Wednesday at the Movies
May, 2010

     My grandson is visiting with me for the summer.  It is often a loud, active and frenetic affair, but after I catch my breath I realize what a good time I’m having.  One of my daily habits is to watch the thirty minute national news; I call it my “news as entertainment” break.  My grandson watches it with me.  A few days ago, after the news, he got up and went to do some 8 year old thing or other; and I got up to do some grandfather thing or other.  After a while I wandered over to where my grandson was working on his computer.  He had written the following letter.

Dear Mr. President Obama,

Please stop oil drilling in this country.  I am an 8 year old boy who is willing to help save animals and the environment.  I have seen many natural disasters, and I almost experienced Hurricane Gustav itself.  But somehow, I think that the natural disasters are just nature fighting back from something we have done.  I warn you, because of the incident in Louisiana, there’s no telling what nature might throw at us for this one.

My grandsons name is omitted for obvious reasons.

     I found the simplicity, openness and sincerity of this letter engaging.  And then I felt something else.  What was that?  It was something I haven’t felt for a while; oh yes, I remember that feeling, it is hope.  I think I misplaced it a while ago; it’s nice to have it back.
     That little boy, now asleep in the room next to my office, the same little boy who used my hose and nozzle to excavate a foxhole in my back yard this morning, the same little boy who amazed and slightly disturbed me last night by singing the entire lyrics of “Hotel California”, the same little boy who bounces off the walls with his “Iron Man II” belly button and rocket firing gloves, is disturbed about the degradation of Earth’s environment. He has decided on the cause of this degradation, and has come to conclusions about how to deal with the problems.
     As I think about him I wonder how many thousands, hopefully millions, of children are also concerned.  There it was again, that feeling, yes it definitely is “hope”.
     Yes, we all know that the solution is not so simple.  The complexity of world economics, American energy needs, oil drilling technology, ecology, politics, problems of alternate energy sources, collateral affects on this and that; they are thrown at us on a daily or hourly basis.   This simple and direct statement of an 8 year old will be labeled as ‘cute,’ ‘charming,’ ‘adorable,’ and/or some other diminutive and dismissive terms.  That is one of the things we adults do best.  But perhaps we should pause a moment to recall a few other very short and simple statements that changed the world.
      “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
      “We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal.”
       “I had a dream.”
     It just might be that truth and power are in such thoughts, and that such an ideal just might prevail, even though the devil is in the details, and the details are in the hands of mere mortals.
      I recalled a novel and movie of about 10 years ago, “Pay It Forward”.   It was about a teen age boy who championed the concept of repaying a favor by extending a favor to some other person in need; and then explaining the idea of “paying it forward” to them.
      In the story “paying it forward” became a world wide movement.  I became very curious about what effect, if any, that story had on Americans.  I went to the web, and there were 40 hits, mostly about the book and the movie.  Sandwiched into all that fun stuff were two other items; a foundation and a festival.  Further research showed that both were ongoing and successful.  The foundation is active in world wide charities and the festival contributes support to a children’s hospital in Tennessee.  Not as much as I had hoped for, but there was an effect.  Enough affect to reinforce my weakly fluttering hope.
      However, it has been 21 years since the Exxon Valdes dumped a supertanker load of crude oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound.  Exxon is still a very profitable company, it only cost the Exxon Corporation one week profits to pay off fines, costs and other liabilities from that spill.  Most of the people under 30 would have difficulty recalling anything about a ship called “Valdes”.
      Perhaps the BP disaster will be more memorable. The well head is still gushing, BP is still poisoning the water with chemicals that will allegedly dissipate the oil, and the fish and the birds are still dying.  The geniuses at BP are still doing their “Keystone Kops” routine of running around in circles, bumping into things and, more or less, accomplishing nothing.  And our political leaders are making speeches. The last prediction I read said the oil is expected to affect the gulf coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.  And if it gets into the Gulf Loop Current, after oiling up the Keys, it will head north towards Miami and Fort Lauderdale. It is estimated that 25% of all aquatic life in the Gulf may die.  So far, the trend has been that the estimators are grossly underestimating.  No one seems to talk about what is going to happen to the tidal marshes and river estuaries.  One marshland scientist was quoted as saying, “I can’t talk about it, it makes my stomach turn over.”
     I hope my grandson remembers this event when he reaches adulthood.  I think he will, I think his whole generation will remember.  Maybe their numbers and commitment will cause some change in our energy/environment debate and actions.  Maybe the Gulf will recover, in our grandchildren’s lifetime.  
     Another thought occurred to me; the Hurricane Season will soon be upon us.  These large tropical depressions originate in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa.  Then they migrate across the Atlantic until they approach the land mass of the Americas and turn northwest. Some continue to turn north and parallel the North American Coast, but more often than not they end up in the Gulf of Mexico.  The warm water of the Gulf adds energy to theses storms, the wind speeds increase and the hurricanes pick up enormous amounts of water, which is then dropped on the Southeastern United States.  Does this mean that this year the hurricanes will pick up oil with the water and drench the Southeast with a toxic rainfall, rain many times more destructive than the “acid rain” of a few decades ago?  I recalled the letter, “…. there’s no telling what nature might throw at us for this one.”



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