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Smart Talk, Dec. 6

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A town that will live in infamy

Retirees continue to move to Arkansas, so we won't let ourselves be upset by a report in the December issue of Funny Times that purports to identify the good and bad towns for retirement in America. The report is based solely on nomenclature, and it does not list the names of the states, but it includes a number of town names familiar to Arkansans. On the “don't go there” list are Gassville, Grubbs, Blue Ball, Bald Knob, Flippin, Toad Suck, Weiner, Yellville “and the infamous Nimrod.”

Only a couple of Arkansas names are on the “do go there” list — Romance and Hardy.

Get on the (green) bus!

While the rest of us are engrossed in the ongoing soap opera known as “Days of Our Nutt,” there are some intrepid souls toiling away on the things that really matter, like saving the planet. The members of the Chemistry Club at Parkview High School are, for example, raising money for an ambitious project to make a school bus run on old cooking oil and solar power.

Chemistry Club president Kundan Das, 17, said the plan is to purchase a diesel powered bus and install a kit that will allow it to run on strained grease from the Parkview cafeteria kitchen. Solar panels will be mounted on the roof to power incidental electricals, and the bus will be stripped and re-painted using environmentally friendly chemicals and methods. Once the project is done, Das and his fellow eco-nauts hope to see the bus put into service as transport for Parkview's clubs, band and choir whenever they need to hit the road.

So far, Das said they've raised around $1,400 toward a projected $5,000 goal. Donations – both money and material — are being accepted from individuals and corporate sponsors whose names and logos will be displayed on the bus. They hope to have the project completed by mid-February.

“I think once one school does it, maybe another school will be interested in doing it,” Das said. “The people involved in the project… they'll think about going green themselves once they own a house or a buy car. We're just raising awareness and getting the information to each person who is working with us on this project. That'll get it into their families and future generations after that.”

For more information or to donate to the project, call: 447-2414.

Birds to watch out for

The National Audubon Society released last week its 2007 WatchList of threatened bird species. The boom in land development and industrial agriculture has so robbed birds of places to breed, feed and rest that now, Audubon says, 59 species that occur on the North American continent are spiraling into population declines and another 119 are in big trouble.

Of those species on Audubon's “red” list of globally threatened birds are 12 that either migrate through or breed in Arkansas. They include a duck (Mottled), two rails (Yellow and Black), three shorebirds (Piping Plover, Buff-breasted Sandpiper and Least Tern), two woodpeckers (Red-cockaded and Ivory-billed, though some [not the Arkansas Times] would argue that the latter is extinct), a vireo (Bell's), a warbler (Golden-winged) and two sparrows (Bachman's and Henslow's). Another 30 in Arkansas are on the “yellow” list of declining or rare species.

Audubon is not proposing that people throw up their hands or beat their breasts. Instead, it suggests that we work to preserve and restore local habitat, including wetlands; fight logging and mining in sensitive areas; support federal conservation programs, and promote sound policies that acknowledge the importance of the natural world to our own species' survival. We could, at least, keep the “yellow” species off the “red” list.

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