By Bob Ferris
|Sketch at a Rail Road Siding by Carlene Marie Ramus|
Now being from the West, the first thing that I noticed about Nebraska is that it is flat. So it was a real treat that we were able to visit the viewing platform and get a panoramic view of the landscape before us. But what we saw through the protective fencing of this high perch was what photographer and friend Paul Anderson would so artfully capture from Blanchard Mountain south of Bellingham a year or so later: The massive size and length of a train loaded with Powder River Basin coal.
I am frequently asked why I jumped so hard and so quickly on the coal train issue in Bellingham and
|The View from the Observation Deck in Omaha|
Certainly, I knew about the issues of climate change, acid rain and the souring of our oceans as well as coal’s role in all those related global phenomena. In fact, one of the first papers that I wrote at UC Santa Cruz as a re-entry student in the early 1980s was a 10-page briefing paper on acid rain for my National Environmental Policy class. And I carried that coal awareness with me and expanded it through my work with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and later when I launched the “Fossil Free by ’33” campaign at the Community Environmental Council in Santa Barbara. All of this influenced me when I learned that coal trains could be in Bellingham’s future, but the Nebraska coal trains—like Paul Anderson’s powerful images—inspired me so much more deeply than any dry facts or abstract knowledge ever could.
|Bill McKibben and I greet folks in Bellingham.|