Southern Style: We Are All Tree Huggers

October 22, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015

'Our civilization, our economy, and our health requires wise and friendly care for nature.' (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)
'Our civilization, our economy, and our health requires wise and friendly care for nature.' (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)
The last time I was in New York, I spotted a commotion. People had camcorders and cell phones out. It was not a UFO. It was not escaped retirement party balloons. It was an ordinary gray tree squirrel going about his business in Madison Square Park. I did not laugh at my Northern brothers and sisters.

They were expressing a love of life innate to all of us. If you ever need to enthrall a roomful of 4-year-olds, show up with a Surinam toad, a hedgehog, a tarantula, a chinchilla, or a rabbit. Their eyes will shine, and they will clamor to pet whatever it is, no matter if it is fluffy, spiky, scaly, or slimy.

That love gets covered over in some of us. When it does, we are willing to blast mountaintops to get coal for our electricity. We might push the contractors on our oil platform to cut corners until a deadly blowout results, then pour toxic dispersants into the sea to hide the oil rather than skimming it up. We might dam rivers, mortally wounding them. A person who has forgotten his love of life is willing to eat animals raised and slaughtered in abusive conditions, and eat plants grown in ways that ruin the soil and water.

Those 4-year-olds would take offense at such acts. All of them would, no matter which side of the partisan divide their parents prefer. Yet protecting and respecting nature has been politicized for generations, at least since Rachel Carson wrote “Silent Spring.” It should not be.

Those uninhibited folks at PETA can make kindness to animals seem like a trendy, fringe issue. No harm intended, PETA, don’t throw paint on me.

It is not a fringe issue. Dietary laws from orthodox, ancient traditions required it. That recent egg recall was traced to a company where the management tolerated a cruel, overcrowded, filthy situation. The eggs had salmonella because the hens were poorly treated.

Our civilization, our economy, and our health requires wise and friendly care for nature.

The Trust for Public Land just celebrated protecting the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River in Georgia. Conservation activists and government officials in a very red part of a very red state marked the happy event.

The city mayor of Helen, Ga., Greg “Mully” Ash, wearing a University of Georgia cap, explained his name at the event: “My grandfather named me mullygrub for that little worm you fish with.” That showed his connection to outdoor folk ways. Next, he showed a grasp of the economic value of the natural world. “The headwaters of this Chattahoochee start about seven miles north of town. This river is the lifeblood of our little town, our county, and recently you’ve seen, of the city of Atlanta, too.”

Ash said his town had been a major second home destination, and the recession had slowed that. Because of the river, tourism was “trying to hold steady.” He said Helen gets 52.3 million in tourist dollars, $11.5 million in salaries, and 580 jobs, all because the Chattahoochee is clean and inviting. “In the summer you will see thousands of people on the river.”

The people at the river event seemed to have kept their 4-year-old’s love of nature intact.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.