July 17th, 2004


John the Environmentalist

Well, yesterday I joined PennEnvironment, an organization devoted to saving open spaces in Pennsylvania. I hadn't planned on it. I was in my breezeway, gassing up my lawn tractor in preparation of going after a lawn that had gotten ahead of me, when a young woman strolled up my driveway and said hello. She launched into her prepared speech about threats from developers to open spaces. Before I knew it I was giving her a one-time donation in exchange for two pamphlets. (She apologized for running out of membership kits, but told me everything except a bumper sticker could be found at http://www.PennEnvironment.org.) I am such a sucker for young people who are earnest about a good cause.

I guess I've been an environmentalist of sorts ever since working on my ecology merit badge at Seven Mountains Boy Scout Camp. I'm no radical tree-hugger, though. I'm for balancing development with protecting the environment. I actually found myself annoyed at environmentalists who blocked the completion of what was originally called the State College bypass (now the Mt. Nittany Expressway). People today would not believe how congested State College streets used to be before this highway finally began diverting traffic around our town. The middle section of the bypass lay unfinished for years and years, blocked by environmental action, while the completed sections deteriorated by weather and eventually had to be replaced. Now everyone takes the expressway for granted, oblivious to the impact it has on reducing congestion downtown.

Now, if the engineers could only hurry up and repair the environmental damage on the Interstate 99 project. This project was another one that was initially delayed by concerns about how the highway might hurt the environment. Finally, the work got underway, and the portion I need for my commute to work in DuBois was to have been completed this year. That was, until people realized that massive amounts of excavated iron pyrite were threatening the watershed with acid runoff. What a screw-up. Looks like a couple more years of crawling on U.S. 322 through Port Matilda.