water on the landscape by putting in swales. And ceasing all the spraying of chemicals, and we have to conserve the topsoil by recycling all nutrients. There are towns in Canada that have municipal collections of food scraps for village wide composting. And the way we use water; using/taking water we could drink- and mixing that with our wastes,... it doesn't make sense. Going into the future we have to employ different systems which use our own waste to create more abundance. Not having to use fossil energy to de-contaminate huge collections of municipal waste. We know we can create algea ponds [instead]. We can create gas out of that, and we can create compost. The nitrogen that is in urine can be utilized instead of having [fertilizer] plants which would blow up in Texas. Wipe out a town, and people getting all these fertilizers and making bombs, and so forth. We can recycle our bodily nutrients. We could. There is a whole movement to turn lawns for food production in this country. The amount of energy that goes into lawnmowers keeping fields of green grass: we could grow food right where we live and obviate the need of all that diesel fuel of bringing vegetables from California for our plates right here. We could do so much more right here. That's the hope of the future, and that is inevitably where we will have to go. Learning from our predecessors: how they were extended were able to grow and eat during the cold season. There is so much we can learn about employing glass on the Southern side of our houses to hold the heat of the sun and give that heat off during the evenings. We can do that, there are lots of things we can do.
[TRACK 3, 24.17]
FE:
Going back to museums, what do you think is our responsibility?
RH:
Not to sugar coat, that is your responsibility. Not to sugar coat. There is going to be an exhibit on agriculture right here in Cooperstown at The Farmer's Museum. The issue of genetically modified crops, I know that you had someone come and speak to you students. This is a huge issue: losing the butterflies, losing the bees. This relates to spraying. To raise these crops, killing the soil life, huge issues, huge issues. And will that museum exhibit here in Cooperstown deal with those issues? Or will that just be sugar coated? The history thus far has not been to deal with these issues in museums. We saw at the Smithsonian Museum where the bombing of Japan [exhibit] was ultimately taken down because it was too controversial. That is backing away from the truth that we have to have to set us free, right?

[TRACK 3, 26: 23]

FE:
So how much are politics part of environmental concerns?
RH:
Well we're working, people are trying, and people have been trying to work through politics to change policies. People are out there in the world who are creating their own resources. They're growing their own foods, building their own houses from salvaged materials, composting their own wastes, and harvesting water. You know it's a lifestyle- what's needed- I don't know. What’s needed for all of culture is so broad and to purport to have the answers to address it, I don't. I have been involved all these decades, but I am as perplexed as can be.
FE:
How does politics dictate environmental issues, here?
RH:
That’s a good question, that's an excellent question. I guess you could ask, how does money influence politics here? This is an upscale community that we have billionaires, we have multimillionaires, and then we have people who just make barely enough money so that they can't qualify for Medicaid. You know that's quite a range, but people look after their own interests. And that affects policy.

FE:
Does that affect how museums talk about environmental issues?
RH:
There is going to be an exhibit on agriculture, present day agriculture, at the museum in this town. Now in this town there is a golf course that sprays thousands of gallons of pesticides, thousands of gallons of water diluted with these pesticides, every year. That's a central component of today of agriculture, in this country, in the world today. Thousands and thousands of

[START OF TRACK 4, 0:00]
RH:
thousands of gallons of pesticides applied annually. So what are the effects of that? Will that be a concern in this exhibit, here in Cooperstown? I don't think it will be, as a matter of fact I'm sure it won't be. And so, what do we lose by that? I've read quite a few of studies on the effects of pesticides and it's a mess, and politics, keeping your jobs, you will be confronted about this. What can you say? It’s the same in journalism. And that's the hard lessons in life and I don't have the prescriptions to say this is what people should do. My father got in trouble, and he got in trouble for things he published in the newspapers. So much so that the Tennessee Legislature took a vote to censor him. He was very proud of that. His response, he thought he had been given an honor from the knights of Printer's Alley he called them. But I don't know, so you be a part of that.

Duration

29.56
30.00
08.55

Bit Rate/Frequency

192 kbps

Files

Eddy_honicker.jpg

Citation

Falicia Eddy, “Russell Honicker, November 13, 2014,” CGP Community Stories, accessed September 18, 2020, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/206.