At this link is a magnificent collection of photos of some of the largest mining open pits and meteorite craters. The text that accompanies the photos is prejudiced: the message is that mining open pits have forever changed the landscape–although craters have had similar impact. You are left wondering what the writers really think.
I am in Iowa and this is a landscape like no other in North America. Without going in to detail, about 14,000 years ago glaciers retreated leaving behind rich clay-covered lands that now are highly productive of corn, soya bean, and the accompanying pigs, chickens, and breakfast cereals that “consume” said agricultural products.
The topography of Iowa is like no other: random, with flat areas in between crazy vallies, mounds, and wetlands on no erosional logic. It all reflects the happenstance of melting glaciers in last retreat.
Most of the flat land is corn and soya bean field. Where the land is rugged with vallies and mounds, are the dwelling places of the rich.
Today I spent a magic time on the 60 acre estate just recently bought by the son of old friends. We walked with grandkids and kids along grass lanes bordered by trees and ferns more lush than anything Disney ever imagined. We saw a deer bounding across the grass to a distant rise. We saw the sun dappled through the trees and the pond rippled by a light breeze.
The old house on the rise with a view is enormous: lots of small rooms and vain decorations. He and his wife will pull down walls, remove wall paper, tear out carpets, and make big, modern open spaces with money from parents who worked hard and did well, passing the money to the kids who now confess: “I do not know what I am going to do.”
“Maybe I will buy old tractors at auctions, fix the tractors up, and sell them to equally rich collectors. At least that will keep money moving through the system.”
His mother, who must be a multi-millionaire, still drives an old Mercury and frets about buying car seats for the grandkids at the Goodwill Store. She frets that “people are made to work.” But frets about two sons now luxuriating in unearned money, lack of skills, and the pleasure of doing nothing in particular.
Just a few miles away, I visited with an ex-son-in-law. At forty, he is still studying for something through one of those commercial colleges that provide him with large scholarships of government money. They seem to teach him nothing that can be turned into a paying job. Yet he persists, determined in the belief that, well-educated, he will get the high salary job and lots of money. Meanwhile he studies at taxpayer expense, sprout Libertarian philosophy, sleeps with the new girlfriend, and looks after his six kids, the eldest of whom may start work next week at the local hardware store if he can pull himself aways from the vicious girlfriend.
I remarked that these two instance prove the American way: many of all socio-economic strata do not work, do not produce, but live good lives on money from parents, taxpayers, and the wealth that underpins the system. It is not a Democrat or Republican thing; this is a competitive system that rewards those who work, supports those who need, and makes so much money that all can eat and sex well.
In a dull strip mall in a vast, dreary room of ugly proportions and excessive sound, I met those who are the leaders of the local construction union. They are young, motivated, hardworking, and from my perspective, honest, decent, and motivated. We talked of union politics; demands for an extra four to eight percent; the intrusion of non-union contractors to build the new university buildings; and the struggle to survive on fifty thousand a year.
I am in town to celebrate the graduation as a civil engineer of my younger daughter. I cried as she and the other new civil graduates passed over the stage to get their degrees. I reveled in conversation with the professors who taught them. I laughed and cried with the parents of the other girls who graduated as civil engineers with her, and their bright futures at seventy to one hundred thousand a year. I am jealous over their decisions to do masters and doctors degrees at the great university that is the University of Iowa. The future is theirs–what a wonderful promise and achievement.
I looked at the farms, the 60-acre estates, the dull bars where they drink, the union hall where they cooperate against venial corporations, the varsity halls of learning, and the small apartments where they live, and I am encouraged. For surely out of this diversity will come renewal and new life. Surely the deadweight of untaxed, inherited wealth, the moribund union demands, and the despair of not knowing what to do will be overcome by these new graduates and their new skills as civil engineers. For as civil engineers, we are charged with using the forces of nature for the benefit of mankind.
I know they will live up to this ancient and noble charge.