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The Earth Abideth?

It's a vast shame that the news media will pay next to no attention to stories about the rape of the environment.


Can't one express concern about mountain-top clearing or the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, or any number of other environmental issues, without being labeled a "tree hugger" or an "environmental wacko"? Perhaps those who resort to such puerile terminology are also those who describe George Bush's opponent in the Presidential race as the "French-looking" John Kerry. Such name-calling renders farcical any idea that there might be reasoned debate about real issues, and it dumbs everything down. Real issues would include the fact that 17 states have waters so polluted by mercury that the fish cannot be eaten, or that mountain-top clearing is adding to that pollution. Recently, Rush Limbaugh opined, in his usual reactionary fashion, that those who cared about the environment would have been happy if man had never been put on Earth. Having completely missed the point that we must live in a symbiotic relationship with the Earth, giving as well as taking, he wrote "those people" off as wackos, since they did not agree with his tunnel-vision view of the world and its inhabitants. Not long afterward, similarly blustering, he stated firmly that humans have never had, nor will they ever have, any impact on the environment. Such absolute statements, besides being irresponsible, have no basis whatever in either reason or research.

Essayist Wendell Berry, in his compelling new book "Citizenship Papers," avers that "To make things in a way that answers the requirements of good stewardship requires both good artistry and great breadth of mind. It requires a mind capable of seeing human work within its various contexts: religious, ecological, economic, cultural and political."

The "things" he refers to are what humans need to produce in order to survive, i.e., food, shelter and clothing, as well as art; the stewardship, of course, is our own care of, or disregard for, the Earth. Berry, who is also a novelist and a poet, not to mention a farmer, has been writing about nature and agrarian life for many years, and certainly his cogent, nonpolitical view on the current threat to the Earth should be regarded with some contemplation of our own. Berry's purview emerges out of careful reasoning and observation, which is often sorely lacking.

It's incumbent upon our leaders to assess matters in more than just a political, religious or economic context. Berry and Kennedy have obviously spent much time and thought on environmental issues, and they are respected and trusted men with "great breadth of mind." How does that square with one, for instance, who seems to have an answer for just about everything and is respected and trusted for being a talk-show host? While this country and its citizenry are being systematically waylaid by corporations and individuals, it is disquieting that fighters like Kennedy, who have research and scientific data to back up what they are trying to wake us up to, must be drowned out by self-appointed spokesmen like Limbaugh.

Kennedy is also sounding the alarm about organizations such as the Wise Use Coalition, which appear to be environmentally conscious, but in fact are out to exploit the environment for personal gain. This crafty group even has a manifesto to the effect that the Earth was given to us to do with it whatever, and however, we please. Kennedy reports that some feel that, in fact, environmentalism is a form of paganism, hence anti-Christian.

I recently added my name to a petition concerning the environment, which was sent to members of Congress. The prompt reply I received assured me that my congressman was in favor of the "wise use" of our land and natural resources. It seemed a slap in the face to me and to others who may have gotten similar replies from those who are on board the Bush train of plunder and pillage.

Robert Kennedy feels, and rightly so, that what is done with our lands and resources must be for the commonweal, and not for a privileged few who are in positions of power. This ideal, he reminds the reader, has a long history, encompassing, for example, the Magna Carta and the Justinian codes.

When Galileo was made to recant his opinion that the Earth is round, it was because of men who lacked "great breadth of mind." If Bush and his minions are allowed to continue on the swath they are cutting through this country, and through the laws which protect the landscape, then we shall all be living on the flat of the land very soon. S

Buzzy Lawler is a buyer for Plan 9 Music and plays in the local band Nat King Kong, as well as the Beatles cover band Two of Us.

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