April 23, 2019

Every day should be Earth Day

            Early-morning rituals are usually identical. High on the list is to get the dogs outside. That’s where I was Monday, watching the sunrise on my left and seeing the waning moon on my right. The dogs were sniffing when I felt a vibration in my pocket.
            A friend was sending me his Earth Day devotional reading. The scripture was Psalm 24:1 (NRSV): “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.”
            By this time, the dogs had wandered back and were sitting at my feet. Impulsively, I slipped out of my shoes. I wanted to feel the earth. My eyes were already open, but the cool, wet grass opened my ears, too. A chorus of birds was busy making sounds, and the neighbor’s Black Angus cattle were mooing across the way.
            Back inside, I felt another vibration. A mutual friend joined the three-way conversation. The early riser said, “I would like to leave this earth that God gave us the stewardship of as a better place for my children and grandchildren than I found it.” Unfortunately, all God’s children don’t say “Amen!” to that ambition.
            The truth is that every day should be Earth Day. As we live our lives, we need to remember that we are just passing through. Don’t future generations deserve “a better place” than we found it?
            That is the reason you and I are alarmed by the nonchalant attitude of so many of our leaders when it comes to the handling and disposing of toxic coal ash. Granted, we have benefited from coal-generated electricity, but we cannot ignore the dangerous downside.
            There’s an effort to move away from coal. That’s the good news. But follow what’s been going on across America, and you’ll learn of the perilous consequences of irresponsible handling of toxic coal ash. Tennessee, Virginia and the Carolinas are among the states with horror stories.
            The Carolinas and Florida have decided what to do with their unwanted coal ash: Dump as much as they can in Georgia. While I was standing on the wet grass—less than 40 miles away—a convoy of side-dumping trucks was making its way out of the Carolinas into Georgia on I-85 South, destination Banks County. This stream of waste—laden with lead, beryllium, arsenic, cobalt, radium, boron and assorted bad stuff—is being stockpiled in our Peach State.
            And what are our lawmakers doing about that?
They say that interstate-commerce laws prevent Georgia from stopping the out-of-state dumping. What they don’t tell you is that the General Assembly’s catering to our own toxic-coal-ash producer—Georgia Power—has rolled out the welcome mat to other states.
Regular solid municipal waste—by law—is charged $2.50 per ton. But for coal ash to be dumped, in approved landfills, the fee is a nominal $1 per ton. Neighbors are jumping on the bargain—disposing what they don’t want polluting their states.
Meanwhile, our leaders continue playing footsie with industrial lobbyists. Repeated efforts to strengthen toxic-coal-ash handling are squashed. As a result, Georgians and our environment suffer the disastrous consequences.
I repeat: Every day should be Earth Day.
It’s past time for our lawmakers to accept their roles as responsible stewards of Georgia earth, air and water. Maybe they should take a walk—barefoot—on the wet grass and wake up to the irreplaceable natural resources which God has bestowed upon us.
But first, they must pull their heads out of the sand.