El Dorado News

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February 23, 2018
El Dorado News Times
Richard Mason

Richard Mason

Dance with who brung ya

By Richard Mason
This article was published January 28, 2018 at 5:00 a.m.

Of course, that was a comment made by legendary Texas coach Darrell Royal back in the SWC days when someone asked if he was going to throw the ball more.

Well, what does that have to do with Arkansas?

Everything!

We’re not dancing with who brung us.

That’s right, we may say “The Natural State,” but we’re sure not dancing to the Natural State tune, and we can’t expect to succeed in enhancing our quality of life if we don’t do The Natural State dance, and we’re not dancing. Yes, very simply put, if we really believe our natural beauty is the centerpiece of our state, then we’ll dance with Mother Nature instead of destroying our natural beauty.

Of course, I could fill up this column, with examples such as “Hog farm on the Buffalo Watershed.” Of course, no one in their right mind, who gives a whit about our state’s natural beauty, could possibly think a hog farm on the Buffalo watershed is dancing with who brung ya. And just think about all the dozens of empty or near empty industrial parks that are bare scraped off acres sitting there empty with only a lottery’s chance of ever seeing an actual plant or factory being located there.

Yes, the list goes on and on, and everything on that list is basically anti-Natural State.

Well, that’s the problem so how do we switch dancing partners?

It’s a simple question, and it has a simple answer, but making that change requires a total reversal of the way we approach almost everything we do here in Arkansas.

Let me explain: We must approach our daily decisions whether big or small with the same question. Will this enhance the Natural State or will it diminish it? Of course, the second part of that question is just as important. We must be proactive and take an attitude of, what can I do to make the Natural State, well … more natural, and what can I do to stop those who are destroying the beauty of The Natural State.

I believe if we enhance our natural beauty and dance with who brung us, then all of the benefits of our natural beauty will not only be protected, but we will truly have a state where cities, towns and woodlands will have an ever increasing quality of life, and those skilled high tech professionals who are fed up with the traffic, pollution, etc. in our mega cities will gravitate to a true Natural State, where they can have the enhanced quality of life everyone wants.

But that begs the question: What can the average, or since we’re Arkansawyers, we’re all just a bit above average, do to enhance The Natural State?

Let’s start with the small items that add up.

In other words, by making a small addition every year compounded by thousands of others making similar additions. Well, about the most natural thing I can think of in our fair state is our trees. Yes, we have a lot of trees, but we have thousands upon thousands of blank places that are just crying for trees.

Now before you point at that empty parking lot, check out your front yard. Remember, a great shade tree in your front yard can cut your utility bill by as much 25 percent and give the appraised value as much as a $10,000 boost. Of course, every positive addition to items such as trees to The Natural State, adds to our quality of life and takes us a little closer to being the true natural state, and if you would like to be a part of a great group of tree planters, join with Street Tree Little Rock and give a donation or help plant a tree.

The blank parking lots in every town in the state cry for greenery, and the “Stuck in the ’50s Landlords” who think trees are fluff are keeping the shopping center tenants from reaching their stores’ potential. Government studies have confirmed the obvious: Landscaped shopping center do 25 percent more business than blank lots.

But it’s not just a landscaped shopping center, it’s everything that for lack of a better word, is —- ugly.

Let me define ugly in a Natural State way. If you look down your gateway street into your town is it ugly? Is it full of garish oversized signs? Are the utility wires cluttering the treeless street? Yes, it easy to see ugly, if you pay attention to your surroundings, but that’s part of the problem. We just blank out those ugly scenes with thoughts such as “It would cost too much.” Or, “It’s not important.” Or “Trees would just get in the way and maybe I couldn’t see the 60 foot tall McDonald’s sign.”

But let’s face it folks, we’re not leading the pack in good taste and environmental progress. No, we’re bottom feeders, who ignore cities who are making quality of life improvements. All of the items I have mentioned are already in place in progressive towns, and we’ll catch up someday —- maybe.

But we need to start. And as our population becomes more proactive, it will happen. So why not be a troublemaker and start insisting on some of the obvious additions to our state that will bring us up to the Natural State image? Troublemakers? Yep, when you go to a city council meeting in Arkansas and start insisting on a sign ordinance or planting trees, or putting utilities underground, you will be called a “Troublemaker.”

Of course, being proactive is more than planting trees. It also consists of opposing things that are detrimental to our ecosystem.

A good example is the forestry bill proposed by Congressman Bruce Westerman. In my opinion, and in the opinion of many others who don’t want our national forests to become corporate timber farms, is that we should oppose the bill, but if Congressman Westerman thinks it is such a great bill, come down to El Dorado and hold a town hall meeting to explain why.

Congressman, just give me a date, and I’ll reserve the largest facility in South Arkansas for the town hall meeting, and I’ll guarantee you a “great” crowd. And while you’re here you can tell us why the $142,000 contributions from the forestry industry didn’t influence the writing of the bill.

Richard H. Mason of El Dorado is a syndicated columnist and author and former president of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation and the state Pollution Control & Ecology Commission. He may be reached by email at richard@gibraltarenergy.com.

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