When it comes to this planet, does anyone really care?

info@islandpacket.comOctober 30, 2013 

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Two moored shrimp boats are shown stuck in a creek near William Hilton Parkway on Hilton Head Island.

SARAH WELLIVER — Sarah Welliver/The Bluffton Packet Buy Photo

By COLLINS DOUGHTIE

cdad@hiltonheadisland.net

Have you ever seen something that irks you to no end, but when you voice your displeasure you're told, "Come on, just let it go. Look the other way."

Maybe to a fault, I am the type of person who has a very hard time letting something go, especially when it affects everybody. I think this tendency stems from my folks, who for my entire life stressed being proactive about the issues that are important to me.

If you read my column with any regularity, you know how passionate I am when it comes to nature and the environment. When I see a blatant disregard for either, I get revved up like nobody's business. Issues such as littering, billboards, abandoned man-made objects or water get me so fired up that sometimes I feel like I'm going to blow. But if I had to pick one area that bothers me the most, it's when that abuse is so obvious that people can't help but notice the infraction, yet they do nothing to rectify the problem.

So what set me off on this quest for justice? It was pretty much a combination of things. The first, those two shrimp boats that were abandoned in the marsh just as you pass Windmill Harbour on Hilton Head Island really opened my eyes. All of a sudden I was seeing crimes against the environment everywhere. It was like the first time you see a word that you've never seen before and, almost like magic, it starts appearing everywhere you look. I guess the human brain needs to be jump-started before it really goes into action.

For me that jump-start came when I decided to do some exploring in the Savannah River. I hauled my boat to the Hullahan Bridge just before you get into Port Wentworth after going through the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. My plan was to head downriver to see if I could find a few new spots for trout and maybe even a striper or two. Anyone and everyone who has been even remotely close to this industrial area has been rewarded with a smell that is hard to miss -- something akin to rotten eggs. I have wondered for years how the folks in Port Wentworth can stand that smell. Ask old-schoolers in Savannah about the odor and their answer is, "That's just the smell of money!" Now, I have never gotten down and smelled a dollar bill but I seriously doubt it smells like that.

My question is this: How do these companies get away with spewing that stuff into our air day after day? Doesn't anyone care that chemicals are being poured into the atmosphere? I guarantee if I were to develop a machine that could duplicate that smell and set it up in my backyard, it wouldn't take long before I was told to shut it down, or else.

As I headed downriver, the amount of abandoned equipment lying in the water was staggering. Old sunken barges, oily discharges from pipes pouring into the river, plus thousands upon thousands of pieces of steel, plastic and old tires. You name it, and it was there. Doesn't anybody care?

Closer to home, the same disregard for the environment is going on and, sadly, the majority of us pass right by without thinking twice about what the long-term effects might be to this once pristine area. Runoff from golf courses in heralded "green" resorts dump thousands of gallons of fertilizer-contaminated water into our waters every day. It's not their water; it belongs to all of us, yet we choose to do nothing. For the sake of 18 holes of perfect grass, we turn our heads. Doesn't anybody care?

Junker cars, old appliances and all manner of trash can be found, even in the most remote areas. Not to mention the "pure" water sold in plastic bottles that will take centuries, or more, to disintegrate. What on earth are we thinking? The answer is, we're not.

Today's society is most definitely the "throw away" culture. For the sake of convenience and the almighty dollar, we are willing to forsake the planet on which we live. The next time you go get a burger, fries and a Coke look at the volume of trash that comes with that one meal. Unless we all open our eyes very soon, we are going to eat ourselves right out of house and home.

God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic designer by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.

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