October 28, 2022

Candidates ignore the environment


            If you wish the Nov. 8 election was over, raise your hand.


            Don’t throw your shoulder out of joint raising your hand.

            The only ones not eager to see the bickering and backbiting in the rearview mirror are the TV stations that are profiting from the gold rush of mudslinging advertising. By now we know all the allegations being aired. But consider this nauseating notion: There could be runoffs to drag this name calling into the holidays.

            At this point, I’m embracing Groucho Marx’s (1905-1976) line. The comedian quipped, “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

            These days, I am happy to be in the “other room.”

            I like reading, but one author that I didn’t know—until I met him in 2016—is Wendell Berry. When the coal-ash controversy slapped me in the face, my friend Dr. Felix Haynes insisted that I meet the global legend who describes himself as “a farmer of sorts and an artist of sorts.” Add to that description an author of major sorts. The Kentuckian has written more than 50 books.

            When Felix was attending seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, he was Berry’s pastor at Port Royal Baptist Church. Fifty-five years later, one phone call had us mapping out our 16-hour round-trip. Wendell and his wife, Tanya, aren’t counted in Port Royal’s population of 64. Their farm—on the Kentucky River—is outside the community.

            When we arrived, Tanya said, “Wendell’s up the creek, literally.” Sure enough, he was in woods, down by the creek. But he didn’t keep us waiting long. And when we sat down at the kitchen table, he wasn’t in a hurry for us to leave.

            Wendell Berry is a highly acclaimed novelist, poet, essayist, environmentalist, cultural critic, teacher and farmer. Add to that list a world-class listener. I explained our community’s pending environmental crisis, characterizing it as a modern-day David-and-Goliath battle. He never interrupted. Wendell just listened. And then I listened to him. His wisdom and insight didn’t come without his own battle scars. Days later, I got a handwritten note. He said, “Remember David won.”

            That Sunday afternoon visit with Wendell Berry galvanized my resolve to speak up. I am unashamed to advocate for responsible stewardship of our natural resources and environment. When God was dealing out geography, He handed Georgia—in card-playing lingo—a “royal flush.” How could we ask for greater natural riches? And yet, where are the campaign ads that encourage protecting those gifts?

            Where’re the politicians demanding Georgia Power do the right things to clean up its toxic coal-ash mess? Don’t the families of every political party deserve clean air, clean water and clean soil? How many TV ads have you seen in which a candidate proclaims, “Elect me. I promise to save the Okefenokee Swamp?”

            Sadly, campaigns are devoid of such common sense.

            That’s why I encourage you to ponder these Wendell Berry thoughts:

§  You cannot save the land apart from the people or the people apart from the land.

§  The earth’s what we all have in common.

§  To damage the earth is to damage your children.

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

§  It is no more possible to live in the future than it is to live in the past. If life is not now, it is never.

            Here’s one more Wendell zinger. And I hope your hands will fly up in agreement:

            Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.”