Monday, August 3, 2009

Big Stone Gap, Wise County, VA

Several days ago I bought a used Mitutoyo height gage on an eBay auction. It arrived today from Ohio. In the box was packing material: pages from The Post , newspaper from Big Stone Gap, a town of about 4K people in the extreme SW corner of Virginia. It's at the foot of the Cumberland Mountains on the border with Kentucky. It's 3 miles from the town of Appalachia. Not that far from Crane's Nest, East Stone Gap, Ben Hur, Jasper, Snowflake and Wise.

In BSG (as it's ubiquitously abbreviated all over the paper), it's apparently safe enough to publish your little kids' pictures in the paper to show 'em off for Valentine's Day. Two whole pages of 'em under the title "Our Special Valentines." Paper gives kids' full names, ages, names of parents and Grandma and Grandpa. That's nice. I'll bet the kids are so tickled to see themselves in the newspaper. Paper brings in a few extra bucks to pay the bills.

If you did that where I live, your kid would be stalked by a perv. Doesn't take much googling to find addresses and/or phone numbers these days. In minutes, the guy could be peeking in the window of the double-wide or single-wide trailers where most of these kids probably live. Glad it hasn't been a problem yet in BSG, at least not enough to end the practice there.

In the 2/26/09 issue there was a letter to the editor that caught my eye. A gal named Clare from the town of Wise was responding to a letter from Bill Bledsoe, Executive Director of the Virginia Mining Association. Clare acknowledges that coal miners and their families are hardworking folk. But that's not the point. Point is that Wise County has already sacrificed 25% of its surface area to mining. Mountains are decapitated, plants choked, stream beds buried. Health. Deer to hunt. Water to drink. Air. Families. Health. Finally, climate change. But Clare sees the immediate impacts all around her. She doesn't have to go global to know change can't come soon enough.

What will be left to those little kids when they are 65? Good questions. There must be a lot of damage in Wise County, VA.

"Think ahead," implores Clare. "Think of the big picture. Inaction is not an option."

I wonder if anybody from the mining industry has thrown rocks through her windows? I wonder if there are three wise men in the town of Wise? How about in Wise County?

But is the county where you and I live any wiser? Are we depending on too much fossil fuel to support our way of life? If we put the entire Arlington, Oregon landfill on top of Wise County, VA, would it look any better than the decapitated Cumberland peaks and the forever-vanished streams? Would you want to have your little kids drink the water flowing out of it?

Then why did we make and buy all that stuff to begin with? What are the people who don't make coal going to make in the future? What do you make? What do I?

Any wise words of wisdom? Pray for wisdom. Pray for Wise.


No comments: