These are busy, busy times for optimists.
Heat-trapping carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere? Off the charts. The giant whirlpool of plastic garbage in the Pacific Ocean? Wide as Texas and getting bigger every day.
The forces of unchecked capitalism, corporate greed and government collusion with both? Running rampant in your backyard like a naked methhead who just stepped in a whompin' hill of fire ants.
No, this isn't another rant about how the City of Savannah has rolled over like a subservient golden retriever to the carpetbagger developers violating zoning ordinances and all aesthetic common sense in midtown. That situation appears futile as Chance Partners continues its architectural assault and evades confrontation with residents. (Although there may have been a bit of chest-thumping when my husband encountered Chance's Bill Newell over sushi at Hirano's last week in a fun game of Who's Neighborhood Is This, Anyway?)
But lawdy, I wish that were the most egregious injustice that's preoccupied me lately.
On May 7, Georgia's Environmental Protection Division held its fourth public hearing regarding the befoulment of the Ogeechee River by King America Finishing. As if this time around their horrific tales of more dead fish and a suspicious film on tree roots along the river would slap some conscience into this group of slack-jawed government officials, Ogeechee residents and activists gamely shared their concerns once again — only to have EPD director Judson Turner dismiss their time and tears as "white noise."
Even for those who always look for the silver linings in even the most noxious chemtrail-generated clouds, it's hard to keep a stalwart chin up.
"I come by my cynicism honestly," sighs Ann Hartzell, chair of the Ogeechee Riverkeeper. To no avail, ORK has repeatedly filed requests to see the results of EPD testing of the river water conducted since that massive fish kill two years ago. Ann and the rest of ORK say they won't stop protesting, though barring hell or high (poisoned) water, KAF will have its EPD permit to keep on dumping by this fall.
"The people who live on this river say it is dying," Ann said, shaking her head. "The other side is trying make it like we're Chicken Little, but the sky actually is falling."
I hope you're wearing a helmet, 'cause there's more than that raining down: In the next valence shell of moral demise, an anonymous U.S. congressperson snuck a nasty little rider into the recently-passed emergency budget bill that poisons our food, too.
Known as the "Monsanto Protection Act," section 735 of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act exempts multinational biotech companies that manufacture and sell genetically-engineered and genetically-modified crops (collectively, GMOs) from legal review.
Basically this means that Monsanto, the creepiest and most insidious corporate Godzilla in the history of humankind, can package up its tumor-causing corn with some asbestos flakes, slap a cute cartoon character on it and call it cereal. And when the last of the underfunded independent research facilities finally proves it causes cancer, Monsanto's CEOs will cackle maniacally as they enjoy cocktails and cigars in their hermetically-sealed underground biodome.
GMOs have been linked to cancer, infertility and autoimmune disease. They're outright banned in Japan, Peru, Russia and across Europe. Yet at least a few elected U.S. leaders think they're so fantastic that we don't even need the right to protect ourselves from their longterm effects.
According to The Non-GMO Project, a Washington-based non-profit, over 80 percent of food sold in North America contains GMO ingredients, but labeling attempts at state and federal levels have been thwarted.
Oh, were you thinking the Food and Drug Administration had you covered? I'm sure current FDA director and ex-Monsanto executive Michael Taylor has your best interests at heart, really.
We've all talked ourselves blue in the face about the obvious adoration between corporations and government, a far more retch-worthy reality couple than Kim and Kanye. But if righteous outrage actually changed things, the world would be very different place. It's not enough to stomp our feet and groan and then stress-eat an entire bag of probably-GMO pretzels. (Erm. Maybe that was just me.)
To keep from falling into the abyss of apathy, we must invoke modern sage and cultural hero Bob Marley and get up, stand up and not give up the fight.
"What else is there besides our food and water?" asks Albert Strickland, the indefatigable director of Occupy Savannah. As committed to the 99 percent as they come, Strickland and cohort Brett Dykes have organized Savannah's March on Monsanto, taking place this Saturday, May 25 at Forsyth Park (Meet at the fountain at 2 p.m.; be there or be perpendicular.)
Held in conjunction with hundreds of other marches from the tip of South Africa to Indonesia to every major American city, Saturday's gathering also coincides with the ever-bountiful Forsyth Farmers Market, full of beautiful, non-GMO produce and ways to help everyone afford locally grown, organic food. (Yes, the market still offers double SNAP/EBT dollars, thanks to a grant from Wholesome Wave Georgia.)
It's also the place for anyone feeling like the deck is stacked forever in favor of evil to find some mojo. Even when the bastards are lying to your face at every turn, just being around Farmer Joe King and his amazing tamaters brings the hope that each of us makes the world better with every conscious act of consumption.
"We actually have the power to bring down these giants that are out only for their profit," promises Albert. "This is just the opening skirmish. The real battle is yet to come."
In the meantime, if we're unhappy with our local leaders, we can vote them out soon enough. Same with the liars in Atlanta selling us their rotten environmental decisions as "job creation."
Monsanto might be untouchable for now, but we don't have to buy their crap either: There's a brilliant new app called Buycott that allows you to scan any bar code in the grocery store and view its corporate trail. (I do not recommend doing this on those pretzels if you're planning to eat them anyway.)
The steps may be small, our dollars infinitesimal compared to the corporations.
But know that there is great power in integrity.
As we link arms with the other hopeless and incorrigible optimists, we can take heart that at least we are part of the solution, our chins held high.
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