the natural world

My spouse of fifty years has a quirky brain. It looks for things that aren’t there. Which is probably why one of his favorite poems is Antigonish or “The man who wasn’t there,” by Hughes Mearns.

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today,
I wish, I wish he’d go away…

When I came home last night at three,
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall,
I couldn’t see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door…

Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn’t there,
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away…

Whether looking for the thing left out is part of the quirk, I don’t know. The spouse employed it successfully in analyzing Hemingway’s style of writing –relying heavily on autobiographical experience from which much was excised. We all appreciate the result.

But, what’s true in literature is less helpful in the political arena, where more, not less information is always needed, and things left out, like a half truth, turn out to be downright deceptive. An example on point would seem to be the recently released (June 2014) Concept Report* for the “improvement” of another Georgia highway, State Road 99, by building a dike through an area of marshes and swamps. For some reason, this preliminary engineering review, catalogued quite appropriately as an Hydrologic study, runs to 113 pages but leaves all but the conclusion, on page 99 (attachment 11) of the study, out. How do we know something was left out? Well, the conclusion makes reference to “the 100-year floodplain as discussed in more detail in the section above” — a section nowhere to be found.

While this particular bureaucratic exercise identifies “stakeholders” whose input has been sought, these stakeholders are all of the mercenary kind:

  • URS Corporation- Project Manager
  • URS Corporation- Lead Engineer
  • URS Corporation- Designer
  • GDOT- OPD Project Manager
  • GDOT- Brunswick Area Engineer
  • Glynn County- Director of Community Development
  • Glynn County-Interim County Engineer
  • Seaboard Construction- Vice President
  • Seaboard Construction- Plant Manager
  • Coastal Pines Golf Club- Owner
  • Representing Coastal Pines Golf Club
  • Driggers Construction
  • Representing Stratford/ Altama
  • Ratcliffe & Smith Steamboat

By mercenary I mean that they have an interest in personal or corporate profit. The citizenry and those representing Mother Nature have all been left out. Which may well account for why most communities in Georgia haven’t benefited from all the “development” that’s gone on. Our people not only enjoy low wages, but the highest unemployment rate in the nation.

“Father knows best” and “in loco parentis” are attractive concepts, but the fact is that “family values” is often a euphemism for abuse. We should not be surprised when family values lead to the exploitation of Mother Nature.

No BMPs by road to new subdivision with obvious souring of the bottom during rain event.
No BMPs by road to new subdivision with obvious souring of the bottom during rain event.

This is what building a dike in a wetland looks like. And for what purpose? To access a pipe dream (Steamboat City USA) that has officially failed as of 2010 but was used to justify the widening of Spur 25 in 2011. Maybe somebody thought it would be consistent with the HOGARC resource protection and management plan. But, HOGARC (an appropriate acronym given that hog hunting is still a popular sport in the region and the spouse interjects “obviously a misspelling of “hog ark”, the boat on which the fat cats float”) seems doomed from the start since the Heart of Georgia Altamaha Regional Commission includes the counties of Appling, Bleckley, Candler, Dodge, Emanuel, Evans, Jeff Davis, Johnson, Laurens, Montgomery, Tattnall, Telfair, Toombs, Treutlen, Wayne, Wheeler, and Wilcox in south Georgia, but leaves both Glynn and McIntosh at the mouth of the mighty Altamaha River out.

The essential purpose of the Regional Resource Plan is to meet the state mandate, but also to serve as an advocacy guide to inform, educate, and provide a decision framework for all concerned to understand the importance of natural and cultural resources in the Region from environmental, social, economic, historical, and quality of life perspectives. Hopefully this importance and understanding can lead to sustainability and retention of these resources in the real world environment as connected, functioning, quality contributors to environmental and economic well-being for both existing and future generations, and the natural world involved.

Resources are, of course, to be used. Note that there is no mention of preservation. Note also how “the natural world” is appended as an afterthought.

I’ve been arguing for some time that Georgia is a socialist state. Planning “to meet a state mandate” is characteristic. One could say it’s merely the persistence of the plantation mentality into the modern day. But, what I hadn’t fully realized until recently is that, albeit man-centric, what is commonly referred to as “representative democracy” is actually a system of social organization that leaves the majority of the demos, the people, out. People exist to be “done to” and “done for,” but the public giving directions to public servants is anathema.

Which suggests that the general impoverishment of the population is not a happenstance. Keeping the populace on the economic treadmill, working three jobs just to stay alive, ensures there’s not much energy to make complaint and/or issue demands. So, the powers that be — i.e. people who lust for power — get their way and the promise of an occasional circus, a day at the fair and periodic excursions to Disney Land serves to pacify the compliant. The non-compliant, of course, get sent to jail.

Yes, to make an omelet we have to break a few eggs. But, filling in the marshes and wetlands with dams and dikes for roads to a non-existent Steamboat City USA is an example of wanton destruction. No wonder James Holland’s complaints get no results. It’s all in the plan.

There was reason to scoff at Soviet Five Year Plans. Unfortunately, the major scoffers, like our deficit and war hawks were just jealous. Determined to go the Soviets one better, they got into bed with the predatory and parasitic denizens of the free market and the myth of free enterprise.

Ah public/private partnership! The rule of law makes it so easy to liberate our neighbors from what we and they need to survive. That’s one place where the public is not left out.

For coverage of an earlier Concept Report click here.

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Monica Smith

Monica Smith writes Hannah's Blog. Born in Germany, she came to the United States as a child, living first in California, then after an interval in Chile, in New York. Married to a retired professor at the University of Florida, where she lived for 17 years, she moved to St. Simons Island, Georgia, in 1993 and now divides her time between Georgia and New Hampshire. (New Hampshire, she says, is always interesting during a presidential election.) She and her husband have three children and five grandchildren. Ms. Smith says she "learned long ago that I am not a good team player when I got hired at the Library of Congress, fresh out of college with a degree in political science and proficiency in four foreign languages, to 'edit' library cards and informed my supervisor that if she was going to insist I punch the clock exactly on time, my productivity was going to fall from being the highest to being the same as everyone else's. The supervisor opted to assign me to another building where there was no time-clock. After I had the first of our three children, I decided a paycheck wasn't worth the hassle."