My backyard, and yours

A good Saturday in Harlan

If we all truly lived from the spirit of NIMBY (not-in-my-back-yard), we would be in trouble with no hope of recovery.   But today your back yard is a little cleaner, or will soon be a little cleaner, as a result of the efforts of 80 or so citizens of Harlan County, Kentucky.  These folks, who gathered together at the behest and under the watchful eye of Croley Forester, divided into teams, and competed to see who could remove the most trash from the headwaters of the Cumberland River, specifically the three forks of the Cumberland:  Martin’s Fork, Poor Fork and Clover Fork.

How is that your back yard?  For a moment, consider that every last thing that starts out in a river (or is thrown out of a car window, which then washes into a storm sewer and out into a drainage ditch, then a creek, and then a river) ends up in the ocean.  Oh, maybe that was too absolute.  Some of it might get caught

up in a water treatment plant, and so the solids would be appropriately disposed of in a landfill.  But the largest proportion of it is not caught anywhere.  And if it’s made of plastic, for instance, it’s either out there in the ocean blue or on its way, and once it’s there, it’s never going away

A great wad of plastic

Maybe you don’t think of the ocean as your back yard.  Maybe you don’t like the water.  Or even the beach.  And a cruise is out of the question.  And fish?  Pee-YOO!  And maybe I’m even a member of the I Don’t Like the Ocean Club.  But that’s not the point.  I think the point is, it is your ocean, and mine, whether we like it or not.  It’s the only one we have.  And whatever lives there has a right to a healthy home, just like you do. 

So yesterday these 80 souls removed several tons of junk from the headwaters of the Cumberland.  We won’t have an official count till tomorrow when the trash will be picked up by Harlan County Santitation, and sent to the landfill.  But here are a few photos just to give you an inkling.  Several tons of junk, including tires, cars, refrigerators (think freon), catalytic

Tires are sources of polyaromatic hydrocarbons.

converters (think heavy metals), VCRs and TVs (more metals), a plastic sliding board, washing machines, and the dreaded and ubiquitous plastic, will not find their final resting place in the ocean or in the gullet of some dying ocean creature because these people made it so.

So, to my fellow Harlan Countians, I can’t express how proud I am to count myself as one of you.  I can’t say how thrilled to my core I am that a native son has come home.  And to the rest of you’uns, I just want to let you know, Harlan County’s got your back. yard.

The Poor Fork of the Cumberland River


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