September 25, 2018

Hurricane Florence proved storm’s predictions

     On the eve of the Disco Era, romantics swooned over Jenny and Oliver.  The hearts of ladies went to mush as they watched Ryan O’Neal.  Men didn’t fare much better when Ali MacGraw wrapped her arms around O’Neal in Hollywood’s 1970 smash hit Love Story.
     How do I know?
     I was a 22-year-old who thought Ali was one of the most gorgeous women on the globe.  And why—48 years later—would I bring up Love Story when what I really want to talk about is Hurricane Florence?
     There’s an immortal line in the movie.  Millions can recite those eight words, but I’m going to save it for later.  Bear with me for a few minutes.
     During Florence’s wrath, I lost touch with two friends—a husband and wife—who had their toes-in-the-sand retirement bliss assaulted by winds, waves and horrific amounts of water.  Eddie and Carolyn live between Myrtle Beach and Wilmington.  They might as well have had a bull’s-eye painted on their chests, but I got this miraculous email: “We survived!” 
     My friends are among the fortunate.  Florence was predicted to be a killer.  She did just that, and flooding continues to add to the nightmare. We grieve for those whose loved ones died.
     Another prediction proved true, too.  The environment was also a casualty of this brutal storm.  For a long time, the warning siren has blared: “Don’t put toxic-waste storage facilities in hurricane zones and near water. “
     What happened at Duke Energy’s Sutton plant in Wilmington could have been avoided.  The 2,000 cubic yards of toxic coal ash didn’t have to pollute the surrounding environment, but it did.  Other coal-ash ponds could rupture, too.
     Corporate decision-makers, such as those at Duke, figure they are smarter than Mother Nature.  Florence proved them wrong.  They put us at risk by locating poison pits near precious water. Hurricanes will continue coming.  Houses can be rebuilt.  Debris can be cleaned up.  Dangerous toxins are a different matter.  They sink in and stay.
     But get this. 
     Duke has now released a fear-not statement: “Coal ash is non-hazardous.” It believes there’s no risk to the environment or our health.  To that denial-laden response, I’d ask, “How much lead, beryllium, arsenic, mercury and other poisonous heavy metals do you want stirred into your sweet tea?”
      Eventually Duke will probably say, “We’re sorry.”  A slap on the wrist will likely follow, while we wait for the next time.  And other hurricanes will happen again and again.
      Meanwhile, coal-burning utilities will argue, “We are doing what we can to provide the cheapest possible electricity for our consumers.” That sounds good until you consider the Fram oil filer slogan: “Pay me now or pay me later.”  Florence is proof we will be paying later—as in forever—for the harm to our natural resources.      
     Now back to Love Story.
     If you listen to the feel-good messages of producers of toxic coal-ash, you’d think they really do “love” us.  But if that were so, they would consider the consequences of taking the nature-be-damned cheap routes which ultimately damage our health.
     No doubt, there will be plenty of “I’m sorry” apologies.  But as Oliver repeated Jenny’s words to his forgiveness-seeking father, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”