Reflections From The Past Week

Freedom across a river:

In the past week the Democrat controlled Illinois House and Senate passed an abortion rights bill that greatly strengthens the personal rights of women in our state. This welcome action comes at a critically important moment in America as a reactionary minority is doing everything it can to erase those rights. I congratulate our Illinois legislators for taking a stand to protect women within our borders. The bill now awaits Governor Pritzker’s expected signature. 

The stated purpose of the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) is to preserve a woman’s control of her reproductive health as a “fundamental right.” It repeals a 1975 Illinois law that included a range of restrictive elements such as requirements for spousal consent and criminal penalties for doctors who perform abortions. The RHA also contains language that treats abortion as a personal matter of health care. 

The contrast between what has just occurred in our state legislature and what recently took place across our southwest border in Missouri is stark. Their legislature has decreed that Missouri women will now have virtually no voice in critical decisions involving their reproductive systems. Basically, the instant an egg is fertilized the state controls the outcome. 

Witnessing such a radical reduction in the freedom of people living just across a river from us reminded me of one of my favorite books, “Huckleberry Finn.” Huck and his slave friend Jim lived in a slave state within sight of a free state. By simply crossing the Mississippi River from Missouri into Illinois a slave could gain the right to be in control of his or her own body. – History sure does take some strange turns. 

Illinois is hemp country:

Another hot topic in Springfield has been the further legalization of hemp production in our state. Illinois already had a 2018 Industrial Hemp Act legalizing its growth. Now the legitimization of hemp production in all of its forms opens up further opportunities for Illinois’ farm incomes. — Hemp loves Illinois’ climate and its soil. 

But what intrigues me the most about this new acceptance of hemp farming is not the cannabis aspect. It is hemp’s potential for producing paper. Many years ago in America, hemp was a major source for our paper needs. In fact, the Constitution and Declaration of Independence are printed on hemp paper. Its use faded for a number of reasons, not the least of which was pressures from timber interests. 

Today, the positive long-term impact of hemp paper production on our environment would be tremendous. One acre of good old Illinois hemp could produce as much paper as 4 to 10 acres of trees over a 20-year cycle. Hemp stalks take just four months to mature, compared to years for even the softest of trees. Hemp paper also does not require any bleaching, so its production doesn’t poison the water with dioxins or chlorine like tree paper mills do. The reduction of environmental damage connected to logging would be one more plus. 

And here’s a nice side benefit. The Koch Brothers and Wisconsin’s Uline family, two of the biggest conservative names in dark money sourcing, have made billions from paper products made from the thousands of acres of trees they harvest. Wouldn’t it be nice to know your future paper towels came from a farmer’s field in Illinois instead? 

William Happer and Gen Z:

The other day I heard a couple things on NPR that, although not on the same show, had a depressing connection.  

The first item was a profile of William Happer. He’s the scientist who now serves on the National Security Council as President Trump’s deputy assistant for emerging technologies. Mr. Happer is an outspoken critic of anyone who says increasing levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere are having an impact on the earth’s climate. (His doctorate is in physics, not climatology.) The coal and oil billionaires love and support this guy, but he is the last person our world needs talking into the ear of Donald Trump. 

The other NPR report covered the varying levels of concern toward climate change held by America’s different generations — Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, etc. As you might expect, the younger generations are the ones expressing a greater sense of urgency as they look forward to an increasingly inhospitable environment. The youngest of these groups is Generation Z (anyone born in the last years of the 20th or first years of the 21st centuries.)  

Gen Zs will be the middle-aged men and women striving to ensure a secure life for their families in the 2040’s and 2050’s. And unless serious action is taken now to slow down or even halt climate change, their world will be, at the least, a miserable place and possibly on the brink of collapse. 

Today, smug self-deluding sellouts like William Happer hold influential positions that push us toward that scenario. Which leads me to this thought: What if labeling our newest generation with the last letter in our alphabet, “Z”, was a prescient act, also labeling it as the last generation to remember the world when it still held hope for its future? 

We must not let that happen.

Nels Howard, NTD Member Since 1973