I guess I have a soft spot for the environment, and I think it’s because of how I was so immersed in Arkansas’s woods, streams, lakes, and fields at an early age. From the time I was seven years old, I spent the vast majority of my free times in Arkansas’s outdoors. It really didn’t matter the season or time of day, it was always the right time for me, and those almost endless hours made a lasting difference in how I view Arkansas’s natural environment today, and that carried over as to how I view our planet. However, when I see rampant disregard for our natural surroundings, I know a lot of my fellow Americans and Arkansawyers really don’t give a damn.
I see coal-fired, electrical generating plants spewing mercury into our atmosphere, and I think of some poor, pregnant woman who is eating fish containing toxic mercury that comes from those plants, which will drastically reduce the I. Q. of her unborn child, and I care, but most Americans don’t.
I see hundreds of plastic bottles, straws, and grocery sacks along the road where I walk to get a little exercise, and it bothers me because we are giving our grandchildren an earth full of non-biodegradable trash. But you know what? Most Americans are going to keeping tossing ‘em out.
I read where all of the Arkansas congressmen voted to delist the gray wolf from the Endangered Species List, knowing, according to wildlife experts, it means almost certain extinction of the wolf, but of course, they really don’t give a damn about wolves or other endangered wildlife.
I see newspaper pictures where whales have beached themselves and died, because their stomach were filled with plastic bags, But most American won’t quit using them, because they are too lazy to bring reusable bags. They really don’t care if the bags they throw away are killing whales.
I read about the impending disaster of epic proportions caused by global warming, but in order to create more of a market for coal and fossil fuels, global warming is denied, and it’s obvious these denying Americans only care about making money. But what’s even worse; they know they are lying.
I’ve read scientific studies on climate change that say by the year 2100 the Gulf of Mexico will rise 4.3 feet in elevation, and the entire SE Louisiana area will be underwater, but most Americans really don’t give a damn.
I see restaurants flooding the landfills, roadsides, and our homes with one-use plastic eating utensils, bottles, and sacks, and it is obvious we don’t worry about plastic filling our landfills, or we’d pass laws to stop the practice.
I noticed a bill that would allow clearcutting up to 10,000 acres of National Forest land without a public hearing, and that makes me know Congressman Westerman, the bill’s originator, doesn’t give a damn about the Arkansas forests, but he does care about his corporate campaign contributors.
I read where we are still losing thousands of acres of wetlands a year, but who cares? Americans don’t really give a damn, unless it’s in their backyard.
I see pictures of polar bears with cubs drowning in the Artic because of melting ice, but we say, “Hey, that’s way up there near the North Pole, and I don’t care if all the polar bears in the world drown.”
I read where the rainforest, the lungs of the earth, are still being destroyed at an alarming rate, but we obviously don’t give a damn, or we would make an effort to stop the loss.
I see politicians making fun of recycling and clean energy. Saying “Windmills cause cancer!” I guess windmills must get in the way of making money.
I see that Arkansas Game and Fish Commission won’t restore our apex predators, which means they don’t care about the loss of our ground nesting quail or turkeys being destroyed by feral hogs. If they cared, they’d bring in wolves and more cougars to control feral hogs.
I see people spreading excess fertilizer on sterile, green yards, hanging bug zappers, and fogging their yard killing millions of good insects in the process, and I know these folks either don’t know better or they don’t care about the environment.
I see a mass of plastic in the Pacific Ocean, six feet thick and as big as Texas, and obviously, we’re saying, “Pacific Ocean? I could care less.”
I see towns routinely allowing the scraping off of huge areas for subdivisions without requiring a single tree to be replaced, and I know these people don’t understand what a citizen’s quality of life entails.
I see where the Artic Wildlife Refuge and National Forest is being opened for mining and exploitation, and it’s obvious those in charge care about money more than the Artic environment.
I see on the internet pictures of trophy hunters posing with the endangered species they killed, justifying it by saying the permit money to kill them goes for conservation. They say that even after killing an endangered giraffe? Really? Yes, the ‘thrill to kill’ includes endangered animals.
I read where the recent legislature considered well over a 1000 new bills, but not one of those bills were to stop the hog farm from polluting our National River. Evidently, politicians don’t give a damn about the Buffalo National River. I’m still waiting for one politician to speak out for the river.
I read where elephant trophies are being allowed in our country again, contributing to the extinction of this species. Obviously, the government doesn’t give a damn about how many elephants are killed.
I see a governor, who won’t re-site a hog farm that is almost certain to pollute our National River, because he doesn’t give a damn about the Buffalo National River.
I see an attitude of greed that has swept our country that translates into me, me, and me, and cares nothing about the future generations, because they are only trying to enrich themselves, and don’t give a damn about the environment or anything else.
I see landfills and roadways with uncountable tons of trash as we refuse to recycle, because we don’t give a damn.
I see our Secretary of the Interior who is reducing our National Parks and Monuments, opening them up for mining and exploration, because National Parks get in the way of making money.
I see cities that refuse to plant trees, add greenspace, or bury power lines to improve quality of life because their town leaders obviously don’t give a damn about their citizen’s quality of life. Or maybe they don’t have the intelligence to care.
I see a government enriching the rich while removing programs that benefit the poor, because they don’t care about the poor.
I see, instead of a goal to eliminate coal-fired plants, a push to require them to keep emitting hazardous material. They care about money, but they don’t care about our health.
I guess a lot of Americans are like smokers who don’t give a damn about their health, and when we trash the Earth, we obviously don’t give a damn about the Earth’s health.
Please, give a damn!
Richard Mason is a registered professional geologist, downtown developer, former chairman of the Department of Environmental Quality Board of Commissioners, past president of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, and syndicated columnist. Email [email protected]