Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Mailbox is in the Ditch

Last week I received a call at work from Jennifer stating that the mail box had been knocked over. She said the box itself was fine but that the 4x4 wooden post was "split."  I didn't know exactly what that meant so I cancelled an upcoming appointment at work and drove home to check things out.  

The post snapped off in a diagonal fashion about one-third of the way up.  It was sitting next to my neighbor's mailbox which was also clipped off only his was about two-thirds of the way up.  How this happened I could not tell.  There were no skid or tread marks.  No dents or marks on the actual posts themselves other than the breaks.  The only piece missing was my neighbor's mailbox door.  

It took more than a casual force to cause such damage, maybe a piece of farm equipment swiped them as it came through. Regardless of the cause, I had to either get a new post or repair the old one.  I picked up the mailbox and saw that it would fit back together is I could find something to securely fuse the two sections of the broken post.  

So, I rushed back to town to see what Home Depot had to assist me.  I was disoriented looking for pre-drilled metal plates of some sort.  A guy in the plumbing section offered to help me (even though it was outside his departmet).  We rummaged through a smorgasbord of plates until I found two 15-inch heavy-duty ones exactly 4 inches wide.  A perfect fit for my post.

"I don't know if you are going to want to buy those," the Home Depot guy told me, still sorting through the disarrayed collection of pieces.  "How much are these?" I inquired.  They were about $8 each (the other items in the assortment were $2-$3).  I thought, what an incredible bargain! This was exactly what I had in my mind as I was driving back to town.  But, I figured the guy was used to people nickel and diming him a lot.  "Ouch," I emphatically replied.  "Oh well, I still need two of them."

As insurance that I had what I needed, I bought a couple of smaller, thinner plates as well, along with a box of screws. Since Jennifer was on business, as I drove home I planned how I was going to manage to prop up the mailbox, make sure it fit snugly and properly, while drilling the screws.  It sure would be easier if someone could hold it in place while I had two free hands to bolt it together like an orthopedist operating on a broken arm or leg.

Then a wave of good karma happened upon the situation. Literally as I was topping the hill before my driveway I saw my neighbor (who was not home when I was there earlier) rounding his house with his electric drill in hand.  I pulled into the drive in perfect timing with him arriving at the scene of the debacle.  

"Somebody's been messing with us," I smiled to him as I got out of my truck.  He ranted about how fast people drive through here and how reckless some people are and how we weren't raised to cause such damage and not at least try to contact the owners to accept responsibility for the accident (if it was an accident).  He also said that whoever did had to have mess up their vehicle, even though neither of us saw any indication of how the breaks actually occurred.  I couldn't disagree with anything he said.  But his tone changed when I delighted him about the plates I had just picked up at Home Depot.

Working together, it took us all of about 15 minutes to fix both mailboxes.  The heavier metal plates mended my 4x4 perfectly solid and steady.  The smaller plates did the trick to stabilize his mailbox.  It is amazing how fast you can accomplish things when you have the right help and the right tools all line up at precisely the right time.  If life were always so easy.  

We looked everywhere for his missing door flap but only could a couple of small chunks of it scattered across my driveway.  Afterwards we stood and talked for a good long time.  He offered to pay me for the plates and screws but I wouldn't hear of it. "That's what neighbors are for," I offered. And that took him on a tangent about how country people have come together through the years all around us and helped each other.  There was more than a little nostalgia in his voice as he lamented about the fast-paced, impersonal carelessness of the world.

I shared with him that this was only the second time since 1993 that I have a problem like this.  The last time my mailbox was on the opposite side of my driveway and had been taken out by the garbage truck.  The company promptly bought me another one and I moved it to where it sits today in order to stay away from the garbage pick-up.  I still have no idea whether this was some sort of bad high school prank or the accident of extra wide farm equipment or what...but I am glad the damage was not any worse than it was.  

Fortune smiled upon me when I returned from town at precisely the moment my neighbor was ready to fix his mailbox.  It was a good visit to catch up with him; we haven't really talked other than to say "hello" since before Christmas. He's right. Stuff like this is what neighbors are for.  And the world has gone crazy, even if all we had to show for it in this case was a couple of mailboxes somewhat mysteriously chopped in the ditch.  

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Trump, the EPA, and Your Toxic Future

As I pointed out previously, the first Industrial Revolution almost occurred in China several hundred years before it happened in Europe. There were various reasons why this did not occur, not the least of which was an invasion by Genghis Khan. But before that happened, the Chinese city of Kaifeng became the largest urban area on the planet.  It housed more than one million residents.  It was the global hub for science and development and a fledgling iron works industry.  

Remembering Kaifeng is useful today because it seems many among us have forgotten a simple, undeniable historic fact. Wherever unregulated human beings prosper economically it is always at the expense of the environment to the degree that it poses a threat to human life itself.  The region around Kaifeng was heavily forested but within a few decades the landscape became completely denuded.  Vital wood and other materials had to transported from many miles away.  The industry suffered but so did those living in the industrial waste and environmental devastation - the worst in history up to that time.

Also as I have posted here, here, and here, China remains one of the world's worst polluters today. Millions of Chinese citizens dies every year from breathing toxic air and drinking toxic water. Conditions are just as bad in India, if not worse. The singular thread connecting these two rapidly growing world economies is that neither country has had any regulatory oversight on the environment. The fact is that in modern times the "Socialist world" has become the worst polluter on Earth thanks to a hands-off approach to pollution and environmental healthy.

In essence, this is what human beings do to their environment every time.  There are few if any historic examples of how economic development and free enterprise factor in the environmental impact.  Instead, profitability and productivity are the holy grail of economic prosperity.  Left free and unencumbered, human beings will fill their pockets with money and neglect the environmental consequences until the environment becomes unhealthy, causing disease and death. 

Even with the EPA, America remains one of the worst polluters on the planet.  Our country's great industrial revolution was the source of incredible wealth and opportunity but, predictably in the view of history, it was also the source of unmitigated toxic pollution.

President Trump does not believe in history.  He does not learn from the past. He (and most of his sorry supporters) believes that the EPA is equivalent to the IRS and should be abolished.  His choice to head the department believes such a drastic act is justified (although it really doesn't look like outright elimination of the agency is not likely to happen). How does he think this country will look ten years after this ill-conceived decision? Are we Americans more enlightened now than we were 50 years ago where the environment is concerned?  Without the EPA, Lake Erie died in the late 1960's.  There are countless facts about pre-EPA American disasters.  Love Canal, New York, Picher, Oklahoma, Libby, Montana, Louisville, Kentucky, these are the places of America's environmental heritage.

Just today Trump and his ilk decided that the Clean Water Rule which protects the drinking water for 117 million Americans (not to mention crops and wildlife) should be "dismantled".  This is a major blow to the EPA's ability to protect the environment.  Let's get the facts straight here President Trumpet.  It was precisely the horrific, unregulated conditions of drinking water in this country due to dumping by individuals and industry that lead to the Rule to begin with.  Trump calls the Rule a "disaster" which, of course, utter bullshit (and a waaaaaaay overused term by the Donald).  Precisely the opposite is the historical, factual case. The disaster existed into the early 1970's when this Rule came into effect and led to today's situation, which is some of the cleanest water in the world.

Without the EPA, or even with a severely restricted EPA, this country will revert back to how it was before the EPA (see this sobering story in that radical left-wing publication, Popular Science).  We know what this nation is like without adequate environmental protection.  We know what human being have always done to the environment.  Our individual liberty cannot be trusted where the air, water, and soil are concerned.  As I said in a previous post, "Liberty means nothing if you can't breathe the air." 

As these photos show, we need a strong EPA now more than ever.  Otherwise, "those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it."

Illegal dumping on the Hudson River, 1973

Burning batteries in Texas, 1972

Cleveland, Ohio, 1973

Cuyahoga River Cleveland, 1953

George Washington Bridge, 1973

Illegal Dumping, Hudson River, 1973

Los Angeles, 1973

Louisville and the Ohio River, 1972

Sewage Dumping in the Potomac River, 1973