Bladen County is in a good position to conserve natural resources to fuel more economic growth, but we better not wait too long. As one of 96 North Carolina counties included in the drought of 2007, Bladen residents are watching their corn fields and hardwood trees turn brown early this year. After the devastating Easter weekend freeze, local farmers are taking yet another hit as precious crops dry out in the fields from lack of rain.
For the future, local planners look at the Cape Fear River to supply water for green lawns and greenbacks from profitable industries, as the underground aquifer is beginning to run low. Upstream in the headwaters of the Cape Fear, water from the Deep River is backing up behind the Randleman Dam to create a 3,000 acre reservoir that will supply water to Greensboro, High Point and other cities in the crowded Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina.
The Triad has suffered from a shortage of water for years and now clean air is also in short supply. In the Triad, local health departments issue ozone alerts on hot days and warn people to stay indoors if they can. Older and younger people, especially those with medical problems, can find the simple act of breathing to be a health hazard. Thankfully, Bladen County is not to that point at this time. There are enough trees out there to filter and cool the air so it is safe to breathe, although nothing really helps with the oppressive humidity endemic to the eastern part of the state during August.
Whether or not people agree with the global warming theory, it is past time to acknowledge that our climate is changing. To survive, we must all adjust accordingly.
For instance, to reduce the stress on our breathing air and beat the high price of foreign oil, we can all drive less and walk more. That, of course, goes against the American tradition of enjoying the unlimited freedom of the highway, of cruising in our cars more for recreation than transportation. If we do not adapt, that tradition may one day go the way of the horse and buggy.
For most people, automobiles are the only practical way to get to work because many workers must commute longer distances. Mass transit is only available in larger North Carolina cities so rural residents must run the roads or stay home, and that is usually not an option for working people with families to feed.
We can muzzle our love for speed and horsepower by driving more fuel efficient vehicles, or just by driving fewer miles on the cars we already own. Consider combining trips to save gas and reduce the amount of pollution in our breathing air. Any decent mechanic will agree that keeping tires pumped up and engines in tune will save a lot of energy.
Hopefully, at some point, we will realize that the spirit of American ingenuity is not dead, that a new generation of Henry Fords and Thomas Edisons will come along to develop cleaner sources of energy. That way we can happily burn up the roads and light up the night without choking on our own waste.
I have friends who dismiss such concerns as they fill up their gas guzzlers while leaving their house lights and yard sprinklers on all the time. They say it is too late to change our ways, that we must be forever slaves to fossil fuels and internal combustion engines.
I hope they are wrong and not just because of the reemerging energy crisis (remember the gas lines of the 1970s?) that will affect all of us to some degree. It saddens me to think that so many people feel that this is the best we can do, because no one is willing to invest the time and talent required to develop clean energy sources that will not harm us.
Personally, I have more faith in human nature than that. In the optimistic part of may brain, I am certain that somebody will come up with a clean and green solution to our energy woes. Let us hope it comes from an American genius and not a researcher from some unfriendly nation who will use that power to subjugate us economically.
Perhaps there is a student in the Bladen County school system who may grow up to provide some of the answers we need to preserve our natural resources and comfortable quality of life. That is not such a strange idea because Bladen did produce an astronaut, Curtis L. Brown Jr., who piloted the space shuttle on scientific missions high above the planet.
I just hope we do not have to wait too long.
—Walter Taylor is a staff writer for the Bladen Journal. He can be reached at 862-4163, or via e-mail at email@example.com.