Don Williams
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Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, fiction writer, sometime TV commentator, and is the founder and editor emeritus of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Golden Presscard Award from Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists, a best Commentary Award from SDC, Best Feature Writing from the Associated Press Tennessee Managing Editors, the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize from the Associated Press, Best Non-Deadline Reporting from the United Press International, Best Novel Excerpt from the Knoxville Writers Guild, a Peacemaker Award from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, five Writer of the Month Awards from the Scripps Howard Newspaper chain, and many others. In 2011 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. His 2005 book of journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes is under revision for a second printing, and he is at work on a novel and a book of journalism. His columns appear at and have been featured at many other well-known websites. To run his column, gratis, at your website, post this link to a dedicated spot: Need a speaker, panelist, tv commentator or teacher for your group or to lead a writing workshop, in your town? Email

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A letter to the President on Earth Day
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   04/22/2005)

Mr. President,

I find it easy to say “these dear Smoky Mountains,” “dear Cades Cove,” “dear Laurel Falls,” for these are places I take my family and friends to hike, to run, to picnic and swim. And I can say dear hills and lakes, dear farms and trees, dear songbirds, dear loved ones, dear mother earth, for these are beautiful and mysterious and holy to me, but I cannot honestly extend that term “dear” your way. It would ring false, and I want to speak as honestly as I can when I tell you I believe you're hastening the destruction of all the things many of us hold dear.

Given that belief, I am not absolved from asking, how dare you come down here and stand in front of these mountains and meadows to declare your love of this good earth, even as bulldozers and dynamite crews blast the tops off mountains from Virginia through Kentucky, to Campbell and Scott Counties, Tennessee, and dump the poisoned slag into streams, thanks to your policies.

You must think we're fools.

We are Volunteers, you know that much, and you'll harp on that old note today in your prepared remarks. Maybe you'll clear some brush. Yes, voluntarism can be a good thing.

That's why I applaud those who volunteered to get out and protest your policies this morning. You won't look at them, but that only increases my admiration for those who try and tell the world what you're really doing to the earth below, the sky above.

How dare you pretend to love these mountains when the policies you embrace have made the Great Smoky Mountains National Park the most air-polluted in America. How dare you seize upon a momentary statistical improvement to push your hateful policies, when the entire world is headed for trouble?

The Union of Concerned Scientists and dozens of other organizations all report that the burning of fossil fuels is leading to disaster. The ice caps are shrinking and coral reefs worldwide are in a state of accelerated decline. Dozens, if not hundreds of species are migrating in search of cooler habitats, and records stretching back a century--records made by farmers and scientists and sailors with no axes to grind--show lakes and ponds are melting earlier each spring and freezing later each winter. Thousands of Europeans died in unusual heat waves two years ago. Some blame global warming.

Worldwide oil production might've peaked already, yet millions of Chinese and others are cranking up new engines and plugging in refrigerators. Meanwhile, it's been estimated that your proposed energy bill—which would lavish billions on energy companies--will not save a single barrel of oil between now and 2020 AD, and does little to promote clean energy.

Studies of known reserves show we cannot drill our way out of this mess, Mr. President, rather we must conserve and invent our way out. Your policies do nearly nothing to encourage these things.

Near as I can tell, you are defiling creation, although most folks are too polite to say so. To be fair to them, word has been slow to get out. There are readers who will call me a liar for pointing out what I've previously documented—that you plan to develop new nuclear and biological weapons, and that you've already undermined a dozen international treaties.

Many readers no doubt yawned at a recent report in this newspaper showing that a scheme to produce bomb-grade tritium at TVA's Watts Bar Nuclear Plant had released more radioactive material into the reactor's water system than predicted. And guess where some of that water will end up, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists? The Tennessee River. Trace amounts, perhaps, yet it bodes ill for the future. I don't recall voting to be a party to this, Mr. President. What will our grandchildren say in 50 years when they look around at the wasteland we're bequeathing? One thing they must say about you and me is this: “They knew. They KNEW. And did nothing to change.” No, you I cannot call dear, Mr. President. You have misled my generation—which held so much promise—into becoming among the most destructive in history, and I can only bemoan the strange twists of truth and fate that landed you at the controls of this precious sphere we call Earth.

Sincerely yours,