The road between Toledo and Cleveland has a lot of boring stretch-for-forever mileage on it. That’s what happens when you’re driving through Ohio; there’s a lot of flat farmland with cornfields and paint-chipped, derelict barns. There are a few landmarks that stick out to me as I drive on Route 2 – the alternative to the Turnpike and my preferred choice when I don’t want to pay the $5 toll.
One of the bigger treats is when I return to Toledo in the evening and the clouds are floating above the long expanse of arable land. The sun sinks around these globs of dark gray and white. And, as I drive over Sandusky Bay on a causeway that stretches northbound for a very short while, I am treated to a shimmering and almost-calm body of water to my west, the sun fighting for prominence as it reaches down and bathes the surface with effervescent oranges, reds, and a strange mix of purple and blue. It’s like some chemical spreads around and flickers like a malfunctioning flashlight.
Other evenings in late fall and intermittently throughout the winter months, the clouds swirl off Lake Erie and slam my car with large drops of rain, and the winds buffet my vehicle. On the lampposts, seagulls stand, some hunkering their heads into their breasts as the torrential elements coruscate around them. Others peer around on sentry, as if making sure each vehicle on this bridge has proper clearance. They are imperious and fearless. They have weathered much through years and years of rough January gales.
One bleak spot on this drive happens shortly after this bridge. On the right as I head westbound on Route 2 is the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant. Even if the skies rain blue and the sun bathes the entire earth with golden light, and even if there are no clouds and it is dead calm, the most beautiful summer’s day — the cooling tower rises up like an unearthly snout belching steam into the innocent sky. Every time I see one of these towers, I immediately feel unnerved, defenseless, tiny. It might have to do with The Simpsons and what I remember as a child, watching the episode when Homer saves Springfield from a meltdown. And knowing that if this melted down and I was nearby, I would not survive.
So as I pass the nuclear plant here in northern Ohio, the tower rises like a cyst on the earth. It is rusted, old, derelict – as if those who oversee its maintenance have left for better climes. The steam remains, smearing the blueness around the rest of the heavens, soon evaporating and becoming one with what was natural and whole and good. I always held a very heavy mistrust over this and other forms of energy that deface and impinge upon the earth in very invasive ways. I cringe – for instance – whenever I see a commercial about natural gas. Sure it might seem cleaner. But if things go wrong with the fracturing process, water can be polluted (hello, flammable tap water in Pennsylvania!) and possible shifts in the earth can occur (hello, Oklahoma earthquakes!). Oh, wait, but nothing’s gone wrong when we drill for other forms of fuel. Oil and coal – all good here. Just ask people in Alaska, the plains of Canada, all those on the Gulf of Mexico shoreline, New Zealanders, Nigerians. Just ask all the miners who get trapped from cave-ins and die early from black lung.
The nuclear plant that sits scarily close to the lake. The blemish on the lovely Ohio landscape. It provides a surprise for me at the beginning of October this year. As I drove back to Toledo, I noticed that steam was not gushing of it. It was shut down! After reading around, it’s for repairs. Apparently the outer shell of the plant had been damaged. And this is just not a one-time situation. Damage has been found over and over again, and not only this year. Previous decades have shown how ill-served this place is. Plant safety is laughable. They actually shut down the plant a few months ago to install a new 82-ton reactor head because the initial one had cracked. A very large hair-line crack. So right now – and still today when I finish writing this – no steam there to give us proof that this is indeed a working and efficient electrical plant. Scarily, this is not the only power plant in the country where these issues have been brought up; agencies have voiced their fears about the inadequacies of these stations and how they don’t meet standards of safety.
Too bad our government – well many in the government – feel as if environmental controls over these plants (and other methods of extracting fuel) is too much. It’s as if they all want us to die a slow death by injecting us with radioactive material; they want to kill as many wild animals and pollute as much of our drinkable water as they can! It’s evil. Evil, evil evil.
So on this Election Day 2011, a very important day in Ohio (however, not for environmental reasons), I will give all four of you who might read this a wonderful few minutes of escape from thinking about the world’s tomfoolery. A song I had forgotten about:
Go to 1:50 and you will be moved beyond recognition. At least I was. There’s such a glorious swell by the piano. Glorious, glorious. I was never an Amnesiac fan, but I embrace this song with every fiber of my heart.
Come on… come on… we rise tonight.