15 October 2007

The Environment: We Can't Live Without It!

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

Twenty some years ago, I began what has become a tradition for me. On Earth Day, I drive up to Mount Mitchell (the highest peak east of the Mississippi River) and spend some time soaking in the peace of the forest. You can click here to see a live webcam shot from the top of the mountain.

Normally, I go back in the fall to see the color display. Regular readers will know that this has not been possible this fall, as I am temporarily sans auto.

I love these mountains more than I can truly express. I was born in the "shadow" of Mount Mitchell (in Burnsville, NC), and - except for a couple of years spent in Raleigh, attending NC State University - I have lived my whole life within twenty miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway. So it makes me sad beyond words to see the destruction of the fir and hemlock trees that has been caused due to a combination of acid rain, drifting in from the Ohio and Tennessee Valley power plants, and the invasion of the wooly adelgid, due to the climate changes.

It makes me sad - and angry - to see the way people treat our environment. The sheer thoughtlessness of throwing trash out the car window, or dumping that old couch or refrigerator next to a creek, this is something that I just can't understand.

I know that I am lucky to have grown up and live in the country where I can "be one" with the countryside. The vast majority of Americans live in overdeveloped urban areas, and many have never been in the countryside - something I find hard to comprehend.

Over and above the disrespect shown to Nature by throwing trash out a window as one drives along the highway are the horrific practices of clearcut logging and mountaintop removal mining.

For those not familiar with these practices, clearcut logging (a practice that has been actively promoted by the maladministration of the Current Occupant of the White House) is exactly what it sounds like. The loggers come in and cut everything down, from the large trees that will be turned into lumber to the underbrush - which is normally bulldozed into a pile and burned. This is done to make it easier for the loggers to "harvest" the high value lumber and the less valuable, but still profitable small wood, which is processed in a "chip mill" and made into OSB (oriented strand board), which is used for everything from subfloors to walls in house construction, and paper pulp.

Mountaintop removal mining is an even more despicable practice. Someone, years ago, realized that since a lot of the coal in West Virginia is located near the surface, it would be a lot more profitable for the Coal Companies to simply scrape away the surface soil and excavate the coal with giant backhoes and bulldozers than to purchase the more expensive specialized mining equipment (not to mention hire the more expensive - and unionized - coal miners). To see more about the effects of this practice, click here.

Most of you reading this have never seen a deeply eroded hillside that has been clearcut logged, or a mountaintop that has been completely obliterated. But the less obvious, but oh so much more destructive to the balance of Nature,practice is the sprawl of cities - something with which nearly everyone is familiar. Once productive farmland is being taken over by Starter Castle (McMansion) subdivisions, gated communities and Wal-Mart anchored shopping centers. Wooded areas that used to be the home of myriads of animals - and the playground of many a child - are being cut down to make room for more Appleby's and Burger Kings. Once free-flowing creeks and streams are buried in culverts and remembered only by street and/or shopping center names. The precarious balance that the Earth has maintained for eons is being upset - all in the name of progress.

I would love to end this on a positive note, but I honestly can't come up with one... so I'll just add this last thing:

(to do something to help counter the race to destroy the planet, click here)

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