Sunday, May 5, 2013

Photo-of-the-Week #105 - Signs of the Times, New Creek, West Virginia, March 2012

What can I say? This is a true sign of the times. I'm in a small rural valley community in Mineral County, West Virginia. This is a place where people made their living for the last couple centuries farming, mining coal deep underground, timber harvesting and making paper at the historic Luke, Maryland paper mill on the Potomac River.

While all of the industries I just mentioned have been downsizing and declining in this region (as well as many other parts of the U.S.), two new industries have been evolving and expanding. Fifty years ago there were few, if any, electricity generating turbines in the U.S. and the first Walmart (#1) opened in Bentonville, Arkansas. Today this photo is representative of what is happening not only all over the U.S., but around the world as Walmart has become, from it's humble beginnings in a small rural community of 2,900, the largest retail organization in the world. The family controlled chain operates 8,500 stores in 15 countries. The store in this photo is one of the smaller Walmart 24 hour Super Centers. It has, of course, changed the landscape of retailing and has been the scourge of the small "Main Street, Mom and Pop" retail industry across the U.S.

The windmill farm on the mountain top behind the Walmart represents the controversial clean energy initiative in the U.S. This windmill farm has 23 of these huge units. Further south, on the ridge of another mountain, is, yet, another windmill farm larger than this one. These are actually small in comparison to a number of windmill farms I've seen in rural areas of the mid-west and the western regions of the U.S. While I don't know the actual employment and financial impact this ancient form of energy, but new form of electric generation, has had on the coal industry, I'm sure it has its significance in the big picture.

Personally, I'm torn. I shop at Walmart and appreciate the convenience. But, as a small business owner and operator (not retail, thankfully) throughout my lifetime, it bothers me to see it turning historic downtown districts into derelict ghost towns and taking away from the fabric of communities when you shopped at and supported your friends and neighbors who knew their customers and treated them well. The same goes for the windmills. They are becoming an eyesore just as power poles webbed with the electrical grid, radio and TV broadcast towers, TV antennas on homes and cellular telephone towers became eyesores. Yet, can we afford to keep impacting our environment and using natural resources like coal, oil and natural gas at ever expanding rates before we pollute the Earth beyond its ability to continue to support the human species, not to mention depleting these resources?

It's a Catch-22. As I said in an earlier post, "Too Many People."     


Melissa West said...

Good ol'Walmart! Don't want to live with it...can't live without it. Don't forget the greed of Walmart and it's ill treatment of employee's. They are like most big box retail. Only hiring at low salary part time (to avoid giving benefits) and so on and so forth. Destroying land for more shopping mall that usual go alone with those overly large Walmart stores.

I think we are already at the point of no return when it comes to depleting our natural resources. Sad really. Its not learning to use less its just our population has grown to large to be sustainable.

Marshall Ellgas said...

Those good ol' main street retailers often over charged and ran the small towns with their whims and morals. No more. The great equalizer named Walmart has put an end to that ugly era of arrogance. God Bless ol' Sam.