“To sustain an environment suitable for man, we must fight on a thousand battlegrounds. Despite all of our wealth and knowledge, we cannot create a redwood forest, a wild river, or a gleaming seashore.” Lyndon B. Johnson
Some inspiring things were said—and done—in the 1960s, when I was a kid first becoming aware of the world behind the end of my nose. On TV and in National Geographic, I saw pictures of the Cuyahoga River on fire, piles of dead fish lying belly up on the shores of Lake Erie, people poisoned by mercury, smokestacks belching pollution. Battles were fought over banning the pesticide DDT, removing lead from gasoline, setting standards for clean air and water and food. More battles were fought to preserve wild places, keep them from being exploited by extractive industries, and to save native plants and animals from extinction.
Those battles and the landmark legislation that resulted have been around for fifty-plus years and for the most part, have done good. No more rivers on fire. Bald eagles and other bird species pulled back from the brink. Acid rain reduced. The hole in the ozone layer is closing back up.
And yet. And YET! The forces of darkness are corroding environmental protections at this very moment. Is it acceptable to slip backwards? To accept a world where resources are extracted for maximum profit, humans are treated as slaves, garbage patches whirl in the oceans, and climate patterns shift? Is it acceptable to create a world where only rich people have access to clean water and air, high ground, unpoisoned food and good health? Et cetera…I am not even aware of all the insane things happening.
Here is what I know:
~History does repeat itself unless lessons from the past are learned.
~Humans in general and Americans in particular are capable of rising above greed and selfishness to work toward a greater good.
~Wealth and knowledge aren’t everything. Clean and adequate air, water, food, wild spaces and sharing our world with the earth’s other inhabitants may be considered to be pretty damn important too.
I am paying attention, and I know others are too. My confidence in our political system is at an all-time low, but it’s the system we have. I am writing to my elected officials to protest the erosion of environmental laws and demand more to be done to protect the liveability of the planet for humans and other life forms. The battles never end.