Community Comment:

If we continue in denial, more Littletons will occur

It was an overcast afternoon during which about a dozen mostly familiar faces gathered in the conference room of Bethel United Church of Christ for an Earth Day observance and to discuss the local environment of Southwestern Indiana. 

Meanwhile, the airways were filled with the comments of the Monday morning quarterbacks in the news media -- Christian televangelists and others attempted to find the proper vocabulary to explain the tragic episode that took place in Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. 

During the week there were no fewer than three such local observances:

      *  A speech at the University of Southern Indiana by the renowned attorney Jan Schlichtmann, whose legal exploits representing the parents of sick and dying children in Woburn, Mass -- the result of industrial water pollution  -- were portrayed in the movie "A Civil Action."

      *  A panel discussion and several other presentations at Bethel Church featuring Linda King of the Environmental Health Network, a nationally-recognized expert on environmental pollution who addressed food safety and herbal remedies to rid our bodles of toxic chemicals to which we are exposed.

     *  Presentations by Dr. Alfred Johnson of the Environmental Health Center of Dallas and by King. 

With little in the way of advanced publicity and public announcements from the sponsors these presentations generated a few column inches of copy in the Courier & Press and with the exception of the Schlichtmann speech, were poorly covered by the local television and radio stations. 

To bring to a close this annual observance of environmental awareness, Valley Watch and about 15 local activists marched down Main Street in a March for Clean Air. 

The news coverage, while better this time, was quick to observe the sparse attendance at the rally. 

Locally, for many years, those who express an intense concern about the quality of air, water and land-use issues which affect us on a daily basis remain puzzled as to how so many people can remain in such deeply rooted denial as to the seriousness of the environmental imperatives around us. 

They raise the issue of one plant -- GE Plastics in Mount Vernon, Ind.  -- emitting one-third the amount of cancer-causing chemical toxins of the entire state of California, a state in which fully one-fifth of the entire U.S. population resides.

Elsewhere in the world, we are witnessing the eradication or deformations of many species of trees, flowering plants, birds, fish, whales and frogs and other threatened animal populations.

Some express concern for the overpopulation of abandoned domestic animals in our local detention facility but fail to see the hand of individual men and women in all of this. 

So it is within this context that we return to the issue of the senseless murders in Littleton.

Linda King made reference to the waning enthusiasm in environmental matters as representing the detachment that post-industrial man has evolved from the earth.

Beyond the Spaceship Earth rhetoric, and the beautiful images we frequently see of our planet, we who remain publicly concerned continue to wonder, "Where is everybody?"

Just as Mother Nature attempts to communicate with us as a species, through beached whales and three-legged frogs, the perverse actions of the children in Littleton are screaming out serious warnings as to the extent to which we have become detached from one another -- as individuals, as neighborhoods, as churches, as institutions and as communities.

There are no political solutions.  We must look to the nature of the human heart.

Until we fully address this heart-wrenching denial which afflicts us, the most prosperous nation in the world, we can expct no more or less than similar senseless acts of violence and environmental  catastrophes. 

David Coker of Evansville is a free-lance writer.