Hard answer

It plays out all over the country: the demand to maintain the standard of living of a highly industrialized and spoiled society as opposed to the present destruction of the environment and the prediction of far more devastation as we heat up the Earth, the only home we have.

Burning fossil fuel to produce electricity is a main source of the pollution of the atmosphere.Valiant efforts are being made all over to produce solar energy and to harness the power of the wind. But bringing that about is being slow and costly. In the meantime, life goes on, and the demand for energy only increases.

More pollution comes from burning gasoline in the millions of vehicles to which we are all so attached – so addicted, most of them occupied by one person, a car for every member of the family. That’s aside from 18-wheelers and their larger and smaller counterparts.

Manufacturers are coming out with more and more stripped-down, smaller vehicles that guzzle fewer gallons, but Americans are slow to give up our luxuries.

Coke from coal is necessary for manufacturing steel. How many objects made of steel do you touch every day?

That’s where Blount County comes in.

A Canadian company is petitioning for permission to mine in the Rosa area high-quality coal that will become coke necessary for the steel industry. Residents are up in arms at the likelihood that the petition will be granted. They fear the air pollution resulting from the inevitable coal dust. A registered nurse worries about the potential damage, especially to students in the nearby special-needs center.

Not smallest of concerns is the possibility of water pollution and loss of producing wells, such as were experienced when coal was mined in the area three decades ago.

Right up there with these distressing potential effects of the mining are aesthetics, which plays a big role in residents’ adamant opposition to the mining. They cherish the Locust Fork River and fear any violation of it, its inhabitants, its vegetation, the beauty of its banks and surrounding cliffs, hills, and mountains.

Can the need for the coke, the tax revenue the county might glean from the operation, the jobs it might bring outweigh the negatives the residents see as inevitable?

How can all the needs be met?

Whether or not, let it be said that without the persistent, sometimes strident, demands of those people who so fiercely love the Earth, the environmental strides that have been made – and there are those – likely would never have seen daylight.