The Hightower Report

The Invaders From Afar; and the Inspiring Power of Kids


THE INVADERS FROM AFAR

Like something from a 1950s horror movie [eerie music], they came from afar, wriggling into our waterways, endangering our very ecosystem, and threatening human safety.

These "things" are fearsome, alien species. They are not creatures from outer space but invasive, aggressive, highly prolific fish species that have arrived from foreign shores to infest America's waterways. With such names as northern snakeheads, Chinese mitten crabs, and Asian carp, they are reproducing like rabbits on Viagra – wreaking havoc with their sheer numbers, size, and destructive abilities.

Take the Asian carp … please! On the Illinois River and elsewhere, these giants have displaced the native carp and are so big that they rip right through fishing nets. There are millions of them, and they leap so powerfully from the water that it's common for boaters to get seriously whacked by them. "We certainly can't take our kids or grandkids out on the river," bemoans one longtime waterman.

On the other hand, these big leapers have spawned a new "sport" called the Redneck Rodeo. Participants either try to shoot the fish in the air or, more benignly, simply grab the leaping carp.

Also, schools of tilapia now swarm in Pennsylvania's Monongahela River, zebra mussels have altered the balance of life in Lake Erie, and Chinese mitten crabs are damaging the banks of waterways from San Francisco Bay to Baltimore Harbor. These invaders come in the ballast water of global freighters, are spread by the sprawling aquaculture industry, or are released by people who bring in exotic species. Since our fragile ecosystem is inextricably connected, a seemingly innocent introduction of a species in one place can quickly become an invasion many miles away.

You see, it's not the fault of the fish … it's ours. Once again, the human footprint is stomping on Mother Nature.


THE INSPIRING POWER OF KIDS

Anyone looking for the true spirit of the American people should not look at the corporate and political elites … but look directly into the hearts of our country's children.

For example, consider our nation's response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. While politicians held self-serving press conferences, and while corporations took out full-page ads to pat themselves on the back for making donations, guess who quietly embraced the ethic of the Golden Rule, fired up their imaginations, rolled up their sleeves, and delivered tangible, uplifting assistance? The kids, that's who.

A Web-based group called RandomKid linked up thousands of youngsters to help the children of Hurricane Katrina, not just in a one-time relief effort, but in an ongoing, personal way. The latest tally of money raised is $10,216,162.80 – more than came from such multibillion dollar corporations as AT&T, Chevron, Coca-Cola, GE, and Verizon.

Launched by 11-year-old Talia Leman of Waukee, Iowa, the Web site has enlisted children from some 5,000 schools in 36 states, channeling their idealism into grassroots activism. Every kid and every coin counts – they sell lemonade, wash cars, go trick-or-treating for small change … and it all adds up to real results.

In addition to money, the kids have been delivering essential school supplies, helping adopt stranded pets, and running pen pal efforts to connect personally with the hurricane kids who need help and a little love. Schools in Boise, for example, shipped 600 backpacks to the Gulf Coast, with each backpack containing a blanket, a book, snacks, school supplies … and a personal letter.

As one Louisiana girl said of RandomKid's kid-to-kid approach, "You don't have to be big to make a difference. You can be little, because a lot of 'littles' can make something big." To learn more, go to www.randomkid.org.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

invasive species, northern snakeheads, Chinese mitten crabs, Asian carp, Hurricane Katrina, RandomKid

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