We said the pledge of allegiance to a flag made in China and sang “God Bless America,” here on this Central Florida air ranch, awaiting a speaker on Saigon, 1975. As soon as I heard the topic, I knew I had to be here tonight.
A friend quietly shares a cellphone picture of something a New York congressman had just discovered accidentally while driving west of Schenectady; my friend tries to get me to comment before the speaker we awaited was ready, and I struggled to discern the picture.
We are mostly old people and while I sometimes forget, I too am elderly. My eyesight is excellent, but I’m slow. I can’t always see and hear at the same time. “Turn down the radio so I can navigate this traffic,” I’ll say, zooming through Tampa 275, 8 lanes across, an exit every half mile. Or simply turning left out of our community. “Be quiet so I can see.” When I fly the Tomahawk and am preparing to land, I “shush” my passenger. In this room, it’s noisy so the picture doesn’t focus immediately. And then. (The picture is below)
So many tons of irony. The congressman stands before a monument of broken down, discarded, piled, and stacked fiberglass resin windmill sails stretching about a mile in a field, the Adirondack Mountain foothills in the distance; it is perhaps 3 to 4 stories high. I’m informed that wind turbine blades have a life of about 15 years and must be replaced. The impact of a man dwarfed by the waste pile of precious wings felt like another picture I remembered in its enormity, its monstrosity: an elephant tusk graveyard.
I’m further informed that the energy required to manufacture wind turbines, plus clearing of the land, hauling and erecting huge machines, the carnage wrought on the bird and small animal population, the obvious limitations of productivity when there is no wind, and inefficient storage of energy, the maintenance costs, the coal and gas plants necessary to make them, and the horrific environmental footprint, is a well-kept secret. [For more on the enormous damage done by wind installations, past and proposed, check out this story about Germany’s green energy gang.]
What we know about our interconnectedness with old-growth forests is vast: see The Overstory, by Richard Powers. Sacrificing even a piece of old-growth wealth to windmills is tragic and suicidal.
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Where do we store the waste? We’re back to that again, are we? As with nuclear waste, the promise of free, clean, and cheap is always just out of reach. Nobody wants to have the waste in their back yard. NIMBY, we say. Not in my backyard. Visions of Solyndra panels dancing in our heads, right? [For more on this issue, click here.]
I realize this is some sort of payback for my youthful harangues about the need for alternative energy, a greening of the planet. Doesn’t everyone believe that? We all saw the crying Indian Chief ad, right? Our air and water are now cleaner than they’ve ever been, as of 2019 figures. And fracking, the job producing US energy independence making, war-stopping boom (and progressive whipping post), along with the Keystone Pipeline, has been banned, despite minimal evidence of harm, its comparatively small footprint, and Russia’s production lines having been encouraged. We must now beg or war for our energy when the wind isn’t blowing and it’s cold. We’re lectured and hectored about what’s good for us and what isn’t. I used to do my share of that, but now I’ve embraced irony, begun my inner climate changes. President Trump, not anyone’s favorite initial choice, saw the need to establish energy independence so we didn’t have to go to war for fossil fuels. I’ll suffer mean tweets again gladly.
Hush, the speaker is getting ready. A neighbor. He’s a black retired Airline Executive, a stately gentleman about to show his experiences on the Last Flight Out of Saigon, also the name of his book. He was Pan Am’s station manager in Saigon in April of 1975.
About half the men in our community served in Vietnam, generally with aviation one way or another. During that time, I carried signs calling for the US to get out, and I rarely mention this today. I lost a high school friend to battle. Returning soldiers were abused by some; the self-proclaimed (inaccurately) party of peace can be vicious. Still. We had won that war against Communism, nearly. We would have succeeded if the political will had been there, but I didn’t know. I trusted what the media told me. Soldiers won, suits gave it away, the expression goes.
On April 4th, 1975, my babies were playing with their Fisher-Price castle on a hardwood floor in a drafty Albany, NY apartment; the TV was on. Recently, with snow on the inside of windowsills some nights, I’d despaired when I heard the oil truck back up to fill our tanks. It seemed like it had done so just a week ago, and the bills were enormous for our meager grad school income.
The TV news was reporting something about despair and waste that made all my petty concerns vanish. Operation Babylift, a secret operation to rescue the children of GIs by Vietnamese mothers, had begun with a nightmare: the cowling had torn off one engine, and the attempted emergency landing ended with the loss of 78 small children and babies, and nurses and staff adding to make the death count 140.
Many of us in the room remembered where we were when we heard. Grown men wept, as Mr. Al Tipping gave details of that and subsequent flights. He spoke of those left behind, and of his efforts to bring his assistant and a very large family to the United States. In 1993, that dream was realized. They flew into Miami to stay and become citizens. The video he showed brought us all to further tears. Most of us knew many grateful Vietnamese families re-settled in the US during the 80s. His images refreshed the Afghanistan withdrawal debacle, too.
After signing his book, Mr. Al Topping was short of breath and unable to stop a pounding in his head and chest. The ambulance arrived quickly. He received the help he needed for a full recovery over the next two days, mercifully. A man willing to sacrifice to carry a message from the past, to show me my two selves set against a vast climate change.
Climate change replaced the term, “Global Warming”, when it was clear to anyone that it was colder, not warmer. Here, we’ve had record frosts for days. Last year’s disaster in Texas, where federally funded “experts” decided to shutdown many fossil fuel production flows during weeks of freezing weather seems further evidence of pig-headedness in pushing (too fast) alternate energy.
Climate changes. Microsoft won’t let me write, “Climates change” without a warning. When I was in high school, magazine headlines frightened us with headlines about the coming Glacier Age. We were all going to freeze to death. Volcanos change climates. Remember Mt. St. Helens? No summer sun for weeks and weeks.
Selling fear has always been good for segments of the economic spectrum (and I believe we all agree on who profits and who loses), and the massive shift of resources and investments is a lovely intellectual notion to those who benefit immediately. But ask the Australians and New Zealanders how they like their new energy restructure. Triple the price, half the service, brownouts. And forest fires. Lockdowns. Give your power away for the common good, isn’t that what we want? This week’s Epoch Times has some excellent observations about our current populist awakenings in power, akin to the Middle Ages Peasant’s Revolt.
No, I don’t want to sacrifice freedom entirely for the experts’ notions of common good. Climate has been changing since the Earth began, and it will continue. Explain Greenland. If the seas are rising so badly, why do all our leaders rush to purchase oceanfront? If fossil fuels are so terrible, why do 1500 jets fly into Davos to manage carbon footprints of everyone else?
My interior climate changes. Perhaps it has been too much of my own company during Covid. Or perhaps it’s simply a natural “ages and stages” thing. The price of following “experts” blindly has been too high. We fire nurses and health professionals who worked through Covid, truckers and food store workers and clerks who served tirelessly because they now resist an admittedly experimental vaccine that has not kept anyone from transmitting the virus anyway. Our experts demand we mask but appear when they choose unmasked. Our news media avoid the latest announced study by the revered Johns Hopkins University showing definitively that vaccines, lockdowns, and masks were counterproductive. It doesn’t sell fear well enough, so ignore it, as well as the massive worldwide protests. My heart is with the brave tens of thousands of Canadian truckers in Ottawa.
Climate is changing. Pay attention. NBC just did a segment on “both sides” of the Uyghur Muslim genocide in China. Think about that. Change your interior climate and stay active for November, if we are even permitted to have meaningful elections by then.
By Betsy Lynch
Betsy Lynch taught English, ESL, combined English/Social studies for public schools (middle schools through college) for over forty years, and just retired in December 2020 from the College of Central Florida. After retirement from New York State at 30 years in 2005, she started work immediately in Florida, and has continually tried to “stay retired.” In 2018, she self-published a poetry collection, “Turning Base: Wind Perceptions” (Mill City Press, available on Amazon.) It attempts insights into a radically changing world while reflecting on the lessons of teaching, piloting (single-engine plane), parenting and grandparenting, literature, and music. Some days she perceives the book as an exorcism; others, she gratefully accepts the pleasure it gave to reflect. She resides in both Ocala, Florida (an air ranch) and upstate New York. Website sporadically maintained at Writespiritbetsy.com. Dabbles on Twitter (Liz Lynch) and @Turningbase on GETTR. Her email is email@example.com
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Featured photo by A7N8X, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons