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Aid and counsel

SoVaNow.com / September 20, 2018
There are two ways to respond to Hurricane Florence: the first, and clearly the more important right now, is to do everything we can to help our fellow citizens and communities brought low by the storm. Everyone has seen the pictures and the TV clips and the news reports: what’s happening to our neighbors in North Carolina is heart-rending, and maybe more affecting than usual — lots of us have friends and families in the Tarheel State. This is also a Grace-of-God moment for Southside Virginia: if not for a late southerly turn in the hurricane’s march, the same devastation could have been visited upon us.

So by all means, help out however you can: there are no shortage of ways to do so, whether it’s by donating to the American Red Cross or to local groups such as God’s Pit Crew in Danville, or simply by dropping off items for hurricane relief efforts that are popping up around town. They will be many ongoing opportunities to help the Carolinas as they rebuild.

The second thing we should be doing, long overdue, is to commit ourselves to the idea that it is genuinely dangerous for the planet to be heating up and humankind is only making the problem worse. The impact of climate change on specific weather events can be tricky to determine, but it’s basic science that warmer air and oceans make natural disasters more extreme, whether we’re talking about Florida’s crippling red tide or unprecedented wildfires out west. Coming on the heels of Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Florence, too, represents something we haven’t seen before: an extremely large, extremely wet storm so powerful even the remnants can deliver death and destruction days later. Harvey and Florence have shattered the norms for what we expect of hurricane rainfall over a wide area. It’s virtually certain we’re doing this to ourselves.

The mere mention of “climate change” never fails to gin up the right-wing noise machine, although it’s never been entirely clear to me why one of our two major political parties would adopt the attitude that science is bunk and there are some things about the physical world we’ll never know and should stop inquiring about. Aside from the fact this argument has been a loser since the Stone Ages, it also precludes the possibility that transitioning to a carbon-free economy would be a huge win for places like Southside Virginia. We already are looking at the reasonable expectation that hundreds of construction jobs will be created with solar generation projects in Halifax County alone. But this only scratches the surface of what we could (and should) be doing. Southside Virginia’s best asset may be its open land. This is a commodity that will only increase in value if we ever move away from digging our energy out of the ground — or allowing some rather nasty regimes around the world to do the dirty work for us.

On that note, one of the greatest fears with Florence’s catastrophic flooding of North Carolina is that communities may soon find themselves awash with spilled wastes from industrial hog farming operations and coal ash pits. The latter possibility is very much in keeping with our column last week, which addressed the madness of allowing open pit uranium mining in southern Virginia. This has become a huge deal once again with the U.S. Supreme Court’s upcoming review of a Virginia Uranium lawsuit to overturn the state’s mining ban. Start with pig poop and coal ash and change up the equation to add in radioactive mine tailings, and you’ve got a genuinely terrifying prospect. But will it make an impact on the Supreme Court?

The fact that four justices agreed to grant Virginia Uranium its appeal does not mean they have made up their minds on the matter, but nor does it support the assurances of mining opponents (no matter how justified their legal reasoning may be) that Virginia Uranium v. Warren is a clear-cut case of state’s rights preempting federal regulatory authority. If that’s the case, why are we even here in the first place?

Final thought: whatever you may think of the accusation of attempted rape by Brett Kavanaugh when he was a 17-year-old high school student — the allegation comes from Christine Basey Ford, a California psychology professor who attended a nearby girls school during Kavanaugh’s time at all-boys Georgetown Prep (and yes, I find her account entirely believable) — no one who fears uranium mining in Southside Virginia should want Kavanaugh within a country mile of the Supreme Court. He’s a corporate shill of the first order, other attributes notwithstanding. It’s precisely because of ideologues and partisan hacks such as Kavanaugh worming their way into prominent judicial positions that communities lose ground to multinational corporations that can always be counted upon to put profits before people. Would Kavanaugh, if confirmed, provide a fifth vote on the high court to overturn Virginia’s mining ban? That’s a question we really don’t need an answer to.

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Today’s News & Record is going out to more than 17,000 households in Halifax County — our second mass-mailing of the summer/fall season while our annual subscription campaign is in effect. We hope you like what you see, and invite you to subscribe for the year to the N&R (still the best bargain in town for only $16). I won’t bore anyone with the details of we do, because the product of that work effort is in your hands and who are you going to trust anyway, a small-town newspaper columnist or your own lying eyes? The bigger point here is that we appreciate what YOU do, by supporting us with your readership and advertising patronage and plain old input, pro and con, on the things we’re doing (or should be doing.) A good newspaper is an essential part of any vibrant community. Keeping that bond alive and strong is our pledge to you.

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