“We do not inherit the world from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children,” David Brower famously said. Or did he? I googled. Some attribute the quote to Moses Henry Cass, an Australian Minister for the Environment; others to Helen Caldicott, the anti-nuclear advocate. Chief Seattle, as always, has strong support. Brower was delighted to get credit for something he didn’t remember saying: “I searched my unorganized files to find out when I could have said those words. I stumbled upon the answer in the pages of an interview that had taken place in a North Carolina bar so noisy, I could only marvel that I was heard at all. Possibly, I didn’t remember saying it because by then they had me on my third martini.”
I thought of the quote when I was walking recently through East Marlborough Township’s wastewater-treatment field. It’s a beautiful spot, marred only by the hundreds of spigots that periodically spray the people’s private waters onto their common ground. Some criticize the field’s current use, but to me it seems preferable to another suburban subdivision – and far better than the old practice of sending sewage into the stream. Not long ago, a scientist told me that every municipality that releases its “clean” wastewater into a stream should have to put its drinking-water intake pipe just downstream from its wastewater discharge pipe. I don’t own this field, but I consider the hours of peace it has given me an inheritance, and I hope future generations will see its beauty, and not think of it only as the place the community deposits its wastes.