Politicians and other birds

Morning Glory flowers have segued into their final stage: seeds for next year. Each former flower has become a pod with five tiny black seeds perfectly fitted. Outside my window, a Cardinal, a woodpecker and a Mockingbird have been devouring the bright red dogwood berries. That avian affinity for seeds is how we got the marvelous Morning Glory wall on our front porch rail.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin appears to have erased clean electricity from the proposed infrastructure bill. About 65 percent of the nation’s coal-fired electricity plants have already been “retired,” mostly for economic reasons, and most of the rest of the world is weaning itself from burning coal industrially.

But West Virginia state is one of the top producers of coal and natural gas and doesn’t need competition from wind or the sun. Manchin’s apparent support of coal is little more than political posturing he hopes will help get him elected at least one more time before he retires to his houseboat to cruise the rising seas.

Now he reportedly is opposing a part of the bill that would essentially fine natural gas producers for releasing methane into the air. Methane is several times more efficient as a greenhouse gas at trapping the heat that is surrounding our planet and giving rise to some of the severe weather events in our warming climate.

A few years ago, my wife and I were building a house on a south-facing hillside in Maine. One of the features was a screened-in porch, temporarily covered with plastic while we saved up enough money to replace the plastic with glass. In the middle of winter, one could sit on the porch in shorts while the wind howled and flapped the plastic “windows.”

Methane and Carbon Dioxide are like plastic. Although methane does not last quite as long as CO2, it is way more effective at trapping heat in our planet’s porch, and we keep pouring a steady stream of it into the atmosphere, mostly by allowing it to leak from natural gas piping.

Carbon dioxide is like a more durable sheet of plastic, a little less efficient at trapping heat, but longer lasting.

Meanwhile, coal barons are using technology to mine coal with fewer and fewer human workers. They scrape tops off the Appalachian Mountains and dump the dirt into streams and ponds to expose the planet-warming fuel with minimum human labor expense.

And here we are with a senator in a position of power. Although he could access experts in environmental mechanics, he seems to be using that power to buy votes from people who largely only want to make a living and support their families.

How much better might it be if he could get money from polluters to help pay for training in new fields so that his constituents could have well-paying jobs and clean air and water for their children and grandchildren.

If it were only West Virginia to be affected, we could let the situation evolve until his voters were convinced he was wrong. But when fires burn California, the sun becomes hidden by a smokey haze in Pennsylvania. When coal plants in western Pennsylvania spew acid into the air, it falls as fish-killing, algae-growing rain in New England. We humans create artificial boundaries, but Mother Nature pays them no mind.

We desperately need to elect political leaders who lead, not who merely spout what we think we want to hear so we will elect them to their positions of authority.

At least the birds spread pretty flowers with their effluent.

I hope you enjoyed the wander through our shared future. Please take a minute to pass it along to your friends.

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