The same type of wisdom

Published 2:56 pm Tuesday, July 5, 2016

If one were asked, “What’s the common thread between the arts and pollution protections for the Tar-Pamlico River?” it wouldn’t be unexpected that the immediate answer is, “None, of course.”

On the surface, that may be the case. In the near term, it could be the case. Looking into a distant future, however, the tie that binds these two seemingly disparate issues together is the need to act now in order to preserve their existence for future generations.

In the past several weeks, it’s been made clear that each, in very different ways, is threatened.

As the North Carolina General Assembly worked toward the state’s 2016-17 budget, the Senate version questioned pollution protections for the Tar-Pamlico Basin that were put in place 20 years ago: they did not work; they needed revision, perhaps even removal. Those around during the water quality emergency of 20 years ago know that lessening or removing those protections would be a bad idea. It is because of the protections put in place by those looking to future generations that the river is in a much-improved state. It’s a state in which waterfront homeowners don’t have to deal with the stench of thousands of dead fish killed by diseases that go hand in hand with algal blooms; in which fish and crabs are plentiful enough to provide for both commercial fishing and recreational fishing and the tourist dollars it brings to the area; in which children can enjoy the river without parents wondering about the dangers of polluted water.

If the two situations were compared, Arts of the Pamlico is in need of an intervention similar to what happened 20 years ago, where stakeholders banded together to protect a valued resource. For decades, AOP got along swimmingly and was known for its fiscal conservatism. But faced with letting an unknown buyer buy the foreclosed-upon Turnage Theatre — perhaps one that would not use the early 19th-century theater to its fullest potential; perhaps taking it out of the public sphere altogether — AOP decided to invest and invest deeply the performance venue, which also serves as an economic engine for downtown Washington. Now AOP is calling on the community to protect the facility, the arts council, its programs, services and exhibits for future generations. As part of the “Young Patrons” program, AOP is asking younger people to invest by becoming members and volunteers — investors not only in the arts, but in the vibrancy of downtown Washington as a whole.

One would assume that members of the N.C. House recognized the wisdom in the actions of the past, as reference to revising/removing Tar-Pamlico River Basin pollution protections was removed from the 2016-17 budget. Perhaps one day, a new generation of Arts of the Pamlico stakeholders will recognize their own wisdom in protecting a valued resource.