Many of you know about, and some of you attended, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) public meeting in Blountsville in November. ADEM allowed the public to present their concern or support for Tyson Foods’ wastewater discharge into the Locust Fork River permit renewal. No doubt Tyson will do what is spelled out in the permit, but the concerned public was hoping Tyson and ADEM would do more than just what they legally have to do to protect the Locust Fork.
There were more than 200 people in attendance and 34 people commented directly to ADEM and Tyson representatives. The backgrounds of the people who spoke included property owners, science educators, paddlers, defenders of the Clean Water Act, and many more friends of the Locust Fork River. All comments were heartfelt and many backed up with scientific data. There was one speaker, Helena Heiberger, a senior at Locust Fork High School, who truly stood out.
Helena knew exactly what she wanted to say to ADEM and presented her comments and concerns respectfully and with passion. Her presentation was carefully delivered lending much credence to the maturity of her message. I do believe she is part of the wind generating a wave of young people that see what is going on in the world around them. We all see a world of good, but we also see the bad. Helena Heiberger is ready to be part of the change that makes the “garden” a better place to live. She represents hope that is ever present.
So often we see in the news situations where factories have allowed (unknowingly and knowingly) cancer causing chemicals to poison the land we till, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. We read about animal species disappearing due to a poisoned environment. Flattened musk turtle, plicate rock snail, and Black Warrior waterdog have all but disappeared from the Locust Fork River. This next generation is way smarter than my generation. They know that the cause and effect of environmental problems needs to be addressed today so a solution can be found and implemented tomorrow.
Recently, a member of the next generation (subsequently Time magazine’s 2019 Person of the Year), 15-year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden, was invited to speak to the United Nations on behalf of a very active worldwide youth climate movement. Greta believes the time is now to make environmental management changes to save the earth as we know it. She told the world leaders she was not there to beg them to care for her future, but to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not. The people… the next generation are demanding it.
Talking about the next generation… can’t you hear Helena and Greta emotionally exclaiming to all the decision makers, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” I wonder what else they may teach us… maybe about some new civil rights.