Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Changing skyline

I remember driving over bridges while descending into a new city at dusk or even dark and being awestruck by the skyline presently majestically in front of me. Still today, when I visit some cities, I buy a skyline view magnet and stick it on my refrigerator. When I move, the magnets and fond memories move with me.

Recently, I drove from Wellsboro, the mountainous borough where I live in north central Penna to Mansfield, the borough where my church building stands. On the way, I noticed, really noticed, what had been happening to our community over the last six months. Work crews have dramatically altered the night skyline!

Six months ago, work on gas lines for the Marcellus Shale drilling began in earnest. It was so quick that one day I could drive on any two-lane road and see farm country. Literally, the next day, the very next day, there would be a gas well blowing off excess gas through flames that were very tall. Derricks surrounded farmhouses while big red tanker trucks drove over our two-lane roads traveling at speeds only the very young would have driven the year before. Water fracking (basically, using water to explode shale) became part of the every day language of our community and talk of water shortage – in PENNSYLVANIA for goodness sakes! - is a concern as we begin to conserve water.

In the same six months, our communities joined the 21st century in another very important way – we got access to wind energy. Windmills – otherwise called wind turbines – sprouted like flowers on the mountain ridge. If I were to drive from Mansfield to Scranton (130 or so miles) I would pray for two things: no deer running down to the road and no truck carrying wind blades in front of me. Thus far, my angels have kept both from my path.

Last week, at dusk, I made the west to east road trip that comprises the 12 miles between Wellsboro and Mansfield. That night, for the very first time, I really saw the skyline as it has changed. The view is no longer merely replete with trees dormant, preparing to burst forth leaves in spring. Now it has derricks with night lights to keep low-flying air traffic (we do occasionally have a small plane here) from crashing and the wind turbines have red lights atop the blades that turn ever so slowly making and storing energy for later use.

This change has brought income to our community for many who often lived on the edge of poverty. One can only hope that local residents benefit as much from the gas exploration and wind power as have the companies that changed our skyline.

1 comment:

  1. Thinking about skylines at night I realize how long it has been since I drove that route at night and noticed anything different. I do know that the community has changed since I arrived here in 1974. There still are no skyscrapers bustling malls or deplorable electronic signage, but there has been change. New and refurbished schools, recreation areas and more stoplights, but the gas lights remain and folks still seem to value grassy parks and nature, but children don't "run the streets" or walk to school in "droves" and more parents work and there is more bustle expecially when there are special events, vacation times or buses roll in for leaf viewing, golf or simply tours. Is it good? I don't know. Things change and change can be hard but I really think that economic times ebb and flow...right now the seem to be enriched by gas and wind (no pun intended) will it last? Well, gas is finite, but God's wind will be around long after I am not. I grew up with old fashioned windmills in the midwest...they pumped water and gave us electricity on the farm. I guess I prefer windmills to coal pollution or a nuclear plant next door and they do have a kind of beauty as they lazily spin. Gas wells...I wonder what the long term result will be to the environment and to those who receive money from their exploitation. Will the money buy a better education for children or a secure old age? I hope so, but it can also buy irresponsibility when the money is used for unsafe, illegal, or anti societal activities. I hope not. Progress is good when it is guided by the desire to improve life not only materially but re values. I wonder what my grandchildren will think of "progress" when they are my age?