Keep Mississippi idyllic

By JAY WIENER,

Intellectual adaptation often deviates from what circumstances demand: Inability to appreciate a changed world is maladaptive, with crucial consequences.

Significantly, today, humankind turns a blind eye toward transformation of our planet, a delicate system sustaining human life, unlike anywhere else in the firmament. People pollute in ways anathema when witnessed among animals in cages. Extractive practices are pursued which are unsustained on an industrial scale; ways of being permissible before the Industrial Revolution; prior to population explosion and abundant affluence. It is half-past time that people appreciate that environmental protection is consistent with maintaining our quality of life.

Mississippians historically treasured the land. It is not simply Gerald O’Hara’s maxim, “Why, land is the only thing in the world worth workin' for, worth fightin' for, worth dyin' for, because it's the only thing that lasts.” Mississippians are tied to land as a place of bounty, where they can grow and harvest crops, fish and hunt, and enjoy Creation.

That said, Mississippians are making mistakes that others in the country have previously made, notwithstanding the obvious outcome. Countless examples abound of what occurs after ecosystems are disrupted. The future, if Mississippians do not devote themselves to environmental protection, is concerning.

The One Lake Project offers an example: The concept is the latest effort to promote a failed proposal which was never realized because it was misdirected ab initio. It remains the wrong idea, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

It is wrong because its intent is real estate development rather than flood control. Just as there are better options for integrating the Pearl River into an attractive asset for development in the City of Jackson, there are better options for controlling flooding in the Pearl River Basin. In the decades since additional impoundment of the Pearl River below the dam on the Ross Barnett Reservoir was initially conceived, a number of ideas underlying it died a deserved death. Dams are being removed rather than built, nationwide, because free-flowing rivers and creeks and natural habitats are deemed to be significantly more desirable than artificial lakes.

The concept of environmental protection seems lost upon the Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District; akin to those Mississippians who failed to see the future when Civil Rights were an inescapable outcome: Central Mississippi would be better reviving wetlands, pursuing habitat restoration, and providing public assess to the Pearl River.  The answer to the issues caused by disruption of riverine hydrology is not additional disruption of riverine hydrology.

If the One Lake Project is built, the dam will ultimately be removed, leaving inescapable destruction of the preexisting ecosystem.

 

History will record who was on the wrong side of history if the stunningly beautiful natural environment of Mississippi is destroyed. The offenders will be remembered less fondly than those who peopled the Massive Resistance to Integration.

It has been distressing to see that, just as Mississippians could not act courageously nor treat Civil Rights Movement activists respectfully, constructive criticism offered by those opposing the One Lake Project has been treated dismissively. There are valid reasons for the proposal to dam the Pearl River to be rejected, fully and finally, and those who advocate against it deserve commendation instead of condemnation.

It would be wonderful to showcase the natural assets that the City of Jackson has, attributes that major metropolises around the world would expend everything to enjoy. Instead of the endless urban development witnessed when driving on I-55 North between Meadowbrook Road and I-220, Jacksonians enjoy a respite of greenery when negotiating the Waterworks Curve and passing the Cypress Swamp south of the Pascagoula Street interchange — vistas not unlike those on the beautiful Parkways that Robert Moses created in New York in the early days of automobile travel: Each vista is as visually rewarding as the scenery enjoyed while driving on the Natchez Trace Parkway. And, just as Manhattan has Central Park to leaven urban living, downtown development in Jackson will be an easier sell, with optimal outcome, if the Pearl River is the equal of a National Park, with opportunities for hiking and strolling, riding horses and bicycles, fishing and swimming, and picnicking.

With the heaven on earth which Mississippians enjoy as our birthright, with our breathtakingly beautiful natural landscape, no reason exists to delude ourselves that anyone might improve upon what God begot: We cannot do so, and it is delusional to pretend otherwise.

Jay Wiener is a Northsider.