Have you ever seen one of those photographs of Earth taken from space. Our planet is a perfect orb of blue with puffy white clouds. From space it looks like perfection. But when you are faced by reality, you realize that, while there is great beauty, there will always be some flaws in that beauty.
We started out with a Garden of Eden. But we reached a peak of ugliness in America during the days of WWII. Those were the days when factories were roaring. We were burning coal to fuel almost everything. We were producing steel and wire and heavy machinery. We were producing weapons of war in astonishing quantities. The world was better off because we could and we did. The United States was the “sleeping giant” that woke to save the world.
We no longer produce steel like we did in those days. Or wire. Or heavy machinery. Or much of anything that you can’t pick up in your hand and walk off with. Back when I first entered the working world a salesman in a new territory would talk about chasing smokestacks. If you saw a smokestack there was a business there that you could call on and solicit business from. You don’t see nearly as many smokestacks now. Of course, the air smells a lot nicer today.
When I went to college, I rowed on the college crew. Our home course was on the Connecticut River. It is a rowing tradition that the winning crew throw their coxswain off the dock at the end of the race. Our river was so dirty and laden with chemicals that the tradition was suspended. Today the Connecticut is a “Class A” river. You can swim in the water and eat any fish you catch. It took about forty years but that is progress.
Back in those days there weren’t all that many deer, turkey, coyote or opossums around southern New England, where I live. Now there are so many the deer and coyote are becoming a nuisance. In the United States as a whole, the deer herds and turkey flocks are more numerous than when Columbus landed. We also have more forested land. The air and water are cleaner than at any time in my life. The United States is a poster of ecological progress.
That having been said, we have to live. We cannot turn our whole country into a park. The necessities of life force us to have a reasonable balance in land use. I just saw the latest figures on economic growth for this year. At approximately 2.0 %, we are not growing. We must grow to support our population as it grows. There are limited ways in which real economic growth occurs.
One is to extract our natural resources. In energy alone, the United States is a treasure trove. We are a large country. We have room to devote to acquiring and processing the fossil fuels that abound under our soil. We have the technology, which is ever improving, to do this safely and cleanly. The day will come, I think fairly soon, that we will no longer need to burn fossil fuel for energy. That technology is not here yet. I am convinced that wind and solar are just false steps down a road that will go nowhere. Use what we resources we have and stop sending our wealth to those people and countries that care not a whit for us.
One area where we do well in creating wealth is in inventing new products and processes. But we are so open, as a society, that it is easy for other countries to take and copy our original work. We need to be more aware of who we allow to have the keys to the kingdom. The takers of the world see us as a bunch of soft hearted saps at best, and a bunch of fools at worst. That must stop. We must be more cautious to preserve and protect our intellectual property.
The area of creating wealth where we have been getting progressively worse is manufacturing. Where we were once the “sleeping giant”, we are now the napping kitty cat. Manufacturing not only grows the economy, it keeps us independent in times of strife. It supplies skilled, good paying, jobs for those that choose to forgo higher education or just prefer to work with their hands. When I was young, manufacturing was the strong base of the American economy. It supported a burgeoning middle class. But of late we have turned into a nation of paper pushers.
Many American politicians have become tools of the various green movements that would turn our country into one big park. As it is the administration keeps taking more and more land and making it off limits for logging or oil and gas exploration. They are forcing whole communities into unemployment by shutting down coal mines. They constantly want higher and higher standards of air and water quality that are virtually unattainable. We all want clean air and water, but when your there, your there.
People must live. They must be able to earn a livelihood. Years ago ”king coal” fired the economy. Electricity was in it’s youth and natural gas was rare. As time passed less coal was used. Electricity became king and that brought less pollution. As natural gas picks up some of the load that relied on coal, we have even less pollution. The point is that we do make progress and support the American lifestyle. We are an ingenious people. We will continue to progress. Never let the search for the perfect give lie to the good because the perfect, like Godot, will never arrive.