By MACKINNON WESSEL
NERVE, an environmental documentary tells the story of Vietnam veteran, Craig Williams. Williams returned to his Kentucky home after the war in 1984 only to find the Department of Defense attempting to destroy 500 tons of chemical weapons, including a deadly toxic agent called VX nerve gas in Madison County’s Blue Grass Army Depot. The documentary’s world premier is on Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. at the EKU Center for the Arts.
Williams went on to found the Kentucky Environmental Foundation (KEF), which is the producer of the film. KEF’s goal is to find solutions to environmental issues that protect health, preserves ecological systems, promotes environmental justice, and encourage sustainability. The goal of the documentary is to raise awareness to their cause and inform the public about important and inspiring events.
Jake Garrison, 21, a biology pre-med senior from Manchester, is part of the Environmental Sustainability and Stewardship Program. Garrison is promoting the documentary’s premier.
“It’s about local activism,” Garrison said. “It touches on local success in terms of environmental and social justice. It shows students that people at home, in Richmond, can make a difference in the world. It also encourages people to ask questions and not just go along with what is happening around them.”
KEF will be premiering NERVE in honor of the organization’s 25th anniversary.
Craig Williams has been fighting for environmental justice since 1984. He said his motivation for the film was mostly social causes, the main cause being the environment and the safety of the public.
“Primarily the safety of my family and others whom I believed would be negatively impacted by incinerating these deadly materials in this location, 1.3 miles from a middle school of over 600 children and other densely populated areas (i,e. EKU).”
“NERVE captures 30 years of history reflecting the multiple facets associated with citizen engagement in major government decisions and how communities can counter those decisions if passionate about their safety and that of their families and environment,” Williams said.
The main goal for this film is to show the public how communities can come and work together for a better future for the environment.
“Citizens and communities can, if educated and dedicated, impact decisions that effect them and their well-being,” Williams said. “Simply opposing something is often fruitless. Making change for the better requires focusing on solutions, not merely saying no.”
The initial thought was that destroying the chemical weapons stored in the Army Depot would be a positive thing. So people were questioning why Williams would go against the decision to destroy them. Williams clears up the misconception:
“There was never any question that disposing of these weapons/agents was a positive effort,” Williams said. “The question was how to do it with the least public health and environmental impact. Not only did we advocate openly for their disposal, we worked intimately with the Senate to get the international treaty requiring destruction, ratified. “
Williams explained the Pentagon only offered options to burn the materials, which was not the safest way to destroy the chemicals.
“We took it upon ourselves to identify safer and more protective methods,” Williams said. “Ultimately we prevailed. But it took ‘forever’ for the Pentagon, being one of the largest bureaucracies in the world, to change their plans.”
Alice Jones, director of academic engagement programs, which includes Environmental Sustainability and Stewardship Program at Eastern, is a sponsor of NERVE. Jones served with NERVE filmmaker, Ben Evans, for 3 years on the Kentucky Conservation Committee.
Jones is a big advocate for the film and stresses the importance of attending.
“The Kentucky Environmental Foundation started as a small group of concerned citizens that organized effectively and reached out globally to intervene,” Jones said. “Which ultimately erected a model to destroy chemical weapons in a nonhazardous way that has been used world wide.”
NERVE sponsor, West Sixth Brewing will make available beverages. Ben Sollee, who scored the movie, will be perform.
Admission is free, but attendees must register online: