Sam Burnham, Curator
With the news that the disaster relief bill has stalled out in the Senate, we sit here scratching our heads. With much of South Georgia still struggling to recover from Hurricane Michael as well as tornadoes that damaged small towns and agricultural infrastructure, farmers were counting on federal disaster relief to make repairs, buy equipment, and to be eligible to secure loans for seed. And now planting season is upon us and those who lost last year’s crop to weather have lost this year’s crop before they even had a chance to plant it. Many may lose everything they own.
As Washington becomes more and more divided and the two major parties make moves only in the interest of gaining or maintaining power, the pawns become odder. This is not a frivolous topic. Sure, agriculture is the livelihood of those affected but their livelihood is the most important one on Earth. It’s not only the biggest industry in Georgia, it’s where we get our food and it’s what drives our industries. It is all of our livelihoods.
The Judge, Augustus Romaldus Wright, put it this way:
"Agriculture is the foundation of all production absolutely necessary for the use or comfort of man. He must eat and be clothed, to live, to think, to modify matter into ten thousand forms for his use. By locking up the soil, you dry up the fountain of life and being."
This failure is locking up the soil. That’s not an option we can accept. We cannot allow this to happen. It also seems that we cannot expect to change what goes on in Washington. The only option that leaves us is to start conversations on how to never be at the mercy of Washington. We have to be able to handle this at the state and local level. That requires us to develop sustainable systems of finance, energy, agricultural practices, and disaster relief that are completely independent of Washington. The answers will be local, local, and local.
I don’t have answers and don’t claim to. I’m saying we gotta start talking about these answers among ourselves and with anyone in Atlanta who will listen. And we might have to talk a little louder to those in Atlanta who won’t listen.
Washington is not the answer. We were fools to think it was. Our survival depends on a future with limited influence from Washington. If we don’t count on them, they can’t fail us. It’s time to count on us and to set the example for other states to do the same.
Got any ideas?
Sam Burnham, Curator
The first English settlers landed in the South, along the banks of Virginia’s James River in 1607. It would be 13 more years before the pilgrims would arrive at Plymouth. By that time, the Virginia colonists had discovered their cash crop.
Long before Eli Whitney’s contraption crowned King Cotton, the South made its living with this plant. Tobacco became popular in Europe and colonial farmers planted it anywhere they thought it would grow. There are even tales of women growing it in their window boxes.
Over the years this plant was used multiple ways as people smoked in pipes, cigars, and cigarettes. It was snorted as snuff. It was chewed or “dipped.” It became more than a cash crop. It became part of the culture. South Georgia farming consisted of cotton, turpentine, and tobacco. It’s hard to think of North Carolina without thinking of “Tobacco Road.”
These days tobacco, in all its forms, is relegated to anathema. The Feds say it’s bad for you. Honestly, they’re right. It’s not a particularly healthy activity. And in their zeal to protect people from themselves, they have added exorbitant taxes, prohibited advertising, banned smoking in privately owned “public” places, and added all sorts of other regulations and restrictions. All of these incursions have run parallel to a gradual loosening of similar restrictions on liquor, which the Feds also say is bad for you. One conspiracy theory I find intriguing is that this is because you can make liquor up north but you can’t grow tobacco there.
Ironically, liquor and tobacco naturally go together. A glass of bourbon is the perfect compliment to a nice cigar. That being said, we’ve discussed before how bootleggers gave us stock car racing, the premier series of which became The Winston Cup. Cars carried advertisements by various cigarette and smokeless tobacco companies. Of course beer companies got in on the act as well. Liquor was banned from advertising at that time, even though liquor gave us the sport. Times change and now liquor has a little more liberty but tobacco is out. Which is kinda funny considering the low number of tobacco related automobile accidents. And tobacco products have to carry a warning label that basically states “if you use this product, you’re going to die.”
Well, no kidding. We’re all gonna die.
You don’t have to look too deep into history to see 18, 19, 20 year olds who invaded occupied Europe or island hopped across the Pacific and SAVED THE WORLD, fueled in part by Chesterfields and Lucky Strikes. Douglas MacArthur was rarely photographed without the world’s largest corncob pipe clenched in his teeth. Winston Churchill is the namesake of the size of cigar he made famous.
These were men of grit and determination, men who knew not the taste of avocado toast. They didn’t live in their parents’ basements. They came home and built things, started businesses, and became our grandfathers.
I’ve seen tobacco related illnesses ravage people and seen them die prematurely. I’ve also seen it catch up with smokers and kill them dead at age 90. I’ve also seen avid runners and fitness practioners not live to see 50. I don’t say all this to tell anyone to smoke and I’m certainly not telling anyone to give up healthy habits. I’m saying this life is short, regardless. I’m saying the government’s onslaught against tobacco is ridiculous in a free country and hypocritical in regard to policies governing liquor, sugar, automobiles, processed food, and a thousand other things that cause cancer or other terminal illnesses. It’s time for some perspective. It’s time to chill out just a little. It’s time for free men and women to make up their own minds. No one gets out alive.
Sam Burnham, Curator
By now I’m sure you’ve heard this term being slung around. The mystical, magical plan in which all proven sources of energy and economy are discarded for unicorns and glitter and the Federal Government saves the world from menacing onslaught of “cow farts.” Leave it to a New Yorker to blame cows for climate change.
This proposal is the handiwork of the freshman member of Congress from New York City, the amazing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She argues that the deal will reverse climate change while revolutionizing the economy and creating mind blowing prosperity.
But, as is to be expected, the plan is as silly as it is ignorant. For one thing, she cuts out air travel. Then she tweets advice to kids on how to reduce their carbon footprint. One of her points is to give up eating meat and dairy, recommending instead her go-to breakfast of banana and peanut butter. At home in NYC that means opting for peanut butter trucked in from Alabama or Georgia and a banana flown in from South America or maybe even Indonesia instead of a dairy product produced within 100 miles of her home. According to the EPA, ranchers and dairy farmers account for about 2% of all greenhouse gases while transportation accounts for about 28%. So a relatively short truck or train trip could bring her dairy produced in state but she opts for a banana flown in from the other side of the planet and some peanut butter from over 1000 miles away.
The trick to a greener, more sustainable, more ecologically friendly future is with local and regional sources for food, energy, water, goods, services, etc. The more products we use that are locally sourced or at least regionally sourced, the less transportation is required and we cut into the 28% and never mind the 2%. Quit straining at gnats.
As the South continues to develop cleaner, more sustainable energy solutions, and broadband internet services connect our region better, options will arise that will cut those transportation and energy emissions more and the bovine emissions will matter even less.
If Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is really interested in fixing emissions, she should find sustainable methods to heat homes in and travel through that wretched city she lives in. She should deal with the Sasquatch sized carbon footprint of New York before pointing at the ant sized one in rural areas. As the flora in rural areas, especially trees in forests and farms, continues to consume the infinitesimal greenhouse gas emissions from rural sources, the cities continue to make far more than their flora can contain. If greenhouse gas emissions is the conversation she wants to have, then her town needs some greenhouse Beano first.
Regardless of any legislation or action in Washington, a localized grass roots economy will always be the greenest option. The closer we are to the goods and services we use, the more our sources of energy match our climate and topography, and the more walkable sour communities, then the greener our environment, the more prosperous our towns, and the healthier our people will be. We can never have a green economy so long as our small towns are cluttered with shuttered workplaces. We need Washington to step out of the way so we can rebuild this nation on our Main Streets.That would be a Green New Deal.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire