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Saturday, June 23, 2012

RiverFest 2012

I thoroughly enjoyed yet another watery sojourn on the Susquehanna River earlier today, my tenth such adventure since an unlikely, since a previously unimaginable friendship was formed by way of all of this newfangled back-and-forth via electronic pulse.

Some of those who follow my exploits and the like have asked me what could be so exciting or so interesting about paddling the same stretches of the same river over and over. And my response has always been that the river levels, the height of the water varies so rapidly and so wildly, every trip reveals something new, or hides from view something old. No matter the height of the river, at least for me, it’s an exploration of sorts every time out.

In past years, Kayak Dude and I would paddle the many miles and lament, sometimes anguish over the lasting environmental scars that the Wyoming Valley has had to bare for the leading role it played in the fueling of the American industrial revolution. All for slave wages, mind you. And in my tortured mind, if reparations are ever to be paid to any group no matter their perceived grievance, the first checks issued from the treasury should come to this area for the purposes of environmental remediation.

The plain fact is, we are the descendants of the people who powered this nation for 150 years. We are the descendants of the people who’s blood, sweat, tears and deaths made this continent of ours into an industrial juggernaut the likes of which the world had never seen. And now, all these years later, we nervously and respectably paddle over their watery graves and wonder aloud yet again about why one of the many and varied unwanted byproducts of their direct labors---Acid Mine Drainage---must continue completely unabated in perpetuity.

The government can give freebies to able-bodied young people, but it can’t address that orangey staining that suggests to all possible onlookers that it cares not about our river and it’s tributaries. Our government can send grain to Somalia, condoms to Timbuktu, armed drones to Chicago, much-needed corn to gas tanks and our best and brightest and bravest to the Vietnam War sequel going on in Afghanistan, but it can’t cough up enough funding to correct our Combined Sewage Outflow (CSO) nightmare that delivers raw sewage directly to our children mindlessly playing at the lowest level of Wilkes-Barre’s riverfront.

Amazingly enough, our recently deposed 13-term congressman wanted to erect a dam smack dab in the middle of the 444-mile-long river at it’s most degraded, it’s most damaged, it’s most environmentally-challenged point.

Those of you who know me know full-well that I’m no tree-hugger. But as I have repeatedly paddled past the ages-old wrongs that really need to me made right, I have also wondered about the completely misplaced priorities and ill-conceived and ill-advised misadventures of our duly elected and unduly appointed official hacks.

We can’t fix all that ails Afghanistan, Somalia or Timbuktu. But, given a serious course correction, we could fix most of which ails the meandering Susquehanna River at the Wyoming Valley. More broadly stated, we could fix most of which ails America, if and when we demand as much. More wasteful overseas debacles, or an enhanced quality of life right here in our backyards? You make the call.

So, while I wonder aloud in the electronic ether about why we can’t correct our past environmental blunderings, in lieu of that aforementioned and deadly serious course correction, our own descendants will one day be saddled with the further environmental plundering and blundering that is hydro-fracturing.

KD, thanks again.


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