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Editorial: Back to school

August 19, 2009

By Frank Schier

Editor & Publisher

I’m still learning.

Last week, I wrote and e-mailed all in our environmental community my editorial “Your turn,” referring to the last vote of the 2030 Plan on Amendment 7. Amendment 7 would keep the land to the east and west of south Meridian Road as agricultural rather than a new designation of light residential. In my editorial, I expressed the need for the environmental community to lobby county board members on the issue. Of all the swing votes I lobbied, they said zero phone calls or e-mails urged them to vote for Amendment 7. So, the turn was not taken, but another turn came about.

The paths and roads of my entire life and this paper’s life for 15 years have taken what the poet Robert Frost referred to as “the one less traveled by”; and, yes, “that has made all the difference.”

If the environmental community is going to make a “difference” at “Two roads diverged in a wood,” and preserve “having perhaps the better claim,” they must consistently act for themselves, individually and as groups.

“Don’t count on anybody but yourself for your future,” I wrote last week because of the assumption of many that this paper will always lead the charge, do the work and win the day. Everyone knows the acronym derived from “ASSUME.” While we influence, we cannot move elected officials to act unless we have your support/coinciding actions to back up our promise of political consequences.

Let me repeat from last week’s editorial: “The powers that be regard environmentalists as a ragtag group anyway because our focus is so scattered and we never speak as a group. Think of all the people in the groups [18-plus] mentioned at the beginning of this column. Those organizations have to empower their members and employees to actually stand up politically for what they work for every day professionally, or their own missions are a joke. Top-down management loses the creativity and vision of from the lower to the heights drive. I would bet all those organization comprise 6,000 to 10,000 people, maybe more. Talk about a voting bloc! Talk about swinging elections! Claim your power and demand what is right for our land! This is a good practice run.”

Perhaps that was my mistake, saying it was a practice run. But practice is our only hope to make it as close as we can to a perfect world. Call me a dreamer, believing in the chance of attaining perfection, unconditional love and heaven on earth.

Yes, a dreamer I am in miracles. To all in those 18-plus groups who actually worked on the 2030 Plan, we achieved 100 percent of what we fought for—see, a miracle! Despite the huge odds and bad intentions, we potentially saved at least 17,000 acres by our lobbying to include in the plan the Greenways Map and Plan, the Natural Resource Inventory and Map, the acreage set to be industrial given up by the City of Rockford and the Village of Cherry Valley, and finally the Amendment 7 vote. Amazing. Unheard of in the cruel world of politics. How did this happen? Love.

The principal of love of the land and each other and future generations stands inherent in all the 18-plus environmental groups listed last week. This vote may have slipped through many’s attention. Yet, these organizations have more resources for the required “eternal vigilance” than most.

What is the key question here? Seems like money to me. Money for these organizations’ budgets; money for their fund-raisers; money for land acquisition; money the social connections bring; money for salaries and career organizational advancement—don’t upset the apple cart, or they’ll close the orchard—and you and yours don’t eat.

That’s very real reality—based on the hard experience of fear of consequences and secret or overt dirty tricks. To those who hang such threats and Machiavellian dismalness, you’ll hang yourselves some day with such malice. Blessed be the courage of those who stand and risk doing the right thing. Those who can’t, I understand—YET—look at the miracle that took place when we all did the right, risky thing—a 100 percent achievement in the 2030 Plan. We can do it again.

It’s known this paper will take the risk of losing advertisers, friends and even losing this very paper. And risk we will, for good, ol’ love of each one of you—for the love of what’s right, for the love of telling the truth and for all of our souls. We’re not very subtle about wearing our passionate hearts on our sleeves. Please help us, and help yourselves.

The following list is a simplification of very complicated issues the environmental community must help each other with in the next school year:

The wind farm conundrum—AND ONLY THE BIG ATTENDEES ARE THE UNIONS, FARMERS AND DEVELOPERS. IF GREEN VOICES ARE GOING TO SPEAK, THEY’D BETTER STEP UP.

A Kishwaukee River Strategic Plan.

Green jobs and development infill with a focus on efficiency.

More renewable energy installations throughout the city and county.

The 2030 Unified Development Ordinances.

Here are some fun things that must be attended and supported better than the fine Green Communities Concert last Sunday at Cliffbreakers. I didn’t attend because I was angry about the lack of effort on the Amendment 7 issue. I missed my Rock River Talk on the Forest City Queen, too. But we do need to have fun, and the more green hanging outs instead of hangings, so go to:

The Green Ball Oct. 23;

The BioBiltz—Day of Discovery this spring;

The Winnebago County Green Business Awards on a date to be set in April 2010; and

Let’s look forward to next summer’s Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair in August 2010.

As I said in the Atwood Award acceptance speech last May: “This naturalistic energy carries forward in a renewable way with many writers who have become so dear. My real inspiration reels in my heart of hearts beating in you. With the voices of your community of hearts, the 2,700 acres we may have rescued in the Kishwaukee River watershed whitecapped in this award. Please see the zoning handout. With much more work to do, while we may amiably agree or disagree, The Rock River Times will continue to tell the hard truths. May we continue to save our water, our land, ourselves—together, with a true and growing love, enjoying all four rivers of many hearts, reaching as a Poet Tree just for you. For all of us creating The Rock River Times, thank you from the depths of our hearts, minds and spirits.”

FOR US

Peace is in the passing to Love

so evident in creation

because storms of suffering end

always in sunlight or moonlight

just as all seas must be shored

our rivers empty rushing time

to what brightly lasts in all hearts.

—Frank Schier

From the Aug. 19-25, 2009 issue

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