DUCK SOUP: Honoring the Fourth
During the Vietnam war a pithy bumper sticker sprang up on shiny Detroit chrome. "America. Love it or leave it." Nice thought. Succinct. The meaning was quite clear to everyone on both sides of the heated domestic debate. The proud sloganeers were telling us that love of country demanded unquestioning loyalty in matters military.Yes, what?Yes, SIR!Well, I think it is high time to print up some more of those nationalistic red, white and blue stickers, and put the old slogan back into service. This time my side is going to take the patriotic high ground. We're going to wrap that old flag around the WNC Alliance [OR INSERT NAME OF LOCAL ECO-GROUP HERE] and the Sierra Club, and the Nature Conservancy and the Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace and Earthfirst! by God.I have canoed wild rivers surrounded by thousands of water birds with osprey and eagles screaming overhead. I have hiked amidst trees that were already two thousand years old when Jesus was born. I have drunk from pristine springs and breathed air tasting sweet as fresh clover. And I have come back to say this: If any of you folks out there don't like our environmental laws, then you can damn well go live someplace else.After two hundred years of constitutional government, there is nothing that would make those famous founding fathers prouder than the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Clean Air Act. Such laws reflect the wisdom of those who gave us free speech, a free press and an independent judiciary. They are the result of a a profound belief in self determination by an educated electorate. And they reflect the wisdom of separation of church and state: rule by reason and law instead of rule by arbitrary dogma.Scientists like Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson would be thrilled that careful ecological research has spawned thoughtful debate and necessary action to safeguard the biosphere. My revolutionary ancestors who threw off the yoke of British corporations which were stripping our forests without regard for future generations would stand taller knowing that modern patriots carry on that fight against multi-national timber giants embracing the same shortsighted greed. The blessings of freedom are clear in this post Cold War world. In the former Soviet Union, life expectancy is falling and human exposure to toxic and radioactive waste is common. American businesses attempting to operate there have discovered that air, water or soil are too polluted to permit use of current high tech processes. And while we have serious clean-up problems ahead of us at the Savannah River Site and radioactive deer in the woods near Oakridge, Tennessee, the Soviet legacy can be summed up in one word. Chernobyl. Vaclav Havel, president of the Czech Republic, understands the lesson well. "The environmental desolation created by the Communist regimes is a warning for the whole of civilization today."We have every reason to be proud of the things we have done right. Developing nations turn to us to learn ways to lift their people out of poverty without poisoning them. America exports environmentally sensitive technology that is becoming the world's standard. Our universities set the pace in understanding toxic waste and the biodiversity critical to all living systems. Because we are free to speak out for our neighborhoods, for our water sources and for the air we breathe, we are moving quickly from the old paradigm of battle with nature to a new one of harmony.On the Fourth of July remember to celebrate America the beautiful, the clean, the healthy, and the free. On that day captive-raised Bald Eagles will be re-introduced at sites across the country, birds almost driven to extinction by DDT. Today those birds are a potent symbol of a nation that is learning to choose life. If someone tells you that better controls on air or water pollution will cost too much, tell them to look beyond the Iron Curtain. Tell them the alternative costs more than anyone can afford.Maybe those stickers should read, "Mother Earth: Love it or leave it." After all, a country that can put a person on the moon ought to be able to send up a few more.