It did take a lot of nerve

Under the headline, "No easy answer," an editorial on this page 31 years ago explained that the Army was offering Madison Countians two unpleasant choices for ridding the Blue Grass Army Depot of 500 tons of chemical weapons.

Some of the deadliest substances known to humans could be incinerated in Madison County (with who-knows-what drifting out of the smokestack). Or the cache of nerve gas and aging rockets could be moved by helicopter, rail or truck to be burned somewhere else.

In a bit of understatement, the editorial concluded, "It's not an easy choice, nor one to be made lightly."

Fortunately, some determined Kentuckians had a better idea.

They researched a safer option — chemical neutralization of the deadly stash — and proceeded, against massive odds, to move the Pentagon, one of the world's bulkiest bureaucracies.

And they succeeded.

The Army is building a state-of-the art facility for safely neutralizing the chemical weapons at an eventual cost of $5 billion which will create thousands of jobs. And the consensus-building public process that produced the decision has become a model for other communities trapped in seemingly no-win predicaments.

The Madison movement gave rise to an international coalition, led by Craig Williams of Berea, that has emerged as a go-to authority on chemical disarmament worldwide.

Now it's all been made into a movie.

Nerve, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Kentucky Environmental Foundation, the non-profit that grew from Madison County's search for a safer solution, will premiere Friday night in Richmond.

Directed by Ben Evans of Louisville with a score by Lexington's Ben Sollee, the 25-minute film was crowd-funded via Indigogo and 280 contributors who pitched in more than $30,000. It was a grassroots way to document a grassroots movement that's an important chapter in Kentucky history and an inspiring example for other communities that find themselves under environmental threat.