Left Justified: Where are the environmentalists on Earth Day?

Written while Wal-Mart’s paving over a nearby wetland…

Happy Earth Day! I am sorry for the state of the local environment. But there’s not many environmentalists here in Rockford. I’m afraid they’re busy raising funds to buy small patches of prairie surrounded by all this urban sprawl. Or maybe they’re buried under mountains of government paperwork trying to save some exotic endangered species.

I just heard that Wal-Mart is expanding its building, which is good for the city’s sales tax receipts, but bad for the little creek and wetland that will be buried. The Wal-Mart expansion went right over my head. I did hear there was an environmentalist letter written somewhere, most likely sent to the Corps of Engineers. But why the U.S. Army would be receiving concerns about a little northern Illinois creek about to be blacktopped is beyond me; aren’t they fighting a war in Iraq?

I’m the conservation chairman for the local BlackHawk Sierra Club. We meet once a month and talk about hiking, the environment, and local urban sprawl. I’m supposed to be up to date on the latest information, but I’m lucky to notice the latest Sunil development before I run into it.

Forgive me, but I’m the one who volunteered for this position when no one else did. I will gladly share the honor or let someone else do this. There’s not much remuneration, except the appreciation of the local club members and maybe the unknown future generations.

There are few environmentalists elected to local government. How many are on the Winnebago County Board? I can think of Polly Berg, and maybe two others. Are there any environmentalists on the Rockford City Council? Someone asked, “where are the environmentalists,” but has anyone asked the elected representatives if they have an environmental bone in their body?

Our own Congressman Don Manzullo has racked up a perfect environmental score: a big fat zero! He has not voted for one environmental bill in Congress. Someone should give him a goose egg as an award. I can’t. I’m too busy trying to persuade Machesney not to pave over the entrance of Rock Cut State Park.

So why can’t you be an environmentalist? It’s not that hard. All you have to do is like the outdoors. You don’t have to have a degree in environmental biology, though that helps a lot. You just have to be very specific when mentioning parcels of land you wish to save from the bulldozer.

Please realize that developers love the land, too—they love to buy it cheap and develop the heck out of it, get government subsidies to build roads, sewers and install water lines, then make a killing and claim that the free market works. And don’t talk about fees or taxes!

Developers love to have taxpayers pay for their profit. And they bitterly complain when they’re forced to plant a tree or stop filling in a creek.

All you have to do is learn the few rules that now govern developers, and then ask that they adhere to those rules. Sure, it takes a little work, but what doesn’t these days?

It would be nice if we had political candidates who supported the environment; then they could make it easier for environmentalists to save some land. You could ask more of your politicians, especially around election time.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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