GUEST EDITORIAL - A new kind of war

Tuesday, October 2, 2001

Once again, the United States is engaged in a great war of monumental proportions!

The existance of this nation has been threatened by terrorists. This is a conflict unlike any other; the enemy operates in secrecy and stealth, hits and runs, then hides. And, it's a war we cannot afford to lose if we want to preserve the American way of life and ideals!

The nation has mobilized behind leaders, opened it's coffers, and begun to prepare for a long, drawn-out conflict. This is as it should be. We cannot afford to do less; empty words have no effect on terrorists, whose way of life is hard for us to comprehend.

Most people know I have little time for bureaucrats, but there's a time and a place for all things; perhaps this is the time for bureaucrats to lead our nation, to console the mourners, to prevent terrorist acts from ever happening again.

But, I'm deeply concerned that in the next few days, weeks, months, and perhaps years, we'll forget about the on-going war that's been waged to save what's left of our environment! It seems trite and petty to think about our lake when thousands lie in smoking rubble, but we must! The safety of our water supplies seems so distant when serviceman are called to duty, but we must! And we must think of the bountiful land called lowa, too!

The golden flow of grain seems in stark contrast to the red blood spilled to keep America free! But, we've got to concentrate on keeping that grain flowing, now, and for the generations to come. As the rich black lowa soil is turned, we've got to concentrate on preserving as much of it as we can for the survivors of this new war! They'll need it, just as we needed it after the last Great War, and the one before that.

It's hard to concentrate on the whir of pheasant wings or the whistle of ducks overhead while servicemen are at their posts, world-wide, to give us freedom to hunt! We wouldn't have those pheasants or ducks if courageous men hadn't gone to war and laid down their lives for the nation. They expected those pheasants and ducks would be waiting for them when they returned, and most of them were.

But wars cost money! Too often, this nation has forgotten about the safety of our environment in the headlong rush to produce as much as it could for as many people as it could! Should this conflict resolve itself into a "have" vs. "have not" scenario, as it seems headed to, we've got to remember the things that made this nation what it is today. And we can't afford to make too many mistakes with our environment!

For example, in the years following the First Great War, much of the Great Plains sod was broken to produce grain; the result was the dust bowl days of the '30s. Then, following the Second Great War, new technology allowed this nation to feed the world's hungry masses. Much land that perhaps should have never been farmed was brought into grain production; the result are the silted-up waterways of today and cropland that might have been better used to raise ducks or pheasants or deer!

We cannot afford to make those mistakes in this new war! We have the technology and rudimentary knowledge to protect what's left of our environment, this time around, if we possibly can! Domestic strength, particularly economic strength, was what the terrorists targeted. They failed. But we cannot afford to forget about our environment; it's the source of that economic strength.

As news stories shifted to cover the WTC, reporters forgot about the vast forest fires raging in the west. Millions upon millions of board-feet of lumber were going-up in smoke; whole forests being consumed. They also forgot about the "water wars" being waged in parts of the west. And they surely forgot the Storm Lake dredging!

When some sense of normalcy unfolds again in our society, we've got to remember the silent war being waged by so many to protect and enhance the waterways of the state and nation. Those who plant a buffer strip this year aren't just helping to protect their land, they're actively participating in keeping America strong through soil conservation! Those who sign up for land to be idled, aren't just "collecting the government subsidy," they're making sure the land could be used, if and when it's needed!

In other words, I think it's our patriotic duty to preserve, protect and even enhance our natural resources while soldiers are stationed on far-off shores. We cannot afford to make mistakes; we cannot afford to do less. These natural resources built a nation, sustained it through two major World Wars, and will now keep it strong through the third. They will give hope and purpose to men and women facing an uncertain future; they give encouragement to future generations.

So, while there's a real, live battle combating terrorists all over the world, we cannot forget the ongoing war being waged within our borders. To do so would be disrespectful to our servicepeople, our nation, and ourselves.