Letter: Generation Destroy

When I read Seva David Ball's eloquent and heartbreaking letter to Sen. Duncan [March 29, 2012], I thought, my God, who is this man and why aren't more people speaking out as he is about the sham state of our government? Ball's letter wasn't a letter but a eulogy for America, because what is happening in Knoxville is happening in cities all across the country.

Knoxville artist Jean Hess e-mailed recently that she had just returned from northern New Mexico where a community was up in arms about a planned multi-million-dollar retreat next to the sacred, historic shrine El Santuario de Chimayo. She went on to say, "We are each and every one fighting tooth and claw all over the U.S. to save something that cannot be replaced."

Here in Knoxville, we have a man fighting tooth and claw to save Knoxville's trees from the saws of TVA and KUB. Larry Silverstein has spent years, untold personal hours, and money fighting the destructive practices established in the name of protecting power lines. The power lines could be protected with much more sensible guidelines. Trees, as TVA and KUB obviously aren't yet aware, have evolved past being simply esthetic choices in landscape design. With climate change and air pollution, trees may be our last salvation. You can't justify cutting down a mature tree by promising to put a sapling in its place. It takes decades for a tree to attain the growth necessary to provide real benefits in air cleaning and cooling. When it is 100+ degrees and air conditioners fail, we may begin to question the decision to replace so many of our trees with asphalt.

We have a small band of people fighting tooth and claw to stop mountaintop-removal mining. And we have a state Legislature that has avoided for five years a bill that would prohibit this desecration. Just last week the House Subcommittee of Environment & Conservation sent the bill to "summer study"—meaning that, once again, they do not have the moral courage to tackle this issue.

If Knoxville was once so incensed by John Gunther's description of it as the ugliest town in America that, 65 years later, it is still trying to clean itself up, why, in heaven's name, is it not incense—no, outraged—by the egregious actions (or nonactions) of its elected officials on much more important issues? How come no one is upset that the man we elected governor is silent on these issues, especially on mountaintop removal? Isn't it ironic (I know there's a better word for this, but I'm trying very hard not to sound too crazed) that on Gov. Haslam's webpage, "Bill's Priorities," the background picture is of our beautiful mountains, but nowhere does he mention conservation, preservation, environmental anything, only education and jobs? Why, among all those lovely staged photo ops, there is not one of him actually visiting, say, Zeb Mountain and letting his constituents know that he is at least engaged in an issue that will impact the future of our state and his grandchildren?

I'm not sure who said it originally, but novelist Chuck Palahniuk said it most recently: "We will be remembered more for what we destroy than what we create." I cannot express my feelings better than Seva David Ball: "piece by piece, chip by chip, the American that has been built by Republicans and Democrats is being dissolved, and directly due to a lack of will and determination to protect our very heritage embodied in some of our most basic resources." Ours will be the generation remembered for destroying so much.

Judy Loest