I’ve been feeling very nostalgic lately.
My husband and I, Lauriston Hardin, went to the lecture last week, and then the display put on by the Historical Society, celebrating what would have been the 50th anniversary of the Powers Crossroads Arts & Crafts Festival.
I’ve spent a lot of time wondering why one of the greatest festivals of its kind simply fell apart. I haven’t got it all figured out but as near as I can make out, it’s largely due to the fact that the greatest generation – people like my father-in-law, Jim Hardin – put hours and hours into making it great and our generation – but mine didn’t step up to the plate.
Now, let me tell you another short story: In the 1940s, the last known population of Ivory-billed woodpeckers – the so-called “Good Lord Birds” – were living deep in a swampy forest known as the Singer tract – because the Singer Sewing machine owned it all, thousands of acres of mixed old-growth forest and wetlands in Louisiana.
We know about the birds because a young biologist named Jim Fisher studied them. He’d tracked all over the Southeast looking for them, and by the early 1940s he was certain that the last viable colony existed in only one place on earth: the Singer tract.
He started trying to save them. He knew they depended on mature, dead and dying trees for the beetles; he knew they were shy and reclusive birds that had to have a tract of untouched forest to survive.
He reached out to everyone who might help – heck, he even found a way to Eleanor Roosevelt, and she herself reached out to the Singer Corporation – but do you know what happened?
Singer sent down the order to the loggers: CUT FASTER.
Today the Singer tract is gone. All of it. Every last tree.
So are the birds. They are extinct. Wiped off the face of the earth from nothing else but greed and shortsightedness.
Feels real familiar these days.
More than trees fall when we bulldoze without regard. The standard – no, make that the ONLY method of development hereabouts means heavy equipment coming in, pushing over the trees, destroying any native understory plants; it means all the invaluable topsoil is scraped away, soil that has taken generations to create.
It means that all the mycorrhizal networks that threaded through that topsoil, a network of life and communication between all the plants in that former forest, are destroyed.
It means leveling the natural topography since blacktops and asphalt don’t like slopes, and which also means the waterways and drainage systems that were there are gone.
Replaced by inert pipes. What was once a natural, sustaining landscape of relationship and diversity is gone. Gone, never to come again.
And so it feels like, at least to this not-native but transplanted Newnanite, that the Newnan City Council, the County and its Development Authority – all of y'all are just saying, “Cut Faster.”
Frankie Little Harden