There are certain things that remind me that no matter how smart we Americans are as individuals, as a society we can be just cretinous.
Here’s the short list:
- The gasoline-powered automobile. For crying out loud, you can whisper a word into your iPhone and Google will fetch you the proper link. Can’t we do better than to keep driving the same noisy, polluting technology that you’d find in a Model T?
- The fact that we burn coal for half our electricity. The single most disgusting thing about our civilization, and I’m including the Disney Channel.
- Overhead power lines that blight our landscape.
Both of these last atrocities occur because electric power companies are capital-intensive businesses with lots of lobbying power and little competition that don’t really have to answer to their customers. Now that I think about it, that explains number one, too.
Of course, my argument against overhead power lines will never be as elegant as this little R. Crumb cartoon:
The fact that we allow our shared landscape to be mistreated this way by people whose only idea is a quick buck is evidence of a terrible deficiency of pride in our purple mountains’ majesty above the fruited plain.
Thanks to these overhead power lines, umpteen beautiful street trees are butchered every year. I constantly see maturing maples with beautiful round crowns pruned into horseshoes. The idea that grand old trees ought to be mangled simply because National Grid and NYSEG are too cheap to move the wires underground, where they belong, is enraging. A government of any sophistication would never allow it.
Plus, overhead power lines are dangerous in my part of the world, where the winter storms are severe. I lost power for five days this last week, along with several hundred thousand other people, because the trees snapped like Popsicle sticks in the recent ice storm, knocking out wires as they fell. People were crossing downed power lines to get to work. There was an even scarier four-day loss of power a few years ago in a similar storm, except that the temperatures dropped really low and the pipes in my house started freezing and my husband had to heat the chickens’ water on our gas grill.
R. Crumb’s view of progress is tragic, which may explain why he lives in France. Mine is not, thanks to Typepad, Wikipedia, and my beloved Blackberry. I like to think that to clear our skies of a mess of wires, electricity just needs somebody really entrepreneurial and consumer-focused to start a new kind of utility, somebody to give the screw one more turn. After all, you used to have to plug into a phone line to access the Internet, so why not WiFi power?