Category Archives: Nature

This week in Fossil Fuels: Coal giant bankrupt

By Christopher B. Daly

The market is trying to send a signal: the age of coal is over.

Is anyone listening?

In today’s news, the headline is the decision by Peabody, the largest coal producer in the U.S., to file for bankruptcy.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 9.32.39 AM Value of stock shares in Peabody (stock symbol BTU)

That step, combined with the recent prison sentence imposed on Massey’s top boss in pro-coal West Virginia, signals the collapse of coal as an economically viable fuel and the demise of coal as a political force in the states where it has long been a factor. (Are you listening Mitch McConnell?)

Those are the headlines. The trend they reflect is a decisive step away from burning carbon. There are now far more jobs in the U.S. in the emerging renewable-energy sector than in the moribund coal industry.

King Coal is dead.

At the funeral, I’d like to hear “Paradise” by John Prine:

When I was a child my family would travel
Down to Western Kentucky where my parents were born
And there’s a backwards old town that’s often remembered
So many times that my memories are worn.

And daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in asking
Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away

Well, sometimes we’d travel right down the Green River
To the abandoned old prison down by Airdrie Hill
Where the air smelled like snakes and we’d shoot with our pistols
But empty pop bottles was all we would kill.


Then the coal company came with the world’s largest shovel
And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land
Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken
Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man.


When I die let my ashes float down the Green River
Let my soul roll on up to the Rochester dam
I’ll be halfway to Heaven with Paradise waitin’
Just five miles away from wherever I am.


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Filed under coal, energy, fossil fuel, fossil fuels, history, Nature, Uncategorized

Photo gallery from Galapagos

By Christopher B. Daly 

Recently, I had the chance to visit one of the great destinations in the world — the Galapagos Islands, the equatorial archipelago in the Pacific made famous by the visit by Charles Darwin in 1835. Like many people, I have wondered about the Galapagos ever since first reading On the Origin of Species in college.

This trip was also a personal pilgrimage, to survey the place where my father-in-law, Army Lt. James W. Fishel, served during World War II. He and his men never surrendered an inch of territory to the Japanese (who did them the favor of not showing up).

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Noise pollution: a matter of life and death?

By Christopher B. Daly 

Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting in my backyard near Boston on a warm summer evening. I could hear the screech owls calling, as they have been doing every night this summer. I have heard them before in the yard, but always as migrants, passing through in the fall or spring. This year, I could pretty clearly make out a family group, based on the numbers and the calls for food from the fledglings.

Young screech owls / Audubon Society

Young screech owls / Audubon Society

This night was the hottest of the season so far, and I noticed something different: air conditioners were going, in our house and in the house next door. I found the noise annoying, but then I got to wondering how it affects the owls. After all, they need to use their ears to hunt. According to a wonderful book I am reading, Bird Sense, by Tim Birkhead, owls use their famously large, front-facing eyes mainly to navigate in flight to the vicinity of their prey. The “final approach” to the target is guided by hearing, through the owls’ equally famous ears.

But what happens when two air conditioners are roaring all night? Does the sound level interfere with hunting? Do the motors drown out the faint – but vital — scritch-scratchings in the undergrowth that the owls depend on?

I don’t know, but I do know that on that hot night, the owls moved off and went hunting elsewhere. Presumably somewhere quieter.





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