Don Williams
Photo by Justin Williams

Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, fiction writer, sometime TV commentator, and is the founder and editor emeritus of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Golden Presscard Award from Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists, a best Commentary Award from SDC, Best Feature Writing from the Associated Press Tennessee Managing Editors, the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize from the Associated Press, Best Non-Deadline Reporting from the United Press International, Best Novel Excerpt from the Knoxville Writers Guild, a Peacemaker Award from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, five Writer of the Month Awards from the Scripps Howard Newspaper chain, and many others. In 2011 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. His 2005 book of journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes is under revision for a second printing, and he is at work on a novel and a book of journalism. His columns appear at and have been featured at many other well-known websites. To run his column, gratis, at your website, post this link to a dedicated spot: Need a speaker, panelist, tv commentator or teacher for your group or to lead a writing workshop, in your town? Email

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Can you feel it? America is turning red, white and GREEN
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   07/21/2008)

The Great Miss Tipping Point waltzes onstage, two steps forward, one back, two more forward. Resplendent in shimmering green she pirouettes, spinning en pointe, then takes a quick bow to acknowledge applause. It's an insouciant gesture, as if she's appeared on cue rather than 30 years behind schedule. She's creating quite a stir. Businessmen grow tumescent. They smell the sexy scent of money. Environmentalists stand to shout bravo! They've been worried Miss Tipping Point would never find an audience worthy of such flair, economy of style, resourcefulness and pedigree, yet she's arrived.

Yes, Miss Tipping Point, self-assured and smiling, appears at last on history's stage just in time to propel humankind's latest, greatest drama forward.

Suddenly everyone of good sense or good will applauds all things green, and even her critics mostly observe tactful silence. Ladies and Gentlemen, Miss Tipping Point has arrived in America, fresh from her world tour.

A chorus line of recent voices has me feeling her arrival in my heart and bones.

* First a Newsweek interview gave the lie to those who say we must go nuclear or die. That we must drill and light toxic candles in game preserves and coastal waters or else curse the darkness and die.

The interview was with Craig Venter. Known as “the outlaw of science,” he's a man of impressive credentials. He decoded the human genome in 2000 faster than a government program and at far less expense, writes Fareed Zakaria, who interviewed him in the June 16 edition of Newsweek, where Venter made this jaw-dropping statement: “Multiple fuels of the future are going to come out of biology, by manipulating the genetic code of simple organisms to convert things like sugar or sunlight or carbon dioxide into fuels….” (My italics).

Typical families one day will own bacteria-processing “fermenters” to use a word Venter employs, with no toxic wastes, no transport costs. “That's how wine and beer are made… We consider ethanol the first-generation fuel. We have second- and third-generation fuels that… come from plant sugars… a fourth-generation fuel, where the starting material is not sugar, but carbon dioxide. People want to bury that CO2 in the ground or pump it into oil wells or coal beds. We want to use that CO2 and the carbon in it to make new fuels…. We think the first fuels are maybe one to two years away. We're definitely thinking in terms of years, not decades.” (Again, my italics). Read all about it.

* One month ago, on the longest day of the year, June 21, I watched a vermilion sun drop beyond blue ridgelines surrounding Sewanee, TN, as some 100 souls opened a new era in the history of the National Episcopal Peace Fellowship. Since then, I've noticed that activists, priests, scholars, artists, musicians, writers, teachers and environmentalists from nearly every spiritual tradition are issuing calls for a sustainable planet. Watching Christians turn green can be exhilarating. Uplifting even. Read all about it.

* Two weeks ago a friend of my 21-year-old son dropped by and told me about his own plans to build and market personal greenhouses and windmills. Not because he's gone green, he allowed, but because there's money to be made. He'd studied up on it. A four-by-four-foot greenhouse can produce all the vegetables required by one person in a year, he said. And he knows a man who built a windmill and is now selling power back to the electric company. So my young friend is driven by profit-motive rather than pure altruism? More power to him. Better yet, more power from him.

* Lately I've noticed T. Boone Pickens, an oilman worth billions, is showing up all over the media talking about windmills, solar cells and more. Pickens has nothing to prove with his movement. The last thing he needs is more money. Near as I can tell, he's a rich old guy who wants to leave a better world when he dies. Read about it here.

* Even Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, who has little use for windmills, proffers optimism. Recently he proposed legislation to prevent other nations from shipping nuclear wastes to America. For a senator from East Tennessee, home of Oak Ridge, that's a gutsy call. Just yesterday, as this is written, I watched Alexander on the Senate floor, via C-span, promoting electric cars one could plug into wall sockets and charge with energy that goes begging at night, when demand is low and energy goes to waste. The necessary battery power appears just months or years away.

* On a personal note, I've made a commitment to be a non-contributor to landfills within six weeks, thanks mostly to an upstart company called Waste Away. Operating south of the Tennessee River, owner Alan Cooper and associates haul away—at zero charge-every scrap of excess plastic, paper, cardboard and metal my household and cottage publishing-business produces. He sells such stuff to Advanced Polymer Recycling Center. I drop off glass at recycling centers and compost most organic wastes. As a result, I'm 95 percent of the way to my goal, and extra coins jangle my pockets. (To get on Cooper's route, phone him at 865-591-6638.)

* Late last week, on the 39th anniversary of the first flight to land people on the moon, Al Gore gave a speech daring and eloquent. “Today I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years.” As the folks at noted in an email, “This is huge. For someone with as much stature and credibility as Vice President Gore to embrace a goal this big and ambitious could be game-changing. But first, you've got to see it for yourself.” Watch the video.

* Finally, I notice few of my old critics send junk science stories my way anymore. You know the kind promoted mostly by oil industry shills. About how global warming is a farce. How climate change is just an old dog liberals, aging hippies and closet communists like to flog. About how sure, global warming's real, but it's cyclical dontcha know, caused by sunspots only.

Such folk have quietly fallen off my radar. Their heroes, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the like seldom challenge the science behind global warming anymore. Why?

Miss Tipping Point has stolen their tongues, their power to deny. All they can do is watch her turning, turning, resplendent in forest green at center stage as lights go down and curtains open on a grand new drama of limitless power and shimmering hope.