April 25, 2024

There are pieces of heaven on Earth


“On Earth there is no heaven, but there are pieces of it.”

–Jules Renard, French author, 1864-1910

            On April 21, the eve of Earth Day, I did one of my favorite things. I walked outside to see what mural God had painted in the western sky. There it was, as if He had used a spatula to spread rainbow sherbet across the horizon behind the lake. The sunset was stunning.

            And then I turned around.

            The full moon was tucked into the pastel-colored clouds of the eastern sky. I call that phenomenon a reverse sunset. Whatever its name, it’s a footnote to Renard’s reflection.

            Since I was a barefoot boy, I’ve been in love with nature. As a father and grandfather, I have done my best to make sure that the next two generations share my love and respect for the outdoors.

            I wish that I could have sat on Rachel Carson’s front porch and talked about nature with an American pioneer of protecting the environment. Even as she was fighting cancer and dying, Carson was fighting to save the earth. She proclaimed, “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we have for the destruction.”

            On Earth Day 2024, as I write these words, I think about Carson and what she would have to say about:

§  Georgia Power’s reluctance to do the right thing and get all of its toxic coal ash out of our groundwater.

            Our state’s big utility is such a vital economic engine for us, and it does so many good things. That’s what makes the poisonous coal-ash pollution so perplexing. Georgia Power and its parent, the Southern Company, have made billions from burning coal. So, why aren’t they willing to reinvest enough of those billions to clean up its environmental mess?

            The best I can figure is that Georgia Power knows it doesn’t have to worry having its hands slapped by the Public Service Commission or the General Assembly. History shows that Georgia Power gets what it wants, including massive profits. And profits are a good thing, especially when an adequate portion is used to protect our natural resources. For the energy powerhouse and all of us, every day should be Earth Day.

§  Twin Pines Mining’s insistence on digging where it shouldn’t, near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

            The late Albert Einstein, one of the world’s most famous geniuses, won the 1921 Nobel Prize. But his smarts extended beyond physics. He said, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

            When you inventory the vast riches of Georgia’s natural resources, what’s more obvious than the “nature” of the Okefenokee Swamp? Why are our leaders so reluctant to wade in the swamp debate and say, “No, Twin Pines, you can’t risk harming a treasure that cannot be replaced”?

            It doesn’t take an Albert Einstein mind to understand that danger.

            Imagine this. A sawmill wants to set up shop in one of America’s sacred redwood forests because the demand for that unique wood has spiked. How many hundreds of years does it take to grow those stately beauties?

            As the saws are being oiled, do you think the citizens of the Pacific coast and the rest of America will remain silent? When it comes to protecting those sanctuary-like forests of towering redwoods and the giant Sequoias, every day should be Earth Day.

            Why can’t there be the same reverence for Georgia’s Okefenokee?

            I go back to what the Frenchman said: “On Earth there is no heaven, but there are pieces of it.”

            Georgia’s unspoiled nature is a testament to those “pieces.”