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Why isn’t the environment more important in Alabama?

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

As the air conditioner kicked on at my house in Montgomery last Saturday night around 10 – a week short of Christmas – I also noticed a winter weather advisory alert was issued for my hometown in north Alabama.

Odd to say the least.

Taken as a singular event, Saturday’s weird weather – in which it was 74 degrees at 10 p.m. on Dec. 16 – isn’t cause for … well, anything other than a conversation starter.

And that’s exactly how the climate change deniers will present it to you.

It’s been warm in December before.

Temperatures fluctuate, that’s how it works.

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Apathy and resistance to change make up the foundation of Alabamization. And nowhere is that more evident than in this state’s environmental practices, or the lack thereof.

Alabama is chock full of hunters, fishermen and all sorts of outdoor types. Should you doubt this, get in your car and drive down any road in this state, and count the number of trailers attached to trucks and hauling boats, four-wheelers, utility vehicles or jetskis.

Look at the back-window stickers that profess a love for absurdly expensive coolers, a “salt life,” camo, a brand of boat, a brand of sunglasses or just outdoor life in general.

Oh, we love the water, woods, beach and mountains.

We’re just too stupid to protect them.

And before you get all indignant and take offense to that, here’s how stupid we are: a month or so back, when it hadn’t rained since football practices started in August, this state was running out of water. Creeks and lakes were drying up. Longtime tourist attractions were struggling due to a lack of water falling from waterfalls. Fire departments were having serious concerns about having enough water to put out fires.

But we didn’t have the means to make people conserve water – to stop watering their grass or washing their cars. We couldn’t make golf courses cut back or stop using millions of gallons of water. We couldn’t prevent large corporations from sucking up a whole town’s water supply.

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Why? Because Alabama has no water usage emergency plan and no laws to enforce in case of such an emergency.

And it gets worse: the laws we do have ensure those businesses have access to the water and can’t be cut off from it.

Georgia has a plan. Louisiana has a plan. Most states have emergency water usage plans.

Not Alabama.

Instead, we just hope and pray a lot.

This has always been one of the most confusing things about this state to me. The same guys who will talk you to death about sitting in a tree stand will belittle you for suggesting that regulations and better environmental practices might protect those woods a little better.

The same guys who have permanent two-tone faces from days on the lake fishing with a hat on can’t draw the straight line between our lack of regulations and the dead marine life and restrictions on eating fish or swimming in our lakes and rivers.

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And somehow, despite all of this and much, much more, people here are also skeptical of climate change.

Instead of believing the scientists, who are long settled on this matter, they believe the same people who have told them not to worry about the other environmental issues.

I don’t know how climate change became a partisan issue. I truly don’t. Because it seems like an issue that farmers and hunters and fishermen and all manner of usually conservative people would line up to prevent. Even if they weren’t entirely convinced by the science or the potential for disaster.

Farmers in other parts of the country are sure convinced, as they pay thousands of dollars to track down underground springs in order to irrigate their crops.

Fishermen believe it in south Florida, where many parts of the state are now under water.

There are, of course, myriad things we could do to offset the effects of climate change and lessen its damage on future generations. Many of these things wouldn’t be costly or burdensome. Some might even produce jobs and better the economy.

A state like Alabama, with its love of nature and its need for any job, should be leading such a charge.

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That apathy and indifference are instead winning out isn’t a surprise, but it’s still disappointing.


Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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