SINGER: Regional poetry and sad realities - Niagara Gazette: Opinion

SINGER: Regional poetry and sad realities

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Posted: Sunday, July 27, 2014 8:07 am

If that isn’t (or wasn’t) poetry, I don’t know what is! I’m referring to the self-satisfied, sluggish trot of ice chunks emanating from Lake Erie in early May 2014 — sauntering, it felt, along the lovely Niagara. Followed by the great melt and that same Niagara, flat as a pancake at dusk, soothed by tonic, later spring air, and with lilacs and deep green grass around. Then the complete demise of splendid blossom trees, and the river’s still cooling breezes present on ever hotter days of milkshake or sundae weather. If as I say, you can’t find poetry there, you ain’t looking!

But there are realities one’s inner poet may miss concerning this same mighty river. For instance, the regional Sierra Club chapter publicized the fact that fish possibly in their millions are slammed each year into the Huntley Station power plant intake system, or inexorably pulled into machinery that draws water from the lovely river. Discharges of mercury have also been lamented by groups like Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper.

So: how can one ignore the seasonal poetry that’s so readily available around here? And at the same time, brush off such horrifics involving our cousins in existence, the emerald shiner and other fish; or simply consider it all as mere tree-hugger hysterics?

If often moved by these environs, I’m also a selfish person who benefits from all these ultra-complex industries that do their best to keep me and everyone else comfortable! Including via power from coal-fired plants, now so much in the news. But these myriad fish matter, too, don’t they?

One caveat needs to be aired: bluntly put, I’ve often found certain environmentalists and their organizations ideologically one-sided. Many have reviled President Bush and others in his party, along with present-day Republicans, not to mention business or industry, in an unreasoning, unreasonable manner. But here, it seems, something serious was belatedly brought to people’s attention. Despite all the regional beauties noted above, this seems a significant issue, indeed.

Of course groups like Sierra Club aren’t the only important whistle-blowers. State Sen. Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo) was courageously forthright when it came to outlawing shark fin use in New York State. And there are myriad other depressing issues related to animals, and in every part of today’s world, on which people can easily focus.

One such among many is the sale and use of ivory trinkets, often daubed in brown stain to feign old age and elude restrictions; and meanwhile, too many wonderful, defenseless elephants are being poached, so that people in different countries may buy such junk they don’t really need.

Activists in groups like the Wildlife Conservation Society who joust against this horrid activity frequently find themselves tangled in a mesh of legalities, much as the elephants themselves get lethally entangled before succumbing to a stupidly grisly fate. And meanwhile, many African sunsets remain as poetically splendid as ones here, while these beautiful creatures suffer terribly and needlessly beneath them.

I’m sure whalers on sparkling, seemingly pristine seas also find much that’s idyllic around them, as maybe the odd sensitive guy on Columbus’ ships did. But the great whales they blithely kill were declining precipitously, till defended by courageous anti-whaling activists like Paul Watson or the Yaqui Indian Rod Coronado, who recently came to speak in Buffalo. And these cumbrous creatures still remain vulnerable. Legislation keeps getting flouted, loopholes found. Thank God the International Court of Justice at the Hague (which people might consider toothless) recently went after “scientific” Japanese whaling expeditions in the Antarctic; but will these prohibitions stick? Or will the forces of thoughtless greed continue resorting to subterfuge, and succeeding?

Returning to our area, opponents of predatory invaders in the Great Lakes or again, Mr. Grisanti et al. spearheading a needed ban on plasticized microbeads that via shampoo or toothpaste get into fish (then us) interest me greatly. But so do those who take time to scribble or photograph what moves them artistically around here. Poetry and an often melancholy reality — inevitably intertwined, it seems!

B.B. Singer has taught at several colleges in the area, including Niagara University.

B.B. Singer has taught at several colleges in the area, including Niagara University.


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