Environmental ‘ignorance’ isn’t bliss

December 11, 2022 1:00 am

Plant Scherer in Juliette is one of the plants where Georgia Power plans to leave coal ash waste in unlined pits, where it sits in groundwater. Contributed/Altamaha Riverkeeper

True or false: “Ignorance is bliss”?

If that was true, I was blissfully ignorant—nestled in my Strand Theater seat—watching
cowboy-and-Indian movies during my boyhood Saturdays. And how many times, in backyard
play, did you choose to be a cowboy rather than an Indian?

Hollywood’s filmmakers influenced us to make that decision. Years later, I realized that I
had been duped into believing cowboys were the heroes and the Indians the enemies. Who
among us wouldn’t go on the warpath if our homeland was being invaded and our way of life

In this modern era of communications, magnified by social media, misinformation is
spewed 24/7. As I am bombarded by political and corporate propaganda, I remember an often-
repeated phrase from those 1950s matinees. After a Native American chief realized that he had
been duped, he would bemoan, “White man speak with forked tongue.”

In no way do I want to disrespect Native Americans. They were here before us, and their
heritage should be honored. But if the forked-tongue line was created in Hollywood, Native
Americans should claim it. Indeed, too many of our ancestral leaders fed tribes of Native
Americans saddlebags full of lies.

Fast-forward to today.

Pick a topic.

I choose the environment.

Our natural resources are gifts from God. He expects us to be responsible stewards.

That requires unpolluted soil to grow what we eat. And what parent wants their child to drink
tainted water? Don’t families of Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and others deserve to
breathe healthy air, too?

If so, why make the environment a political issue? Too often the politicians who balk at
stringent laws that protect our natural resources bark, “Government overreach!” Are these
examples overreach?

  • Speed limits on roads
  • Warning labels on tobacco products
  • Seat belts and air bags
  • Age limits on alcohol purchase/consumption
  • Safety standards for food and medicines

The goal is to protect us and save lives. Common sense suggests that regulating the safe
stewardship of our natural resources is a necessary government function, as well. But that’s not
always the case when arrogant entitlement is fueled by ungodly amounts of money available to
lobby for more corporate profits. I am a staunch believer in profitability. Healthy profits create
and support jobs, but sheer greed is shameful.

State and federal lawmakers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the
Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) and the Georgia Public Service Commission
(PSC) are under constant pressure. High-powered influencers want to soften, bend or ignore
rules that would negatively impact bottom lines.

After decades of burning coal to create electricity, consider how Georgia Power intends
to manage its toxic waste. For too long, we were blissfully ignorant of the environmental dangers of coal ash.

Georgia Power earns high praise for abandoning coal in favor of safer alternatives. But that’s just one step in the right direction.

Only 21 of Georgia Power’s 29 leaking-into-groundwater coal-ash ponds are being
drained and put in lined-dry storage. The “A-Citizen-Wherever-We-Serve” corporate giant plans
to cap and leave in place eight of its leaking impoundments. The strategy is to wait and see what
happens. Here’s the “bottom line” on that: One pile of toxic coal ash in drinking water is

The EPA has just instructed Ohio to clean up 100 percent of its leaky coal-ash messes.
Georgia Power is balking, thinking that directive doesn’t affect its risky ponds. I have an opinion
about that selfish attitude.

Beware of the propaganda spin-masters—compromised lawmakers, greedy
industrialists or their hired-gun lobbyists—if they tell you that time will heal a toxic coal-ash
sore. Take it from Hollywood’s Native American chiefs. Those people speak with “forked

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Dink Nesmith
Dink Nesmith

Dink NeSmith is retired president and co-owner of Community Newspapers Inc. of Athens-based Community Newspapers Inc., publisher of more than two dozen newspapers in Georgia, Florida and North Carolina.