Full circle. Those who remember or have studied the early days of the environmental movement will recall that the burning of the Cuyahoga River due to oil waste floating on its surface was one of the major public events spurring the Congress to pass and President Nixon to sign the Clean Water Act of 1970, the first major American environmental law. Now, 40 years and a series of dispiriting reversals later, the geniuses in charge of protecting perhaps America's most valuable fishery and coastal/wetland recharge zone from utter destruction by wasted oil are thinking of intentionally SETTING THE GULF OF MEXICO ON FIRE!
AS A POLLUTION CONTROL TECHNIQUE!
We have gone from burning waterways as the ultimate symbol of our environmental recklessness to burning seas to save our waterways from our rapacious appetite for cheap energy and profit and ever more heedless disregard for the consequences of satiating our greed.
Any society that cannot receive messages screaming as loudly as ours about our chosen source of energy and methods of obtaining it deserves whatever horrible fate it drives itself headlong into.
Three times in a little over one year, just in the United States of America, and twice in a month, we have seen massive human and environmental disasters from our insistence on maintaining our hypnotic lock on an absurdly primitive way of obtaining energy: burning poisonous black gunk. Either to make late 19th-century style pistons go up and down or boil water in early 19th-century style steam engines to spin magnets in circles. Here's the thing about burning poisonous black gunk; the by-product is oxidized poisonous black gunk that either blows all over the place as smoke to foul all manner of lungs, pores, waters and soils or is captured in filters or ponds or slurry piles and just sits until, until . . . .
Tennessee, December 2008. A massive reservoir yes essentially a big lake of liquid- trapped coal ash and other horrific waste from burning coal to boil water, or, to borrow from Shawshank redemption, " the nastiest, sh*t-stinkin'est filth you can ever imagine" broke through the dam holding it back from destroying forever a huge valley in lovely, hilly Tennessee. The coal ash burned, oxidized, poisonous black gunk, well, go here to read about how bad, how truly toxic and irremediable it really is. This disaster received some media at the time, but not anywhere near what it deserved and is largely forgotten today.
How did we get that coal? Men and women go down into holes with sharp tools and hack it out of rock, when we are not blowing up entire mountains to get at it. (These, by the way, are some of the toughest, hardest-working, most salt-of-the-earth people in our soft society, so please understand my mocking here is reserved for the people exploiting the miners, not the people in the mines actually working for a living).
Now, coal burns because it has gasses trapped in it. What kind of gasses? Yep, poisonous gasses. Modern technology has invented fans and vents to remove the leaking gas from the mines so the miners don't die from breathing the gasses and so the gasses don't build up enough to explode when a sharp instrument hits a rock and makes, you know, a spark.
But apparently, fans and vents that work right eat into the profit of the people who own the mines, so they, who are nowhere near the danger zone, sometimes overlook the things that keep the people safe who are breaking their backs to make the owners roast-in-hell-for-eternity rich, in order to squeeze a few extra bucks out of each day. What happens?
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).