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Richard N. Bedard of Columbia Falls owns a real estate company and sells antiques and collectable books. He worked as a teaching principal and welder.
Big, anything big, generates interest and debate, especially here in rural, coastal Washington County, as it should. The largest flagpole in the world, which would be visible off our coast, began as an idea, a dream in the mind of Morrill Worcester, who shared this with us for many years.
Due to Worcester’s entrepreneurial success in the wreath business and the spin-off of Wreaths Across America, his idea grew bigger to include the addition of a theme park to honor America’s military history and all those who have been involved in it, to be called Flagpole of Freedom Park. This was to be a for-profit business and would be funded by private funds, at a current estimated cost of more than $1 billion.
Based on what I have been hearing and reading, there are those in favor due to job creation and their strong feelings regarding the American flag and all it represents; but others have a serious concern regarding the environmental impact along with potential social changes in this Down East region, from Ellsworth to Calais.
My own personal experience with Big took place in the early 1970s, which some of our older generation may also recall — Big Oil. That proposal, much larger than that of Worcester, came about due to our deepwater shoreline that could allow large supertankers to bring in crude oil that would be refined in the refineries that would be built inland. Yet, it never happened.
History tells us that Robert Thomas Malthus may have gotten it wrong in 1798, or maybe the industrial revolution only altered the timeline in ways that he could not have imagined, as he had no crystal ball then, as we have none now. However, it is wise to keep in mind some basic facts that demand that we all give more thought to what we do today, to protect our planet and insure a reasonable longevity for our species.
The population of modern Homo sapiens required 100,000 years to reach about 2 billion of us in 1900. And, in only another 122 years that number has exploded into nearly 8 billion!
No further explanation of the consequences of such growth needs to be repeated here, as our daily news outlets are making it clear, based on good science, that big numbers of humans are a factor that must be considered seriously by all passengers currently on this spaceship.
Unlike the early developmental period in America when men like Morrill Worcester were needed and well rewarded for everything they did in the name of progress — creating jobs, etc. — we are becoming more aware, but not necessarily wiser, about the potential collision of jobs versus the environment, that includes the social environment along with the planet’s resources.
This has always been more obvious to the scientists than it has been to the average citizen. As a teacher I often wrote on the black board, “Worry causes ulcers — concern makes for good citizens.”
There is no simple solution to the very complex problem faced by our generation. After being elected at MIT to be a citizen adviser to the federal government about environmental matters, I believed that every community in America wanted an environmentally friendly industry to locate nearby that would create jobs, with a bare impact due to pollution and resource use.
Worcester’s proposal seems to come as close to that as we can hope for regarding job creation. However, there is much discussion about potential social changes that always come along with Big. The small town of Columbia Falls must do its best to try and reach a balanced reaction to all this, and so far our selectpersons have been working hard at it.
The future will require a balancing act in all things beyond anything we can imagine today. The need for jobs will only increase as the resources decrease; and the consequences of our way of life will be under tremendous pressure to adjust to a safer, saner way of existence. Being aware of all this solves nothing; but being unaware of how our current actions will affect generations to come is not very wise.
Understanding various sides to each issue may not be a blessing, but it seems to be understandable in those with an agnostic mind. The path forward will always involve taking it when one comes to the fork in the road. Then cross our fingers and hope for the best.