Seeing the Light

"Everyone needs to read this!" Has a thunder thought like that ever occurred to you from reading something especially exceptional? At that instant, it doesn’t occur to you that only edicts from heaven change the world. You are convinced that any of your neighbors would "see the light" if they could only see that text. That is exactly how I felt after reading the 15 page transcript of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr’s speech given at Highland Lakes last spring on environmental stewardship. Here was an empowering collection of wit, passion and plain downright common sense that should be everyone’s required reading.

The importance of Mr. Kennedy’s words seem further heightened by this recent headline in the Washington Post , "New Environment Chairman Opposes Many Protections." With the changing of the guard in Washington, Republican Sen. James M Inhofe (Okla.) will become the chairman of The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. As the Post relates, "Inhofe, by contrast, is a conservative who has championed his state’s oil and gas industry and opposed many environmental protection initiatives. The former U.S. representative and real estate developer had special disdain for the Environmental Protection Agency throughout the Clinton Administration and once called it a "Gestapo bureaucracy…Environmentalists and some Democrats predict major upheaval on the committee as Inhofe attempts to impose his views over the Democratic minority and moderate Republicans…As chairman of a subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Clean air Act, Inhofe tried to thwart implementation of new air standards aimed at reducing ozone and controlling particulate matter. He fought new regulations for the oil industry, including a measure to reduce the health-threatening sulfur content of gasoline. He also supported a moratorium on new listings to the Endangered Species Act; voted against raising fees for grazing cattle on federal lands; supported the timber industry’s interests in logging in national forests; supported a bill to establish an aboveground nuclear waste site in Nevada and opposed major Everglades restoration legislation." (WP 12/30/02)

As I was saying, this may be a good time to listen to the sage words of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. They begin: "I was involved in the battle to save the Catskills, which was New York City’s water supply…The challenge was that the Catskills were facing sprawl development that we now know is the worst contributor to pollution. Pavement is the worst thing that you can do to a watershed. If you pave as little as 10% of a watershed, you permanently and irreparably destroy the biological integrity of the river systems that it feeds… the people who lived in the Catskills were among the most impoverished communities in New York State. 70% of the people lived below the poverty line and they were very jealous about their sovereignty and very suspicious of New York City and other outsiders. There are 400 dairy farms in the Catskills and they did not want any regulation…we sat for 2 years in these meetings. 270 meetings. We ultimately produced a document that was 1500 pages long. There was blood shed over every word in that document. But, it will permanently protect the Catskill region.

…the vision is that the towns are allowed to grow and economic vitality to flourish, but they have to grow upwards within the existing infrastructure and that we restrict growth in the open landscapes…But the restrictions come with money. We invested $80,000 in every farm in the Catskills. 398 of them signed up for the program and now the proudest people in the Catskills are the dairy farm communities…All of them put conservation easements on the waterways. That was one of the restrictions. They stopped using liquefied manure. They began building storage sheds for their manure. And, now it’s a clean industry and people who take part in that industry are really proud to be part of this process. And, we did that through negotiation and through incentives, rather than regulation.

…At the first meeting the head of the Delaware County Dairy Contingent stood up and Governor Pataki was sitting next to me at that meeting. And, he pointed at Governor Pataki and he said,…if you think you are going to let New York City buy one acre of conservation land in the Catskills we are going to meet you on Route 23 with our shotguns and we’ll make the Oklahoma City bombing look like childs’s play. And, they were threatening to blow up the dams and do a number of other things, very openly.

But now, that man, I visited him at his home on many occasions now and eat lunch with him and his family. And, we have a very friendly relationship and that community is one of our biggest supporters…the Catskills.

…the environmentalist fight is not a battle… to preserve the fishes and the birds against human interests. It’s about how do we meet the challenge of creating communities that have the same opportunity for dignity and enrichment for our children as the communities that our parents gave us.

Environmental injury is deficit spending. It's a way of loading the costs of our generation's prosperity onto the backs of our children. And, let me say this, there is no stronger advocate for free market capitalism than myself... But, in a true free market economy, you can't make yourself rich without making your neighbors rich and without enriching your community. But, what polluters do is that they make themselves rich by making everybody else poor... By using political clout to evade the free market and force the public to pay their production costs, or at least part of them... Liquidate assets for cash and feed the hunger of today's constituencies to the detriment of their children. The future whispers, the present shouts.

I want to make one final point. This is really important…we are not protecting these waterways for the sake of the fishes and birds. We are protecting them for our sake and that we protect nature because nature enriches us…And all that word means is that God wants us to use the things that we have been given, the bounties of the earth, to improve our lives, to serve others, but we can’t use them up. We can’t sell the farm piece by piece in order to pay for the groceries. We can’t drain the pond to catch the fish. We can’t cut down the mountain to get at the coal. We can live off the interest, we can’t go into the capital. That belongs to our children."

To my readers: If you ever wonder if I get comments on these columns, I do occasionally. What are your thoughts on the matter?
Email Eva

*The opinions stated in this page are those of Ms. Eva Ritchey and do not necessarily represent the views of CyTech Computers & Internet Solutions, Inc..
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