June 28, 2016

Republic Services needs to listen to Wendell Berry

     The slogan was: “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.” I never met the investing guru, but I apply the same principle to Dr. Felix Haynes. Sunday afternoon, his advice was succinct: “You need to get to know Wendell Berry.”
     Hours earlier, the retired minister and I were in our old church—Jesup First Baptist—to honor our mutual friend, Hubert Howard, on his 90th birthday. The original sanctuary is now a fellowship hall, but I pointed to the spot where Hubert always sat during services. Felix chuckled and said, “That’s right.”
     But when Felix brought up the coal-ash hullabaloo, neither of us was laughing. If Republic Services gets its wish for Broadhurst Environmental Landfill, our great-great-great-grandchildren won’t be laughing, either. There is nothing funny about the risks Coastal Georgia will face when mile-long trains of toxic waste show up in Wayne County.
     I told Felix that there is no amount of money or debate that can change my mind about dumping coal ash in an ultrasensitive ecosystem. That’s why he called to say that I needed to meet Wendell Berry, a Kentucky author, poet, farmer, teacher and highly acclaimed conservationist. When Felix was in seminary in Louisville, he drove 38 miles to preach in Wendell’s church—Port Royal Baptist. Any friend of Felix’s is a friend of mine.
     Before bedtime, I researched Wendell Berry. I urge you to do the same. In the meantime, read these quotations:

 “There are no sacred and unsacred places; there are only sacred and desecrated places. My belief is that the world and our life in it are conditional gifts.”

“Whether we or our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do.”

“The past is our definition. We may strive with good reason to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it. But we will escape it only by adding something better to it.”

C "To cherish what remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope of survival.”

“A corporation, essentially, is a pile of money to which a number of persons have sold their moral allegiance.’
“The atmosphere, the earth, the water and the water cycle—those things are good gifts. The ecosystems, the ecosphere, those are good gifts. We have to regard them as gifts because we couldn’t make them. We have to regard them as good gifts because we couldn’t live without them.’

“We have the world to live in on the condition that we will take good care of it. And to take good care of it, we have to know it. And to know it and to be willing to take care of it, we have to love it.”
     Wendell has written dozens of books, short stories, poems and articles, but he takes only a few words to explain why God expects us to be better stewards of His gifts—our natural resources. I understand business. I enjoy signing paychecks, so “profit” isn’t a dirty word.
     I respect Republic’s right to operate a profitable Broadhurst business. I have no respect for its profit motive behind dumping toxic coal ash in Coastal Georgia. The danger is too great to desecrate the place so many love. It’s our duty to take care of the environment. If Republic ignores all that I’ve said, I hope it will listen to Wendell: “Do unto those down-stream as you would have up-stream do unto you.”