The Sludge of an Imperfect Civilization

Will our future followers on this planet look back on such disasters some day in shame from a world that truly knows how to produce and use clean energy so insults like this do not happen to the land, the people and the earth’s living systems? Here’s a short video of a very major barely reported ecological disaster that happened near Harriman, Tennessee this week. More commentary, here, at

Five hundred million gallons of coal ash are just now entering the tributaries of the Tennessee River, thence to the Mississippi. Merry Christmas, New Orleans.

And please help me understand WHY this is NOT the very top news story on every TV  station and newspaper (you do remember newspapers don’t you–they were considered useful at one time for getting an up-to-the-minute report on disasters like this.)

Oh well, that’s life…as the infrastructure crumbles. Get ready for lots more of the same. Need more evidence we’re rotting from the ground up? Watch if you dare what some poor motorists experienced when an enormous water main fell apart. Surfs up!

Are there jobs out there for unemployed Americans, fixing what’s broken across this country? To borrow a phrase from a recent pseudo-celebrity <Wink>: you betcha!

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. All the more reason to complete an energy audit and reduce your use of energy. Anyone buying a home should pay very close attention to how much energy is used for heating and air conditioning.

  2. One elderly lady in the community has recently installed a geothermal heating system; others just up the road (221 west of FLoyd) have (influenced by our Earth Day emphasis on water, I’m happy to report) have put in a cistern to catch roofwater for watering their plants, etc. I’m thinking of doing a Floyd Press column on these energy and resource considerations that are already possible.