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April 28, 1998

Earth Day

by Woody Justice

I attended the 30th anniversary of Earth Day, and it was a wonderful event. It was held in the recently constructed Earth Day Village next to the pier in Fairhope. The brainchild of REALTOR McDonnell-Comings-Smit, EDV is more than attractive condos, trendy cafes and ATMs. Uniform rows of Bradford Pears that follow along the paved Nike Walking Path have replaced the unconforming and amorphous Live Oaks that used to clutter the area. The Internationally Paper/Disney Hall of Trees displays a cross-section from one of the oaks that has 450 growth rings! There are also photos of the vanished Longleaf Pine savannas once ubiquitous in the Southeast. Jet- ski rentals are available at the Exxon/Yamaha Pier & Fueling Dock, and the Alabama State Ducks sponsors tourist cruises up the Bay to watch jobs and raw materials being shipped out of the country. (The bonds sold to refit the ASD have really paid off in efficiency: it is much faster and less labor-intensive to move cargo in one direction only, rather than breaking up the momentum by having to stop and off-load goods from incoming ships.)

REALTOR Robertson-Dyes-Slackmeister plans an addition to their ingenious floating subdivision that allowed more development of the Eastern Shore after all available land was taken -- though rapid siltation in the Bay means they won't float for long. Not to be outdone, the James boys plan a floating trailer park with initial access by bass-boat, to be supplemented later with a toll pontoon-bridge. Since trailers weigh less, they assure buyers that it will stay afloat and, for an additional fee, they can evacuate the whole subdivision upriver with barges if a hurricane approaches.

Jeff Sassions opened the day with thanks to the Lord for giving us dominion over this planet and whatever others we can eventually conquer. The senator also announced that he is introducing legislation to replace the confusing Kingdoms and Phyla in biology texts with a simpler- to-follow listing of "fowl of the air, beasts of the field, creeping things of the earth, fish of the sea" and of course "Man made in His image."

The deterioration of the natural surroundings was also discussed. Public officials explained plans to crack down on irresponsible youth whose skateboarding wears away the paint on the Red Buttresses. (Formerly the Red Bluffs, but now covered in cement to slow the erosion from increasingly torrential rains.)

A display by the Daphne sewage treatment staff demonstrated their success at predicting jubilee events last year, and they promised to keep up their excellent record. The crew from Orange Beach proudly showed off their fleet of ka-ka suckers: brown, closed-container trucks with vacuum- assisted nozzles that slurp the roadway clean after "upset events" and sprinkle baking soda behind.

The US Fish & Wildlife Service booth exhibited preserved specimens of indigenous species so rare that it is impossible to find them in the wild anymore. "Sure, they might be extinct, but it could be that we just can't find the remaining individuals," said USFWS spokesman Buck Skinner." The good news is, biodiversity shows a net gain. We have a bunch of new organisms that scientists are still working to classify, like those fish-kinds of things near the chemical factory outflow lines and the new insects that acquired pesticide-resistant genes from the engineered crops."

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) presented the coveted "Nature's Surrogate" award to Alabama Tower. With the ozone layer thinning, more deadly ultraviolet radiation reaches the earth, so they started burning dirty, brown coal. Not only does it provide an extra-thick layer of particulates to shield lifeforms from cosmic rays, it's cheaper fuel, so Alabama Tower cuts costs and stays competitive with renewable energy sources. "So it's a win-win situation," said local businessman Win Mullet. "It makes me happy," echoed Hap Fryer.

Our industrial neighbors were well-represented at the event. Court-alls sold car air fresheners designed specifically to absorb carbon disulfide, and DuFont gave away bumper stickers that read "Earth First! We'll strip-mine the rest of the planets later."

Degassa employees gave away the usual logo keyrings and knickknacks, but their most popular item was a pesticide-fertilizer compound reported to help backyard gardeners grow tomatoes. "We have this stuff piling up between trips to Emelle; it's just going to waste, and if people can put it to use, then we have a chance to give back something to the community," said safety manager Bea Zyklon. "People are taking it as fast as we can shovel it at them."

Unveiled for the first time, the new Mercedes Fobster drew a hungry crowd. With 850 horsepower and 6-wheel drive, spokesman P. R. Head claimed it "could tow the Battleship" (if the USS Alabama still had a sound hull) and "hold its own in a wreck with a semi." Thanks to the Governor's visionary 1998 highway bond proposal ("Pave Alabama, for the future") its EPA-ranked fuel economy of 2.5 gallons per mile shouldn't be a problem now that there is no place in the state more than five miles from a gas-n-grub franchise.

When the delightful day wound to a close I chatted with Melba Sue Mallrat as she was leaving with both arms full of free giveaways, her seven kids similarly loaded down. "It's so important for people to learn about conserving resources," she said, "and I'm grateful that so many businesses and agencies take the time to spread the Earth Day message. I am very touched."

I couldn't agree more with that last part, Melba Sue.

The Harbinger, Mobile, AL