Earth Notes: Power to decide

By Rev. Robert Plaisted

“Once there were trees and a river. Once there was grass where you stand. Once there were songs about rights instead of wrongs. Once was the time of man.” That song has haunted me since I first heard it about 50 years ago. It was written by the late Travis Edmonson of the Bud & Travis folk music duo. In the 1960s, the song was primarily concerned with the threat of thermonuclear annihilation. If it were written today, it still would be dead-on for threats to the earth that people in those days barely could have imagined.

“We heard the rumble like thunder. We saw the clouds rise at dawn. Then came the rain as we watched and prayed in vain. Then all was still; all was gone.” If we continue on our ruinous path, one day there will come a battered generation of struggling adults who will strive to explain the ruins of human civilization to their children, who never saw the earth when it nurtured and sustained human life. They’ll have to try to explain the way our planet used to be before human folly brought everything crashing down around us.

“Grass doesn’t grow on the hillside. Trees shrink and die in the sun. No place to hide my little baby’s eyes from the damage the dead have done.” In a few years, the members of my generation will be listed on the rolls of the dead. If we’re lucky, we’ll die of natural causes. But should Donald Trump and his followers manage to blow human civilization to bits, then billions will perish in the hellish maelstrom of blast, fire, starvation, and radiation poisoning that awaits anyone unfortunate enough to be alive on that day. Nikita Khrushchev is reputed to have said that if nuclear war ever happens, “The living will envy the dead.”

“They didn’t know in the old time, the earth and the seas were to share. They didn’t know in the old time, or care.” To generations yet unborn, every person alive today will be among those who lived in the old time. Our posterity never will know an earth more beautiful and bountiful than the earth we leave to them. Our decisions today are determining whether our descendants will live in a stable, fruitful world, or in a world devastated by fire, flood, famine, pestilence, and pollution. We are deciding right now whether or not we care about the earth and the seas, and even whether or not we understand that those treasures are held by us in common, to be shared by all people, not auctioned off to the highest bidder in some contemptible “big deal.” The future of human civilization is not negotiable.

“Once there were trees and a river. Once there was grass where you stand. Once there were songs about rights instead of wrongs. Once was the time of man.” We now hold in our hands the power to decide when the time of man on earth will end. If we allow environmental thugs like Trump and his mindless GOP enablers to set our future path, we only hasten the day when our traumatized descendants will curse us for the fools that we were “in the old time.”

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