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DOWNEY - Imagine a place where the roads are never crowded, the air is always clear, there's plenty of clean, drinkable water, and the landscape is always green and beautiful. Believe it or not, such a setting still exists, and I was privileged to experience it during a family reunion last week at my sister's home in the Great Smoky Mountains. A big part of why that's all true is because Robbinsville, Graham County, North Carolina, is not overpopulated. In fact, the population of Robbinsville, is about 600, and the population of Graham County is about 8,800. it would take 140 Robbinsvilles to make one Downey and over 1,100 Graham Counties to make one Los Angeles County. Consequently, on the 4-lane highway that goes from Robbinsville to Asheville, you can drive for miles in the early morning without passing a car. The collateral reductions in air pollution are obvious.
Similarly, my sister and brother-in-law own a spring that's been in the family for more than a century, which--unfiltered and unprocessed--provides all their drinking water. While I was there, I drank cold, pure, and flavorful water directly from that spring. My brother-in-law tells me that the creek from that spring has not had a water shortage in over 100 years. The abundance of rain and moisture in the soil manifests itself in mountain forests and green landscape that were breathtaking to behold each and every day we were there.
By contrast, southern California and the rest of the world face overcrowding, pollution, and water shortages that continually threaten the health and prosperity of most people on the planet.
We have been discussing the lowly bicycle over the past several weeks, beginning with a review of National Bike Month in May, but expanding to the bicycle's potential, as an underdog, in an overcrowded and polluted world. The modern bicycle began to appear about a century ago, when the world's population was a mere 1.5 billion. I happened to be in densely populated Hong Kong in 2011 when the global population reached 7 billion, and most estimates project it to peak out at about 9 billion around the year 2050.
Meanwhile thousands of animal and plant species are threatened by extinction, many of them because of anthropogenic consequences to the environment caused by overpopulation, pollution, and a johnny-come-late response to these dire circumstances. Returning to North Carolina for a moment, I should point out that, despite its magnificent natural resources, NC was the state, as I mentioned a year ago, that attempted to add into its constitution a denial of rising sea levels at North Carolina beaches.
Taking these factors into consideration, I would have to say that Eaarth (as re-spelled by environmental advocate Bill McKibben, to suggest the monumental fashion in which we humans have wreaked change on the place we call home) is the planet's biggest underdog.
There were some hopeful responses from government during the past several days. Last Tuesday Los Angeles City Council finalized its proposed ban on single-use plastic shopping bags, which will probably have an impact on the possibility of a state-wide ban in California. This Tuesday, President Barack Obama proposed sweeping reform in an unprecedented speech on climate change. Conservatives will be mortified that these changes are being instigated by government. And I share with them the ongoing hope that individuals and communities would promote their own best interests without governmental mandate. But I've always been a little bewildered as to why conservatives have such a problem with "conservation," the old-fashioned moniker for taking care of our environment.
I leave you with the above thoughts on this, the closing commentary in my editorial series on environmental issues. My thanks to Patriot editor, Eric Pierce, who has graciously published over 100 articles, almost entirely verbatim, over the past two years. I also would like to thank all the Patriot readers who have taken the trouble to read them, whether you've agreed or disagreed with my point of view.
One closing thought, brought home by my visit last week to beautiful North Carolina. Regarding the environment, there is much to be done. But if you put change in motion, there is always hope.
Published: June 27, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 11