I often talk of two-lane roads and roadside creeks. They often can be found together, a good reason for which there is. Streams have been sources of food, pathways for travelers, and the most direct route from the pasture to the barn for millions of cows.
Eventually, the footpath along the stream becomes a wagon trail, then a paved road for trucks and cars, and one day an artery for the houses built along it, with streets named for the trees and critters banished to make room. It’s just the way.
In the late 1960s, my then-future wife and I enjoyed the sand dune beaches south of Jacksonville Beach. We spent many late nights on the dunes and in the ocean. One night, we came back to my 1954 Ford station wagon to find someone had made off with all my surf fishing gear. (The car stopped at nearly every gas station to take on a quart of oil and a dollar’s worth of gas, and the doors did not lock.)
Then someone decided to build a huge bridge across the Saint Johns River, a shortcut to the dunes. A few years ago, I drove up Route A1A, past the place where my fishing gear disappeared, where young people once got “drunk” on Coca-Cola, and where new homes had been recently built behind “No Trespassing” signs. We all like to live near water.
We don’t notice the landscape re-design and the stoplights – until someone mentions the Eckerts had a farm on one corner of the interchange at U.S. 30 and U.S. 15 that now is home to a growing shopping center and the Loew family owned fields on the other corner where a movie theater, a couple hotels and a window-maker now live.
Up the road a short distance, several hundred homes are planned or being built where the Martin farm grew corn. The work is largely invisible to folks rushing to work or home again.
There has been a lot of talk the past few years about climate warming, air pollution and sea level rise. The U.S government – we taxpayers – has paid to move the residents of Isle de Jean Charles, on the Gulf of Mexico at the outskirts of New Orleans, to higher ground, where their new homes will not follow the fate of their ancestral abodes recently swallowed by the rising sea.
Here in Pennsylvania, we have 83,000 miles of free-running creeks and larger waterways – only Alaska, of the 50 states, has more. Our supply seems endless. It is not; ask the land “developers” who must find water for the buyers of those new homes.
The past months of being trapped at home, or at least separated from people who do not eat and sleep there, skies have cleared – enough that, since our cars have been driveway-bound, there has been a 30 percent reduction in air pollution in the northeastern U.S. The effect is especially noticeable along the Atlantic coast, from Washington, D.C. to Boston, Mass., and inland to the Appalachian Mountains, including the area butting against the South Mountains, near my home.
Accidentally, we have exposed a treasure in our current misery – proof that air pollution is heating the air and causing the planet to perspire on itself as though under an electric blanket on an already hot summer night, heating and poisoning our water while we sleep.
There is a silver lining in the unplanned turning down of our blanket – a demonstration that we might be at least part of the cause of snowless winters and summers migrating north.
What we do with that lining, of course, remains to be seen.
Thanks for coming 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.