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FRAN ALEXANDER: Environment is on the ballot

by Fran Alexander | October 20, 2020 at 1:00 a.m.

It all comes down to this -- who "gets it" and who doesn't? We make the mistake of assuming, of course, that with understanding and education, people will adjust their actions toward that which would benefit and protect their health and safety. Alas! Assumptions pave a path to many disappointments. So as we enter this final onslaught of the electoral season, I hope people will "get" the basics regarding the environment and will vote for candidates with that same comprehension.

Denial of realities is delaying any progress toward the few solutions there are to climate change. Many Republicans, Mr. Trump, and his mouthpiece, FOX News, have called climate change a hoax, and no matter the evidence, have chosen to ignore it or exacerbate it. This has the same effect that ignoring covid-19 has had except there are no future vaccines that can recreate clean air, water, wildlife, soil and ecosystems. When these basics are poisoned or used up, they're gone. Voting for candidates who deny how the natural world functions is also denial that environmental issues exist. A shortened list of Mr. Trump's actions that I implore everyone to read is titled, "Trump's record on the environment and public lands is worse than you think," in Hatch Magazine, a fly-fishing publication (available online).

Sen. Cotton has been joined hip to hip with Mr. Trump on almost everything that destroys environmental protections. In contrast, Cotton's well-spoken opponent, Ricky Harrington of Pine Bluff, who is a prison chaplain and treatment coordinator, seems to be a man of integrity and empathy. His campaign material states, "Making money should not be placed above our responsibility to protect the natural resources for future generations." Mr. Cotton essentially wouldn't give him the time of day in a Arkansas PBS debate because Harrington is "no major party challenger" that warrants Cotton's time. Interestingly, an American Research Group poll shows this unknown newcomer's support at 38% vs. Cotton's 49% in spite of Cotton's millions and Harrington's few thousands in campaign funds. I'd like to think arrogance goeth before a fall. After all, miracles can happen if people will just vote for miracles.

Not to be outdone in disdain for environmental topics is Congressman Steve Womack, whose career score of voting for what Trump wants is 97.8%. This tally is according to the polling and forecasting blog, "538," named for the number of electors in the U.S. Electoral College. Womack's strongest opponent is Celeste Williams, a family nurse practitioner, whose campaign motto is, "No one should go broke when they get sick." She comprehends that only a healthy earth can sustain healthy humans. Fortunately, she's one of those "no PAC money accepted" candidates beholden to voters only, not to the corporate world.

Although Fayetteville has a four-way mayoral race, this contest seems mostly between current mayor Lioneld Jordan and real estate broker Tom Terminella. This is one of those, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," choices. U.S. News and World Report has ranked Fayetteville in the top 10 places to live in the U.S. for five consecutive years. Additionally under Jordan, the town has been able to continue into its 24th year with a Tree City USA designation; preserved approximately 1,200 acres of urban forest and green space on parts of Kessler, Millsap, Dead Horse, and Markham mountains as well as some wetland and savanna lands; added 68 miles of paved and soft surface trails; and installed the first award-winning public solar energy project in Arkansas, receiving national honors for its new system.

Mr. Terminella's actions also demonstrate his priorities regarding land use. He seems to like land cleared so it's supposedly easier to sell. For example, the approximately 11 acres on Wedington and North Golf Road across from the Ozarks Electric building was once a forest with large trees. It's now an environmental desert of exposed dirt susceptible to erosion of sediment into waterways, devoid of mature vegetation that helps soak water into the ground and without the shading and cooling that tree canopies provide. In another of his projects, he's did not win many friends in the Wedington Woods subdivision from his efforts to get a red dirt mining permit near them, which he said would generate 30 to 50 round trips per day of dump trucks. That hardly sounds neighborly.

If we don't "get it" and elect leaders who do, we will find ourselves beyond saving. Please vote for the environment.

Fran Alexander is a Fayetteville resident with a longstanding interest in the environment and an opinion on almost anything else. Email her at [email protected]


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