In my past writings about our natural world, I have often quoted passages from Archibald Rutledge, who reprinted several early observations of the natural assets of our Lowcountry from letters written during colonial times.
One of my favorites has always been, “The natural assets of this land by far exceed those of anywhere else in His Majesty’s domain,” written by an officer reporting back to the king of England.
We should duly note that the “king’s domain” was quite vast at that time, encompassing much of the known world.
But today I wish to quote a scholar from 150 years more recent than colonial times, our 26th President of the United States:
“We have fallen heir to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.”
“It is also vandalism wantonly to destroy or permit the destruction of what is beautiful in nature. Here in the United States we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping grounds, we pollute the air, we destroy forests, exterminate fishes, birds and mammals. But at last it looks like our people are awakening.”
While Teddy Roosevelt’s words were a century and a half after those that Rutledge quoted, they are also a century removed from today. President Roosevelt gained much acclaim during his time as the father of our national parks system and so many other wildlife preserves and natural wonders that are still with us today. He was revered then and in American history classes taught at every level – as a visionary conservationist -- for every generation since.
A century after his bold leadership, there is still a great deal of selfish mindset to exploit nature without responsible thinking about the consequences. More from Roosevelt:
“We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources. But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers and denuding the fields.”
“I recognize the right of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us.”
“Of all the questions which can come before this nation, short of the actual preservation of its existence in a great war, there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land a better land for our descendants than it is for us.”
How pure those thoughts were. How visionary and exemplary. It is a tragedy that they have not been utilized and adhered to, to this day; instead, they are being ignored or forgotten.
Profit and greed have ruled the roost, now more than ever, despite the fact that advanced science and intelligence have given us all the tools to carry out Roosevelt’s vision.
It is a crime that when a person or organization attempts to emulate Roosevelt’s virtues, they are shouted down by the so called “conservatives” with ignorant buzzwords like “liberal dribble,” “extremist” or “fanatic.”
It is so sad to see that profit and greed have become the national tragedy, winning out over science and reason – or responsibility and ethics.
You have seen this irresponsible and ever accelerating course taking shape with the new administration, as documented by real news.
In coming installments, I intend to make it clear how our local leaders have been cloned into the same mindset, ignoring the unique assets that make our area special, to cow down to the almighty “profit and greed at all costs” mindset.
The writer lives in Murrells Inlet.