A mountain of coal ash collapsed more than a million gallons of coal ash slurry into the Clinch and Emory rivers.About 1973, we were heavy into a fossil fuel shortage. Gas lines were nationwide. In some places, the day you could buy gasoline was decided by your license plate – odd numbers on odd days, etc. 

Some people said we were on the verge of running out of oil to make gasoline.

The “running out of oil” storyline flew in the face of tankers we could see on the evening television news, anchored off New Jersey and San Diego because they could not dock to unload their black liquid cargo.

The “manufactured shortage” story gained credence when the embargo (which actually had more to do with Middle Eastern politics than actual oil shortage) ended, and prices stayed up. In response to the once-again plentiful supply, we went back to big pickups and large cars. The gasoline and heating oil refiners had proven the public was able and willing to pay the higher prices.

I visited a relative during one of those winters in Ohio. The temperature outdoors was in the 30s. Indoors, it was 85.

“How can you have it so warm in here?” I asked. I was a country boy thinking 85 was too darn hot indoors for that time of year. I never have liked a great difference between inside and outside temperatures when I had to go from one to the other. My spouse will attest to my common complaint when, in summer, I come from 95-degree outdoors into seeming subzero air conditioned indoors.

That was not the question he heard.

“I can afford it,” he answered.

Most of us can afford it. It is not a question of being rich, only of being able to buy more than we really need to live comfortably. In the process, we can afford to make our air a little less breathable, and our water a bit less drinkable.

Winters are shorter for many of us, prompting the nightly weather forecaster to gush over the nice day we will have tomorrow, while glossing over the fact the thermometer is not supposed to be marking the 70s in January, and our snow thrower is not supposed to be sitting in the shed with two-year-old gasoline in the tank.

On WGAL-TV8 news Wednesday evening, Meteorologist Joe Calhoun reported July average temperatures have been rising.

“Over the last 50 years the average monthly temperature at Harrisburg International Airport has risen almost 3 degrees,” he said, pointing to a graphic that showed a plus-2.8 F trend.

For the July 4 weekend, he forecast temperatures in the upper 90s, but said to expect below average precipitation. There is not much likelihood of rain the following week, either.

I recall a few years ago, when asphalt became almost prohibitively expensive for local townships to repair their roads. Blame was laid largely under the wheels of new cars being driven on new roads demanded by a new middle and upper-middle class of Chinese workers. It was nothing nefarious; just a few million workers finally leaving peasanthood.

The 2008 summer Olympics, hosted in Beijing, were jeopardized by a blanket of algae and air pollution resulting from the creation of that new middle class.

We all want to drive our own cars, control our own in-home atmosphere, and enjoy the toys our technological inventiveness makes available.

But maybe it’s time to slow down a little, take a walk on a nearby country two-lane or a footpath in the mountains, listen to the birds and give Mother Nature a break. Research shows it will be good for our own physical and mental well-being, and we need not spend much money.


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.