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Letter: We need government to save us, Earth
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Portions of Interstate 985 are getting a tree-clearing like what hasn't seen in 50 years. Thanks to a windfall of money from gas tax changes two years ago, the Georgia Department of Transportation can now embark on such major maintenance efforts. But the I-985 efforts aren't merely aesthetic; the DOT is taking down trees that could be a threat during winter and spring storms. - photo by Scott Rogers

Last Sunday’s front page article about the DOT removing trees from alongside 985 disturbed me. I found the agency’s rationale suspect: “The major reason for clearing the trees is safety,” they say. My gut told me that there was probably an unspoken covert reason for this malign arboricide.

I confess to a bias. I often prefer the company of trees to that of people. While people tend to blow hot air, a good tree can absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year and can sequester 1 ton of carbon dioxide by the time it reaches 40 years old. Unfortunately, the average American emits (indirectly) about 20 tons of CO2 per year. This means that it takes about 833 trees working full time to support each American’s CO2 habit. I worry that there might not be enough trees to go around.

So I did my research. My worst fear, being wrong, was confirmed. According to statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, about 20% of fatal car crashes result from cars hitting fixed objects such as trees, utility poles and traffic barriers. About half of these deaths occur at night. Other contributing factors include drinking, speeding, being distracted and falling asleep. The institute concludes that because efforts to reduce human error are relatively ineffective, it is important to remove these fixed objects or not put them alongside the road to begin with.

While I hate being wrong, I can now see that it is right for the government to cut down trees to save us from ourselves. Perhaps the government can also save us from driving ourselves, along with another million species, into extinction through our profligate consumption and reckless destruction of Earth’s limited resources.

Without the government to shepherd us onto the right path, we are likely to get lost in a thicket of good intentions. Acting individually is relatively ineffective. Only the government can provide the requisite direction to remove barriers, to speed innovation and to widen our technological superhighway. The solution is clear-cut: green energy. We must pray that government is the appropriate vehicle to diminish opportunities for self-harm and increase opportunities for well-being.

Just the other day I was thinking about Jesus’ “Parable of the Talents” (Matthew 25: 14-30). It occurred to me that we could think of this world as the Lord’s “wealth” that he has left in our hands.

Have we increased or diminished what he put in our trust? If our Lord were to return tomorrow, would he say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” or would there be hell to pay? I’m sure as individuals we all intend to do what’s right, but I hear the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I’ll bet it’s tree-lined as well.

Brian E. Moss

Gainesville

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