When I was a child I would pick leaves from the lilac bush in the back yard and examine the shimmery silver dust that frosted each one.
Bethlehem Steel was still going strong in 1960. The wind would carry billows of gray smoke from those looming industrial smokestacks up into the Lackawanna air, sending fine particulates of steel along a breeze to my Buffalo back yard, blocking out blue and challenging the summer clouds to a duel.
No one ever talked about how bad the air was in Buffalo. I thought silver dusted leaves were the norm. I was just a child. I guess the adults tolerated it because the steel plant which had been vital during both world wars had kept Western N.Y. employed for 80 years.
I did hear grownup murmurs about how Lake Erie was dying though.
“We could go fishing today, but don’t eat any thing you catch…throw it back. It’s poison!”
“Don’t go swimming in the lake!”
“if you get any lake water in your mouth…spit it out!”
Those comments left an impression.
Bethlehem Steel ran a 2 mile stretch along the Lake Erie shoreline, continually dumping into the once pristine waters, toxins that went unchecked by the government until people couldn’t help but notice and start talking about it. The green crust along the lake’s surface had a stink that said toxic and it was impossible not to be concerned.
The lake was indeed dying and people were dying from breathing the air.
In 1982 the plant closed its doors. Steel plant families panicked, foreclosed, moved away if they were able. For many in the area Bethlehem Steel had been their bread and butter for generations.
Buffalo and the surrounding areas went into a financial depression that took years to turn around.
The earth coming back to life actually had a faster turn around than the financial strain on Western N.Y. which is a hopeful thing. With a relatively small amount of effort lakes can come back to life and the air can become cleaner once again. These manmade problems can be resolved with manmade resourcefulness and diligence. We just have to listen to the science and be vigilant.
The earth cannot be constantly abused without dire consequences.
On the subject of constant abuse having dire consequences, now we have fires.
Lots of fires.
Global warming and drought have assisted in forests blowing up like perfect tinder boxes causing the unstoppable spread of thousands of acres of forest land, taking homes and lives with it.
The western seaboard of the United States is literally burning down. Well over 1 million acres of land in Oregon alone has now burned to ash...and all of this in only one month.
I live in Los Angeles county now. The sun is a distant fuzzy glowing ball in the sky obscured by a peach colored almost opaque canopy above us where blue is just a memory.
We haven’t seen the sharp angle of a sun shadow across the front porch or even the vague outline of the mountains on the horizon in 10 days and it is ill advised to go outside.
In the morning when I first wake and open my eyes, I wonder what time is it? I get no clue from the morning light, which is flat, unfamiliar and ominous through the bedroom curtains.
As bad as the air is in Southern California, it’s worse in Oregon right now. My son and his family live in Portland which was said to have the most hazardous air on the entire planet this week.
Yet we have a man in the White House who dismisses scientific research completely.
How did this man get to be president? That’s another essay...or a book. I am flummoxed....no I'm not flummoxed. I know how he got there. That's another discussion entirely.
Where was I?
Trump has successfully lifted or reversed over 100 environmental protections laws that were in place when he took office. This is a frightening fact.
Last week he met with California Governor Gavin Newsom about the apocalyptic fires running up and down the west coast of the United States.
Trump still denies that climate change is a problem and denies that there is any connection with global warming and this national disaster. He believes that the forests need to be cleaned up (which is true) and that growing heat on the planet and dryness are inconsequential to this issue.
And he adds smiling smugly at Governor Newsom as though God has let him in on a little secret that only he is privy to, “It’ll start getting cooler…you just watch.”