An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
of June 22, 2003
written in the woods just east of Natchez, Mississippi, USA


Tuesday at dusk a one-inch rain sneaked up on me, and the clothes drying on my line got wet. Early Wednesday morning while passing by the sodden clothes still hanging there I saw that the sun shining on them caused curls of steam to rise into the morning air. I paused awhile, reflecting on how nicely this natural drying of my clothing fit into our goals of establishing permaculture on this property. Here's my train of thought:

Permaculture, besides being an ecologically sound method for growing food and providing an enriched living environment for people, is also an attitude. At the heart of the attitude is reverence for life on Earth, and that implies living a lifestyle impacting the ecosystems around us as little as possible, while continuing to live a pleasant and useful life.

I connected this thought with my clothes hanging on the line because earlier that morning on Public Radio I'd heard how in Appalachia coal-stripminers have redoubled their practice of knocking off the tops of entire mountains and shoving the debris into streams. This behavior is now encouraged, where earlier it was discouraged, because the Bush Administration has redefined certain terms in the Clean Water Act. Wikipedia's page on mountaintop removal stripmining is at

The coal being stripmined in Appalachia is used to produce electricity. That electricity enabled the use of such appliances as clothes dryers. In other words, when I turn on a clothes dryer, I am telling the power companies to send me more electricity, and they in turn tell coal companies to strip more coal, and the strippers respond by bulldozing mountaintops into streams. Already over 700 miles of Appalachian streams have been eliminated -- simply obliterated into nonexistence -- completely in accordance with the Clean Water Act as defined by the Bush Administration.

Here is the pretty part: My soggy clothes hanging steaming in the morning sun is a vote, a vote to produce less electricity, to stripmine less, to stop knocking the tops of Appalachian mountains into valley streams.

As I see it, one value of Cooper Hill Institute is that it provides a place where people (so far just me) can practice a sustainable, thought-out, moral lifestyle without having to apologize to anyone for doing so. If we want to do without air conditioners, let weeds grow until we can replace them with organic gardens, or spend an afternoon shelling beans instead of doing regular paid, taxable work, we can do it here because that's in our charter, that's our mission, that's who we are and we are proud of it!

And if we can by example inspire at least one person to one day hang his or her clothing out to dry in fresh air and sunlight instead of using an electric dryer, and this is done because the person consciously decides to not collude in the George-Bush-sanctioned bulldozing of mountaintops into beautiful Appalachian valleys, then that will be a majestic contribution our Cooper Hill Institute will have made toward the continuance of Life on Earth. Facebook Icon.