Learning from Our Past

(#264) — Over the weekend I was in a small town where I grew up that was once the wind mill capital of the world. Eight wind mill companies once turned out thousands of water pumping and electricity generating wind mills that were shipped all over the world. They made farming the west possible, along with barbed wire, which was invented and first produced a few towns away.  Many of the wind mills manufactured in the 1800’s and early 1900’s are still working.

Wind mills changed the history of the United States and were made possible in my home town because we had the water power of the Fox River to energize local manufacturing and everyone understood their responsibility for providing local solutions. The several block array of buildings still stand giving testimony to the skill of the local labor force in bringing the lime stone from the many quarries at the edge of town and erecting massive buildings that would last centuries.

The temperature over the weekend was 90 degrees or more each day. The lawns are more brown than green.  Water is rationed for gardens, washing cars, etc.  Water is served at restaurants only upon request.  Air conditioners and fans are running continuously and at night, tens of thousands of lights break the beauty of night shade.

Returning to Sullivan County, I drove by a digital temperature sign that showed 98 degrees at 5:30 pm.  Until recently, such temperatures were not seen at all or at least not until late July or August.  It isn’t June weather and it isn’t good for the corn crop which has become so important for so many parts of our economy.  It isn’t good for our health, wallets or energy use.  New regional environmental biological explosions are occurring which will radically transform many patterns in our lives.

The newspapers report about economic development focusing on casinos and hydro-fracking of our land by pumping toxic chemicals into the ground to bring up natural gas and all of its destructive impacts on air, land, water and all manner of life and community.  Our area is also targeted for the pumping of billions of cubic yards of CO2 into the earth  for sequestration.

What old, obsolete and absurd these modern, technically brilliant projects are in a period of history rendered so vulnerable to massive natural and human-made cataclysm.  We need to commit to a very different economic agenda.

Solar electric municipal power authorities for each town is a good place to begin. Germany just produced more than 50% of the nation’s weekend electric energy in a climate with far less sunshine than the United States.  Partnerships with major corporations can make local municipal power companies affordable, profitable, rich in local jobs and local control. Serious discussion of such joint-ventures should be occurring in every village and town board meetings. As people did 100 or more years ago, let’s use the resources we have – renewable energy – to make a better future.

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