Will Earth Day truly become what it was always meant to be?
The old saying is, Every day is Earth Day. In our country I can see this slowly beginning to evolve. More and more homes and schools are developing backyard wildlife areas that allow children and adults to watch birds and small animals as they provide them with food and water. While I know these are not real wildlife habitats as long as humans provide the food and water, I cannot help but support children learning to enjoy and appreciate providing for wildlife with their parents.
And we still need to support our county Adopt-a-Stream program better. There are indications that our county Board of Education may be starting to support the program in the schools as their way to participate in our county greenspace program. There are rumors that we may soon have a meaningful county tree ordinance. Can we hope that our commissioners really do want trees to someday shade our cars while we shop in county malls and businesses?
The one every day is Earth Day effort that many people are waiting to see happen is a real comprehensive recycling program in our county. Is it really in a citizen committee stage of development?
Each year since the 1970s, Earth Day celebration efforts have tried to bring to business and government the publics concern for our environmental problems. While it may appear that each community across America and its school children are just performing an academic exercise, what they actually are doing is trying to make life better for all by displaying real-life environmental issues.
In the 21st century, sufficient clean water is going to be Americas biggest environmental issue. This country faces an enormous cost for the repair of its drinking water and wastewater infrastructure - anywher e from the $480 billion to $1 trillion is needed today in cities around the nation. If one but takes a trip to Clarks Hill Lake you will see the impact of five years of drought. Our lake is estimated to contain 277 billion gallons below normal for this time of year.
Water is going to be Georgias biggest challenge, too. One reason for the problem is that every stream in Georgia still has ditches and pipes dumping street runoff and other sources of pollution into them.
Thanks to litigation, in the last year Georgia has made great improvements at identifying and starting to correct one of our major pollution problems: pollution that comes from single-source pipes. However, we still have a way to go with off-road vehicles destroying our streams; sedimentation from land disturbance activities; and driveways and parking lot runoff, causing a cumulative pollution impact downstream.
We have an opportunity to make a difference in Columbia County water planning. As our commissioners begin putting together water-issue-related committees, or as they hold public meetings, try to attend. As we each voice our concerns about the way future water issues are developed into policy, we can get involved.
It will be up to us to take advantage of the many different opportunities to participate as our county develops different water-related advisory committees as a way to begin addressing these issues. What is important is that our counties will have meaningful water issue policies and that we were an active part of the process in planning for our future.
We all owe a debt of gratitude to the Columbia County staff members who have been on fire and working hard with the county greenspace committee. They have worked in the evenings with the committee and gone out of town on a day-long trip to learn how to make the county greenspace program more effective, and their efforts are appreciated.
(Sam Booher of Martinez is a member of Columbia Countys Greenspace Committee and chair of the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club.)
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