Now, I understand at some point back the designation of elder became a word that describes me. It is hard to imagine where all the years have gone even though they all were filled to the brim with life and the people in it. Through those years there have been changes, personal decision driven, some accidental and for the most part the years have not caused a great deal of wear on the tread of me. It has not been so easy for some of my friends and family. But for the most part, we muscle on.
Recent events with the pandemic and the extreme emotions felt by masses of people, enough so they have as they say, "Gone to the Streets." This is a thing people in this country have been doing for what? almost since its beginnings. But throughout the years we have been a nation, the changes happen in the streets, then they happen at elections, which we know can have consequences.
This time will not be the first time there are stark divisional choices whether that be local or national. Rhetoric can be harsh, can wear on friends, but can tear families apart. This has happened in mine recently. With the relatively young who have not weathered the yo-yo of elections, feelings are raw right now. Things are not going like they thought they would. There are people in the streets, stopping traffic and it is working. They are changing the culture in this country. There is a right we have to free speech and this is how democracy works, but using that voice, those words to start a movement and make the lives of our citizens better, safer, more prosperous. But change can sound like losing but we can reframe this.
We take turns in this country. No one wins all the time. No party stays in power forever. Voters change their minds or don't and that is the way our country flows for those allotted years.
Several years ago, an elder woman I so admired, came into my office and gently shut the door. I knew this must be very serious to her, so I stopped everything to be able to give full attention to her and the issue she was bringing with her. She mustered up the courage and only asked one question. "Was our president good for the environment?" I have thought of this throughout his tenure and the answer I gave then would be ever so much more adamant now. The changes to our environmental regulations and the protections that have been put in place by the only federal agency with Environmental as a Middle Name, have been stripped away, one after the other, Clean Air Act, not so Clean, Clean Water Act, getting Dirty, NEPA, oil and gas leases on sacred lands, protecting species or their habitat. Through the years of this administration, our opportunities to comment have been diminished on these actions and our hopes for a cleaner and healthier life for our children are diminished as well.
But we do get chances and you get a chance to learn more about ours next week. The Superfund program breaks up their work into parts, that they call operable units or OUs (not OSUs!) EPA is announcing more information on OU5, the Human Health Risk Assessment and LEAD Agency has worked with EPA to provide a chance, for you to listen to what that looks like and how much risk they think we humans have in the streams, river and lake. Listen and then the next day, these folks will be doing another session to help you and me write up our comments which are due July 17. This is our only chance. Yours and mine to let these folks know you want it all fixed. Yes, a creek running through Commerce and Miami, about time it gets fixed and the land it floods each and every time it floods ought to get some attention, too. And those fish in the streams, when there are some, they should be fishable and edible, right? RIGHT.
Can we say something? Yes, will it matter? These agencies will never try to read your mind and may not do anything if you should say something. But take a hint. Sometimes people in power listen, they get the hint, the nudge to change or why did NASCAR decide the Confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties? or why are some TV shows like COPS being taken off the air suddenly? Monuments coming down?
This could be our moment, this could be the WHEN THEY LISTEN TO PEOPLE HERE WHO WANT A CLEAN TAR CREEK AND A LAKE THAT IS GRAND AGAIN. Tune in, take time out of your life and do a WEBINAR, what could be more exciting? I will tell you what could be more exciting, it would be setting your kayak into a clean Tar Creek and not having it stained when you get out. We elders can do it so the little ones and those who follow them can dangle their feet and enjoy having the fish kiss their feet.
People power. You got some, let's put it to use.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim
Rebecca Jim is executive director of the LEAD Agency