Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sympathy for the Devil

This week there have been a spate of coal plant closing announcements in Virginia.

The Potomac River Generating Station in Alexandria and two here in Hampton Roads.

You'd think I'd be celebrating.

And I am.

Sort of.

That is a lot of toxic pollution that will no longer be an issue for millions of families. That is a lot of toxic coal ash that will never be generated. It's also a lot of mountains that may be spared destruction.

For that I am very grateful.

But I'm also concerned that these coal facilities may be converted into natural gas facilities.

This is an emerging trend: Replacing controversial and heavy polluting coal plants with less controversial and less polluting natural gas plants.

In fact, we're hearing a lot more talk and speculation about "our" coal plant being scrapped for a natural gas plant.

And while that would surely be the lesser of two evils, it's still definitely an evil.

It's still heavy industry--something our rural agricultural community has strongly opposed.

But more importantly, for me, is the issue of natural gas extraction. The method of fracking for natural gas is devastating communities. People's wells are being contaminated by the process, and people are getting very sick.

Just as I want no part of blowing up mountains for coal, I want no part of poisoning other communities for natural gas.

Josh Fox's documentary Gasland shows some of the devastation:

This resolve to not destroy others so that some may benefit was cemented for me very recently.

In the wake of Hurricane Irene we have had a large number of brave and hardworking electrical workers in the area attempting to restore power to our homes.

While washing dishes the other evening I heard a loud explosion, and I ran out to see if my neighbors were OK.

Thankfully they were.

It seemed the noise came from the electrical workers around the corner.

When I mentioned to my neighbor that I hoped none of the workers had been injured, he said something that was surely meant to be a joke, but struck me nonetheless,

"I don't really care, so long as my power comes back on."

I'm sure his statement was akin to, "I'd cut off my arm for a hot shower right about now." Nothing to take literally. I hope.

But it symbolizes one of the main problems with our current electricity set-up: We often don't care. Mostly because we don't have to.

We don't know who is getting injured.

Probably the majority of Americans don't know that someone is getting injured.

Someone is.

Some of us more directly than others. Some of us sooner than others. Some of us more disproportionately than others.

And all kidding aside, I do care.

I care about the electrical worker. I care about the people who live near the plant. I care about the people who live near the extraction sites.

I am not comfortable living a life that is based on injuring others for my gain.

I am not comfortable accepting the lesser of two evils when it means the greater portion is simply redistributed.

It's one thing to make a pact with the devil for one's own soul.

It's a whole 'nother thing to make a pact with the devil for another person's.

I don't wish to do either.

In the immortal words of Sid the Sloth,

"No thanks. I choose life."

Not just for me and mine.

For you and yours, too.

Whoever you are.


  1. Awesomely put-- we take these things for granted. I really like this post, it brings up issues of complacency when they are so often accepted as a respectable position to hold.


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