A Few Words for former U.S. President Jimmy Carter , an Environmentalist and Life-Long-Long Humanitarian
A Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted February 19th, 2023 on Niagara At Large
When I began my work in or around the beginning of the 1980 as the first (and sadly the last) full-time environment reporters the then proudly independent and family-owned St. Catharines Standard has had, there were many disturbing issues to report on.
Those issues included pollution in the waters and in the air above our Great Lakes region, and the discharge of highly toxic chemicals like dioxin and cancer-causing chloro-benzenes into the Niagara River in particular. Colonies of gulls in the Niagara River and Lake Ontario where laying eggs with some much industrial poison in them that they would not hatch – a warning sign that the Great Lakes ecosystem was on the verge of collapse.
But there was also plenty of reason for optimism.
What triggered the optimism for me were the highly dedicated environmentalists (people, back then, who did now cower away from proudly calling themselves environmentalist) like Margherita Howe, head of Operation Clean in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Sister Margeen Hoffman and her Ecumenical Task Force and Lois Gibbs of the Love Canal Homeowners’ Association, both based in Niagara Falls, New York, and the once robust citizens’ organization Pollution Probe based in Toronto.
There were also (believe it or not, given the sad state of so many government agencies today) world-class, courageous and not-afraid-to-speak-out ecologists and scientist in Environment Canada and at the Burlington, Ontario-based Centre for Great Lakes Waters, and there were great, principled managers like John Spagnoli in the Buffalo office of the New York Environmental Conservation.
Last but not least- at a time when you are always praying for some government leadership -, there was a U.S. President in the White House, a Democrat from, of all regions of that country, named Jimmy Carter who demonstrated, through real action rather than words, that he truly care about these issues.
While President from 1977 through 1981, Jimmy Carter declared two federal states of emergency in and around the disastrous Love Canal chemical dump site in Niagara Falls, New York where chemicals were leaking through a neighbourhood that dump ravage above and around and where families were desperate to escape their homes without without losing everything they had worked for.
He helped champion federal legislation for cleaning up dumpsites like Love Canal, including others threatening the health of the Niagara River and Great Lakes at the time, and he helped build the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency into a government body polluters were forced to take seriously.
And in June of 1979, in the midst of man-made oil shortage turned economic crisis in countries like the United States and Canada, then President Carter also had 32 solar panels installed on the roof of the White House and expressed his hope that this gesture might spark a revolution in his country and around the world in green, renewable energy.
“There is no longer any question that solar energy is both feasible and also cost-effective,” Carter said at the time the solar panels were installed. “Solar energy will not pollute our air or water. We will not run short of it. No one can ever embargo the Sun or interrupt its delivery to us. But we must work together to turn our vision and our dream into a solar reality.”
It is telling that less than three years later, Republican President Ronald Reagan was in the White House and had those solar panels taken down. It was back to worshipping at the altar of the big oil companies and going full speed ahead with what a latter Republican vice-presidential candidate and U.S.Tea Party leader Sarah Palin would call “drill baby, drill.” (Notice how it is almost always Republicans in the U.S. and Conservatives in Canada who favour raping and pillaging the earth’s resources for profit and could not give a damn about protecting the environment.)
Imagine how much better our world might be today if it had followed Jimmy Carter’s lead on renewable energy?
We might not be talking about a climate emergency and what a bleak future that might usher in for our children and grandchildren at this time.
You may have heard that the now98-year-old Jimmy Carter has returned to his home in Plains, Georgia where he has declined any further hospitalization of medical intervention.
Please join us in praying for this good person and his family.
Doug Draper, Niagara At Large
To read related posts on Jimmy Carter, click on the following links-
A Few Words of Tribute for Jimmy Carter and Dick Halverson – Two Beacons of Light in Dark Times | Niagara At Large
Prayers For Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter | Niagara At Large
NIAGARA AT LARGE Encourages You To Join The Conversation By Sharing Your Views On This Post In The Space Following The Bernie Sanders Quote Below.
It will be a sad day when this great, honest and GOOD man leaves this planet. I was in Egypt when the accord was signed between Begin and Sadat. That was the one time I didn’t argue when people called me an American. “Mr Jimmy” was so loved in Egypt for finally giving them a sense of peace and security. That accord has lasted for 45 years!
I met him and Rosalynn in 2008 in Nepal where he was still acting as an election monitor…in his 80’s! A fireball riding mountain roads in a Jeep in his jeans. I just strode up to him with my hand out to shake his. He was gracious and friendly and laughed at me being surrounded by security. Guess I wasn’t too bright about protocol. In 2008 when he had brain cancer I sent him a letter and a photo that I took that day. He sent it back autographed by both and actually remembered my friend and me!
He also stood up for Canada’s pride and rightful place when the movie “Argo” so distorted Canada’s part in saving the Iran hostages. He called it a nice bit of fantasy and said Americans had Canada to thank.
His Habitat for Humanity was a game changer for thousands who couldn’t afford a home and he was out there on ladders with a hammer in his hand. So was Rosalynn. Married over 70 years. His Carter Institute helped cure tropical diseases. He was an environmentalist before it was mainstream. I think the only thing he didn’t do was walk on water. He was a Sunday school teacher in Plains so maybe he can do that too! He grew up on a farm in the South and segregation was not in his lexicon.
For years he was maligned as a weak and ineffective President. I never understood that. He was neither. He was calm and genuine. He was smart, not just a peanut farmer but studied nuclear engineering and was a submariner on a nuclear sub. Compare that to politicians now. Their resumes are thin as tissue paper and often phony. Many Americans just love braggadocio. Their loudest politicians are ignorant blowhards. Recently they elected the epitome of that and he almost destroyed the country and imperiled the planet. Repercussions are still being felt.
Carter was ahead of his time. He was decent. He was the best former President in US history IMO. Bless him and his family. The world needs fewer Rambo’s and more leaders like him. I’m sure they’ll roll out the red carpet when he arrives at the Pearly Gates.
Thanks Doug for highlighting and paying homage to President Jimmy Carter for his outstanding push to save us from climate change and the connection to emissions,a man who walked the talk his entire life for housing, the environment and his spiritual beliefs. Prayers for Jimmy and his family as they move thru this last phase of life for a fine man!