Reader letters, April 5

Apr 04, 2017

Two steps forward, one step back

To the editor:

There is an anecdote about a frog trying to climb out of a well.  You can probably see the frog making dubious progress, the journey complicated by slips and slides – two steps forward, one back.

I guess you could call me a “tree hugger.”  I have always loved gardens and tended them wherever I lived.

Today, my property is planted with hundreds of shade-loving plants and perennials.  My family agrees not to cut any trees, just perform occasional pruning.

As a child growing up in Atlanta during the 50s and 60s, I hauled my share of water buckets to keep everything growing through the August heat.

Another thing that I saw in Atlanta was the South River, its water black with algae bloom and its surface covered with soap suds.  I also heard about the impending death of Lake Erie, the endangering of the Bald Eagle, and the air pollution alerts in urban centers, not to mention the acid rain that was slowly eating away historic building facades and making trees sick.

Then we read Rachel Carson’s book, “Silent Spring.” This book was not about detergent phosphates, deforestation, or destruction of the ozone layer, but about DDT, a pesticide to help growing things survive insect infestations, and keep the ever present mosquito in check.

Unfortunately, DDT caused eggshell thinning and population declines among birds of prey, driving our national bird toward extinction.

Fortunately, the adults who were in charge during those years chose wisely to take two steps forward, making a difference.  When I was working in southern Maryland during the 80s and 90s, I was delighted to hear about nesting eagles along the Potomac River.  Several other things improved as well — clearer evening skies and brighter stars.

Just over a week ago, the country’s President signed Executive Order 13783 with the primary purpose of reviewing the Clean Power Plan, eliminating restrictions on federal coal leasing, reconsidering the rules on methane regulations, and the social cost of carbon.  In my opinion, this is an example of a step back.

The effectiveness of this reversal has yet to be determined and the law makers and lawyers have many battles ahead.

Make no mistake, there is no truth to “Clean Coal.”  When coal burns, it produces water vapor and carbon dioxide.  It also has a by-product — coal ash, which is dusty, dirty, carcinogenic, radioactive, and contains heavy metals, including hexavalent chromium.  Our neighbors in Eden, NC (wonderful name for a town!) are dealing with the Dan River Steam Station contamination, other friends in Asheville have a constant struggle over the Asheville power plant.

The irony is that the plant in Eden had already been shut down long before the spill.   Among the data available online is the information that North Carolina generates over 5.5 million tons of coal ash per year, 9th in the nation.  There are numerous coal ash ponds in North Carolina rated as “high hazard.”  That level can cause loss of human life.

So what is the next step?  Hopefully, it’s a closer look at House Resolution 401 introduced in the NC Legislature recently.

This resolution suggests a state policy for moving forward, establishing “100 percent clean renewable energy for all energy sector economies, by December 31, 2050, to avoid climate catastrophe, to promote job creation and economic growth.”

North Carolina is already second in the nation in solar capacity behind California.  Why not be smart and just get started — renewable energy and modern, efficient infrastructure.

For the sake of our children’s future we should embark on multiple steps forward.

Mary Thomas


Another viewpoint of Waynesville Township High School

To the editor:

I read with interest and nostalgia Dr. Virgil Messer’s account of his experience at WTHS. I would like to relate my experience at WTHS.

I came from a broken home. My dad walked out on my mother when I was nine years of age. She was left to raise four boys on her own.

Too proud for public assistance she took jobs doing domestic work and baby-sitting. She was barely able to put food on the table and our only heat source was a wood cook stove in the kitchen. Many winters I didn’t have a warm coat or adequate winter shoes.

At school I was warm and I swept and mopped the school cafeteria to get a free lunch. Along the way I had many kind and caring teachers. When I was in seventh grade one of my favorite teachers was Mary Queen, mother of Joe Sam Queen.

During my school years I had one big problem. I could always master math problems but I could never understand how you could look at a printed page in a book and read “See Spot Run”. As an adult I learned I had dyslexia. I have since often wondered if other students had similar problems. Back then teachers didn’t recognize disabilities or how to deal with them.

I could, however, step on the baseball or football field and excel. C.E. Weatherby told me I could get my college education through football if I would apply myself in the classroom. I found it easier to be the class clown than let my fellow classmates know I couldn’t read.

In the tenth grade M.H. Bowels met me in the hall and told me I was “a detriment” to the school and advised me to drop out of school and get a job, he stated my “rope had rune out”.

My mother would not allow me to drop out of school. She enrolled me at St. John’s Catholic School, the only private school in Haywood County at the time. The Sisters at the school quickly recognized I had a problem.

They took me in, pushed me to apply myself, would not allow classroom nonsense, and encouraged regular attendance. I only missed two days of school in my junior and senior years. I graduated in 1960 fourth in my class. Oh, there were four graduates that year.

My point – maybe there is a need for an alternative to public schools.

Alvin B. Gilliland