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  • Nora Koch

The tree we lamented losing last fall has begun to come down on it's own. Today Peter asked me if I'd seen what was in the street. I was afraid to look; afraid it was some poor hapless animal, but it was a big limb of our tree.

Peter called the city and within minutes the supremacists were back.

I ran out to tell them about my blog post from last fall and was surprised to meet Timothy.

"I am Cambodian," Timothy Oeun, told me.

I loved it!

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  • Nora Koch

Updated: Dec 14, 2021

Today I heard the whine of incessant chainsaws. “There goes my nap,” I thought. Then I sat in my chair and looked out the window. There was a large white truck parked in front of our neighbor John’s place and emerging from the top of the truck a long arm at the end of which was a bucket. There were two men in it. They were beginning to take down the ill-fated ash tree in the boulevard. It's not the only one that needs to come down.

Instead of despairing over my nap, I decided to watch. It was like watching ballet.

Two young men traded turns at cutting branches from the tree, systematically handing off the chainsaw as one or the other of them got tired. One of them was responsible for deftly moving the arm holding the bucket so that they were in perfect position to cut the next branch and still be in position to fling it onto the growing pile of branches below. As one cut, the other grabbed the section that was to be detached from the tree in a specific way so that it’s weight, once cut, would not cause the chainsaw to backlash. At the same time the branch would be supported so that it could be easily flung onto the tidy heap on the pavement in front of the truck. They kept the pile to a small, efficient footprint. It was obvious that they both had to be physically strong to maintain the cutting, throwing and coordinated changes without a break. They also needed to be aware of traffic and each other to work together flawlessly.

I watched for about a half hour and then decided I could probably at least rest, even though this was going on not far from the bedroom. I settled in, eyes covered with scarf, cat ensconced in the crook of my arm, and soon the whine slowed and then stopped altogether.

Forty-five minutes later I was astonished to find the truck gone and no trace of a branch left in the street.

Next summer, at our request a large damaged Basswood tree on the edge of our yard is slated to come down. I’ve asked that they wait until “our” squirrels are well out of it in the spring. It is going to be a hard loss for them, and us.

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  • Nora Koch

Updated: Jan 7, 2022

Change is coming to my old neighborhood. The largest solar power array in Wisconsin will go into the neighborhood where my parents settled for thirty years after we left the dairy farm of my childhood. We lived there while I attended High School. I feel the grief I'd feel if a housing development was planned for the area, or a factory farm. The solar array overwhelms far more of the countryside than those possibilities.

The developers forecast a lifespan of forty years for the array. We are assured that natural plantings will preserve the soil and deter run-off (which they probably will), that grazing may be a possibility (hope so, but doubt it), and that the land can be returned to agriculture after the solar array has fulfilled its purpose, which is to provide low-cost energy (a little bit of investigation will show you that it is not low cost), to Western Wisconsin and contribute to the economic growth of the area. The economic growth goes to the people who rent out their land for this purpose. The panels will stand as tall as full-grown corn. I’m not a fan of cornfields, but the solar panels will not follow the topography of the landscape nearly as organically as the corn now does. The thought of the visual intrusion on the countryside of big square photovoltaics leaves me cold. What affect will they have on wildlife such as amphibians, birds, and anything else? They are ugly; jarring in a bucolic setting. The same can be said for wind turbines. Neither of these forms of energy production are reliable or cost effective. Please watch this: The great Texas freeze

The look of the landscape will be drastically changed for a long time. It will be filled with mechanical panels, impregnated with chemicals, some of them dangerous, such as gallium arsenide (GaAs), not plants. Years ago, as an Art major at UWRF, I was required to take Great Ideas in Science with Virginia Akins*, in addition to regular science requirements, to fulfill a well-rounded liberal arts education. Ironically, although I wouldn’t have elected to take it, it turned out to be one of my favorite classes. I loved Dr. Akins as a teacher; she was funny and intelligent and intense. In her class we covered pollution of various sorts; one variety of which visual pollution, was most compelling to me. This solar array falls in that category.

Dostoyevsky wrote that the world would be saved by beauty. What effect will the sight of the solar array have on the people who live in the neighborhood? I recall the dismay expressed in an interview by a woman who’s neighborhood had become the site of a fracking operation. Her once peaceful area was now the scene of blasting with countless trucks hauling sand going by. No more peace and quiet for her. She breathed the same air, albeit a bit dustier; the water she drank was probably not sullied, but her life was diminished by what was going on around her. The lives of those living in the neighborhood, looking out on a solar array will be diminished aesthetically, probably chemically and dare I say spiritually.

The life span of photovoltaics is 20 years. There are risks that come with it: Will it be maintained? Will it be cleaned up; where will the scrap go? There in the land of the deplorables?

What's wrong with wind and solar?

* I apologize for misspelling Dr. Akins' name, as pointed out in an anonymous snail mail letter I received today telling me I should "learn to spell before you blog."

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