Afternoon Pastoral.Several years ago I was lucky enough to be visiting Las Vegas with in-laws who were able to score tickets to the Siegfried and Roy magic show. As though that were not enough, we had seats right up against the stage, as in my left arm could rest upon the stage. The show was as good as its reputation. Maybe even better.

Imagine the main performers are center stage, making white tigers and white lions appear and disappear from the blackness of space behind the mirrors. You’re trying to look behind the actors to see where they are going and coming. At one point, just as you almost glimpse the source, you sense a presence beside you.

A small person in an African mask has crept up and when you turn to look, you are nose to nose with that mask. It was a mite startling, and purpose serving, though I didn’t think of the latter point until later. Distraction was the point. Don’t let the visitors see behind the curtain. In fact, try to prevent them noticing there is a curtain to see behind.

We have been living in a “Siegfried and Roy”-style magic show for the past three years, as strange masks have distracted us from the myriad air assaults being inflicted on the air and water of this place we call home.

My mailbox runneth over with notices from the Environmental Protection Agency about money it has awarded, particularly to schools across the country, for laudable environmental efforts. In one case, a school district in West Virginia was awarded $20,000 to help replace an “older Diesel School Bus.” Sure enough, the new bus likely will reduce exhaust pollution.

On the other hand, Trump’s EPA has offered the “Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles” rule, which drops an Obama-era 5 percent greenhouse gas reduction to only 1.5 percent reduction, reportedly putting us behind most of the rest of the world in the effort to reduce auto emissions.

That is an interesting position to take since dirty air already is more difficult to breath, and Covid-19 attacks the lungs’ ability to function. What a combination.

EPA also announced in March that it would stop enforcing environmental regulations on large industrial companies, instead leaving to the companies the responsibility of carrying out testing and deciding when compliance is economically advantageous. Several years ago, when I was writing about Marcellus gas drilling in Pennsylvania, I came upon numerous cases in which, left by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to determine their own efforts at compliance with environmental laws, companies violated the rules, then failed to report the results of “accidental” leaks and spills.

Elsewhere, the federal Department of the Interior has been busy reducing the size of preserved public lands and offering sales and leases to the oil, gas and mining industries. While local agencies, such as the watershed alliance of my home county, engage in reforesting the landscape to help remove dust from our air and chemicals from our water, fossil fuel industries are denuding other landscape with federally-blessed abandon.

Covid-19 has put a crimp in state and local governments’ financial abilities, including efforts to stop algal blooms in Lake Erie, or replace leaden water pipes across the nation. People out of work do not pay taxes, and only the federal government is able to print more.

Meanwhile, evening TV news shows dedicate their entire broadcast to the corona virus death toll, and cable pundits expend considerable effort to either support or criticize Pres. Trump. The subjects certainly are newsworthy, but eventually we must look past the strange masks at the magic being performed in the dark space behind the mirrors.

(Note: Roy Horn, 75, died Friday, May 8, 2020, from Covid-19.)

Thanks for taking me along. I hope you enjoyed the ride. Comments are welcome, and please feel free to share. Please click the “Share” button to share it on social media, or copy the URL and send it to friends and acquaintances you think might appreciate it.