Conservation Makes the World Go ‘Round

Story by Jeannie Stone

Carman Stump has a love affair with our planet, and it all began when she fell in love with a high school Rotary exchange student from environmentally-aware Australia.

Carman, a community volunteer dedicated to educating the River Valley community with the benefits of living green, ended up marrying the boy from the Outback.

Carman and Heath fell in love during his short time at Russellville High School. When he left to return home, 17-year-old Carman was crushed. Her father Norman Watson, dismayed at his daughter’s heartbreak, promised her he’d find a way to bring Heath back to Russellville. Through his perseverance and community support, Watson was able to raise enough money to pay for Heath’s tuition at Arkansas Tech University.

The pair reunited and attended Tech together, both earning degrees in Accounting. They married after graduation and soon left for Australia where they lived for seven years while Heath attended veterinary school.

Carman was shocked to discover how committed her new home was in regards to conservation issues. “Recycling is just part of their lives,” she said of her Australian counterparts. “The children aren’t allowed to attend school unless they have a wide brimmed hat for recess,” she said. “Because of the hole in the ozone layer, Australians are much more conscious of the ill effects of unprotected exposure to the sun.”

The ozone layer, located in the stratosphere and surrounding the entire earth, partially protects the planet from harmful UV-B radiation cast from the sun. Because of the hole in the ozone layer located over the Antarctica, Australians are the most at risk for diseases such as skin cancer caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

“Boy, I sure learned a lot living there,” Carman said. She didn’t waste any time sharing her convictions once she and her husband returned to Russellville where Heath is part owner of the Russellville Animal Clinic.

“I formed the green team at church,” she said, “and one thing just led to another. We live in a Class A city, and I couldn’t believe we didn’t have curb-side recycling yet.”

So, between raising two sons, three-year-old Luke and two-year- old Will, Carman joined the community recycling team having been invited by recycling educator Jim Kelley. “Things just blossomed from there,” she said. Carman then joined forces with City Alderman Cliff Kirchner to bring about a one-hauler system to Russellville.

Her grass roots campaign is still going strong as she incorporates other conservation issues into her traveling power point titled “Living an Environmentally Conscious Life.”

Carman, who speaks to concerned citizen groups and civic clubs, recharges with every encounter. Her vivacious personality and the depth of her knowledge are accentuated by her passion.

This has been awesome,” she said. “We are all connected, and I am so humbled that I found God’s purpose for me.”

“I remember Smoky the Bear and the ‘Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute’ campaigns from when I was a child,” she said.

“But the image that really stuck me was the Iron Eyes Cody commercial from the 70s.”

The commercial showed a Native American paddling a canoe through a polluted waterway, and upon disembarking the canoe, came to a highway filled with cars. Everywhere, people were littering, and as he stood there someone threw trash at his feet prompting him to turn, face the camera, and release a tear.

The commercial was produced to promote the second Earth Day in 1971, and it is cited as one of the Ad Council’s most memorable commercials of all time.

“My affect on the planet is about seven generations. We live in a disposable age,” Carman said. “Recycling preserves landfills and energy.”

There are 1,000 homes in the city limits without any trash service contract Carman said. “The (local paper) ran a survey asking readers what they did with their trash, and the response was unbelievable,” she said.

The survey responders reported that 18.9 percent burn their trash, 19.4 percent use a commercial dumpster, and 14.1 percent dump trash in parks and on the side of the road. “That is just unacceptable,” Carman said. “A one-hauler service will help so much with that.”

“Every five seconds Americans use 60,000 plastic bags,” Carman said. “If one out of five people used cloth bags, that would save us 1.33 trillion bags a year.”

Littering alone is a global issue. In the Pacific Ocean, a vortex of floating plastic twice as large as the continental United States continues to grow and threaten marine life, Carman said. The mass stretches from 500 miles off the coast of California, past the Hawaiian islands and almost to Japan.

“Cruise litter accounts for 20 percent of it, and street litter accounts for the remainder,” she said.

“We are killing a million marine creatures every year. They are finding birds and turtles filled to the brim with plastic. They are now finding breast cancer in whales.”

“Changing from plastic water bottles to reusable containers is a huge boost for the ecology,” Carman said. “Curb-side service, which begins in October, will also help tremendously. For those not living in the city limits there will still be a drop-off center at Recycle Works.

Angela Allen, district educator of the West River Valley Regional Solid Waste Management, praises Carman’s work. “She has done an excellent job pushing the one-hauler system through,” Allen said. “We are behind the times, and Carman has done a great job educating people.”

Allen considers educating youth key to effective strategizing. “Once you get a kid involved it goes a long way,” she said.

Carman agreed. “What motivates me are those images from my youth. “And, remember,” she said, repeating the original Earth day campaign slogan, “people start pollution, people can stop it.”

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