Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Will climate change mean less coal through Duluth?

Last night we enjoyed a boat tour of Duluth's inner and outer harbor. To be honest, as interesting as it was, it mostly made me nostalgic for Boston Harbor. I keep experiencing cognitive dissonance when I'm near Lake Superior because my history tells me that this much water is supposed to have a salt smell, which is clearly missing from Superior. I'm not sure whether I'm glad we weren't here Sunday night. Talking to one of the staff at Duluth Trading this morning, he said he's never seen anything like the lightning that lit up the sky Sunday night.

I accomplished something else this morning enables me to scratch "visit Hawk Ridge" from my bucket list. I've been coming to Duluth off and on for many years, and have, of course, heard a lot about Hawk Ridge. I just could never seem to fit a visit into my schedule. This morning, I got there and saw for myself that it offers not only a vantage point for seeing migrating raptors, but also a great place to take pictures of Superior, like this one. The ship on the right is anchored directly off our hotel room where I'm writing this.

Lake Superior from Hawk Ridge, Duluth
Lake Superior from Hawk Ridge, Duluth
Photo by J. Harrington

Part of the harbor tour narrative noted that lots of coal gets shipped out. According to the Port's web site, about 40% of the cargo through Duluth is low sulphur coal. I wonder how long that will continue as utilities move away from burning coal to generate electricity. A quick online check to see if any of Minnesota's response to climate change reports talk about that issue found Minnesota 2020's report that doesn't touch on reduced coal shipment through Duluth. I'll be interested to see what's said when and if they update it. If we ever get really serious about reducing green house gases, it's going to require more changes than remembering to turn out the lights when we leave the room. It will probably turn out to be a new day dawning on Duluth, with different opportunities but good ones. That's probably going to be true for all of us. I certainly don't miss banking the coal fire in the basement furnace, one of my chores when I was a kid in Boston.

a new dawn on Superior at Duluth
a new dawn on Superior at Duluth
Photo by J. Harrington

Banking Coal

By Jean Toomer 

Whoever it was who brought the first wood and coal
To start the Fire, did his part well;
Not all wood takes to fire from a match,
Nor coal from wood before it’s burned to charcoal.
The wood and coal in question caught a flame
And flared up beautifully, touching the air
That takes a flame from anything.

Somehow the fire was furnaced,
And then the time was ripe for some to say,
“Right banking of the furnace saves the coal.”
I’ve seen them set to work, each in his way,
Though all with shovels and with ashes,
Never resting till the fire seemed most dead;
Whereupon they’d crawl in hooded night-caps
Contentedly to bed. Sometimes the fire left alone
Would die, but like as not spiced tongues
Remaining by the hardest on till day would flicker up,
Never strong, to anyone who cared to rake for them.
But roaring fires never have been made that way.
I’d like to tell those folks that one grand flare
Transferred to memory tissues of the air
Is worth a like, or, for dull minds that turn in gold,
All money ever saved by banking coal.

Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.