Category Archives: Ecological Devastation

The Calm After the Storm: Reflections on the Gift of Electricity

Friday, June 29th, 10:50 pm.  I was lying in bed with my daughter Claire reading her to sleep when the wind started picking up.  Claire does not like storms, and her body was alert and tense like a cat.  I kept gently saying, “It’s only wind. It’s only rain,” and would go back to reading.  Then I heard the wind as I had never heard it before – the derecho wind.  It rolled with ferocity against the window, in and out, in and out.  Claire was doing her best to pretend that it was just the wind and rain I spoke of, but we both were quickly coming to a different conclusion.

Then the lights went out.

Claire is not a fan of the dark either.

Aided by a battery-powered lantern, Claire finally fell asleep after the storm had subsided – well past midnight.  As I left her bed for my own, I noticed how truly silent the house was.  No AC running, no ceiling fans, no humidifier, no refrigerator, no currents at all.  Just silence so quiet it seemed loud.  Having lived in cities or suburbs my whole life, I’m not used to such silence.  It felt eerie to me, as if the whole world had shut down – a kind of stillness through which whispers the deep mysteries of life and death.

It was dark, too.  No street lamps that usually keep the house slightly lit at night.  As I slipped between the sheets, a bit of light made itself known by way of the moon, Earth’s first night light.  I found myself palpably reflecting on what life before electricity was like, but my thoughts only went so far before sleep thankfully overtook me.

In the morning, the first thing on my mind was the fridge.  I tend to have more than a week’s worth of food in there, and now it stood the chance of spoiling.  Our house phones were dead, and we hadn’t charged the cell phones.  The Internet was down.  The air was warm and unmoving.

Claire’s anxiety continued to grow, as she prayed with all her heart that the electricity would come on before night came again.  We went out for most of the day to shift her focus and seek cooler air.  When we got home, the house was pitch black, but Claire was so tired from the night before, sleep came more easily.  Thank God.

At 5:00am, I was awakened by the sound of electricity returning.  The silence was replaced with humming and whooshing, as the air started flowing back into the house.  Claire woke up early in utter exaltation and celebration, like Christmas morning, and we went about our Sunday, so very grateful for the gift of electricity.  Every time I opened the refrigerator and felt the cool air, I felt gratitude.

One thing I learned from the derecho storm is that I don’t want to be without electricity.  Having a refrigerator, a phone, a computer with Internet access and some capacity to cool the air are all modern conveniences I would hate to say goodbye to.  But where that electricity comes from, that’s what I’d love to say goodbye to.

Electricity is an extraordinary invention, but we don’t need fossil fuel to generate it.  The extraction, refining and use of fossil fuel is poisoning our water, air and soil – not to mention cooking the planet – yet our government continues to subsidize the fossil fuel industry, despite their obscene profits.  Renewable forms of energy like wind, sun, geothermal and water power are all available to us for the taking and do not threaten the future of life on Earth.  Yet these take a back seat to fossil fuel and its industry that has the money to buy elected officials and keep the dirty engine running.

If we continue to run our society on fossil fuel, the storms, droughts, heat waves, floods and fires will keep coming, with greater and greater frequency, as the planet continues to warm.  This is scientific fact that many would rather push aside in favor of the status quo.  Having been through this latest storm, I wish with all my heart that the people of the United States would wake up and insist we use our innovation and resources to make renewables the foundation of our future.

Claire suffering through two nights of no electricity will be nothing compared to what the future holds for her and all children.  We do have the power to change things, but only if we make the effort to speak up loud and clear, again and again, until our elected officials understand that the health and well being of the people they represent  – not to mention the planet we call home – matters more than the money they receive from the fossil fuel industry.

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Here in Baltimore, I switched to Clean Currents, which allows our home to be 100% powered by wind over coal.  It’s easy to do, still goes through BGE and is no more expensive.  One small step for a better world.  Check it out!

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Blue River, Wider Than a Mile: A Personal Look into Blue Jean Manufacturing

I love my jeans.  Weather permitting, I wear jeans most of the time.  What I wear with them will vary, depending on whether I’m going to the grocery store or into the city for the evening.  As the years go by, and I find myself having passed the 50-year-old yard line, I feel like jeans keep me from getting too old too quickly.  An illusion, perhaps, but when I put them on they still feel like me.

I don’t think I’ll ever stop wearing jeans.  If I make it to 90, I’ll still be wearing them.  They provide some continuity to my human existence; a source of comfort in an ever-changing world.  Uh, that is until I came across an article on the manufacturing of blue jeans.

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For Pennsylvania, 3000 to 5000 Fracking Wells Per Year

I am overwhelmed by the insanity of fracking.  According to this excellent investigative report by Earth Focus, the natural gas industry is planning on building 3000 to 5000 wells per year for the next 30 years in Pennsylvania, and in New York if they can.  We cannot let this happen!

What the Frack?

Up until a few months ago, I had never heard of fracking. If you had asked me what it is, I would have guessed it’s a substitute for a word that one should not use in the presence of children. As it turns out, that is not what it is, but it still has everything to do with something that should never be used in the presence of children.

Hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a. fracking, is an extraction process for natural gas that is currently being conducted in 27 states in the country. Josh Fox, director of the award-winning documentary Gasland, is convinced that fracking is one of the country’s biggest environmental and public health challenges in history. After learning about it myself, I could not agree more.   Continue reading

No Top on Old Smokey

“Almost heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River…”

When I was in high school in the garden state of New Jersey, it wasn’t exactly cool to be into John Denver. What you listened to behind closed doors was one thing, but out in public you didn’t make a point of letting anyone know about it. Kind of like mountaintop removal.

Mountaintop removal is a jaw-dropping mining technique that few people know much about in this country, and the coal mining industry likes it that way. They don’t want you to know that they have blown up and leveled close to 500 mountains (an area the size of Delaware) in Appalachia, mountains older than the Himalayas – three hundred million years old, in fact. Well, they were, but now they’re dead and gone.    Continue reading

Suffering and the Art of Balance

Today is the eleventh day after the start of my menstrual cycle, which means that I will be easily saddened and most likely irritable.  On this hormonal morning, as I perused some news on the Internet, I came across an article on the children of Pakistan who are suffering profoundly from malnutrition as a result of the recent floods.

The article featured a photo showing two emaciated children lying beside each other covered in flies. I felt my chest tighten and the pressure of tears begin to mount within my eyes. The image was close to unbearable. Unable to let go of the image, I found myself sharing the photo and article on Facebook, wanting friends to see too the result of an epic ecological disaster, the reason for which rests with the actions of the human species.

I thought about not posting it. I didn’t want to be a downer in everyone’s day, sending something they would rather not see, an image that might take some of their happiness away, happiness they most likely needed for the start of another week. Maybe it was my eleventh day that was causing me to send it, and I should therefore refrain. Then again…  Continue reading