Source: offtheshelf.com

Ever since living in Israel and working at the Environmental Health Laboratory of the University of Jerusalem, I’ve been very aware of water. How limited fresh water resources are. How fragile.

When our well went dry last year — not for the first time — it was brought home with the greatest possible force that the one thing we cannot live without is drinkable water.

Without fresh water, our world is over. Think about it. Read about it. Don’t pretend it’s going to go away and never be your problem. It is everybody’s problem.

See on Scoop.itBooks, Writing, and Reviews


The horrors of the late 21st century were — as we all know — at the root of the collapse of hominids as Earth’s dominant species. It is a cautionary tale for every species — two, four, six, or eight-legged.

Insults to Earth had accumulated over many centuries. It would be unfair — and inaccurate — to lay the entire blame for the disaster on earth’s twenty-first century humans. Nonetheless, it is equally impossible to excuse their failure to take measures that could have short-circuited the holocaust. To this day, their silence in the face of their demise is impenetrable to us, the remaining species of our planet.

what the frackThe final breach of the planet’s integrity was the corporate sponsorship of “fracking.” Cracking the earth’s core caused major instability everywhere it was practiced. History tells of the violent earthquakes which destroyed entire regions. The loss of North America’s West Coast and the formation of the Kansas seacoast are permanent reminders.

One of our most popular exhibits is a virtual trip through the submerged cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles. If you are interested in this tour, please sign up at the Activities desk in the lobby. Participation is by appointment only.

The birth of active and highly destructive volcanoes was another direct result of fracking. Newly born volcanoes burst from the ground in regions like New England and the Midwest. The desolation of cities and farmland, the concomitant poisoning of aquifers, wholesale elimination of other species, the demise of bees and other pollinators resulted in global defoliation and total crop failure.

Most noteworthy, the loss of the life-giving Amazon rain forests made it impossible for humankind to make a comeback as a species. I know there are those among you — especially our canine citizens — who mourn the loss of humans. We share your pain. We believe other cross-species relationships will fill that gap. Apes, monkeys, elephants and other creatures stand ready to help you through this difficult time.

Some progress has been achieved by reinventing tennis balls. Please note the big green ball bins located throughout this building. You are free to grab as many balls as you can carry in your jaws and are welcome keep them as souvenirs on your departure.

Despite the evidence before their eyes, human beings remained absorbed by their petty concerns. Hooked to devices and mobile gadgets, they ignored the world around them until the world was no longer there.

These artifacts from the peak of human inventiveness are a poignant reminder of what can happen to a dominant civilization. The banning of electronic communication (2074 and afterward) was insufficient to restore human culture. Even the replacement of internal combustion engines with vehicles powered by sun, wind –and in the case of dirigibles, hot air — were not nearly enough.

Too little, too late. How sad the community of nations failed to act in coördination until the glaciers had already eliminated so much that can never be restored.

We at the Hominid Overview of Lost Arts (HOLA) work to uncover remnants of human civilization wherever it lies buried. Whether under the glacial plains of Europe and North America or in the rubble pits of the Indian Subcontinent, our army of archeologists is ever-busy. Someday, we hope to understand the entirety of the calamity.

Welcome to our exhibit. Please remove your shoes at the door. Our rugs are soft and comfortable. Sound boosting equipment is available free from the Courtesy Desk.

Please remember your company manners. Rude, annoying, loud, or obnoxious individuals will be forcibly ejected without warning.

Thank you, and welcome to HOLA!

From the Collection of the Artist – A hundred years from now, a major museum is running an exhibition on life and culture as it was during our current historical period. You’re asked to write an introduction for the show’s brochure. What will it say?



Born Bankrupt

America was born bankrupt. We won a revolution, but lost everything else. Our economy depended on Great Britain. We produced raw material, but England turned materials into goods.

Battle of Lexington and Concord revolution

Not merely did we depend on the British to supply us with finished goods we could not produce ourselves, we depended on British banks, shipping, and trade routes.

Everything has a price and we had no money. We hoped we could reach an agreement with England short of war and had there been a different monarch on the throne, we might have been able to. Despite the Massachusetts “Sam Adams faction” most colonists felt at least some allegiance to England.

We had no “American identity” because there was no America with which to identify. What colonists wanted were the rights of free Englishmen. A deal should have been reached, but George III said no. It was war. England lost their wealthiest colonies and we were born.

How did we win the war? George Washington did an amazing job considering what he had to work with. And then, there were the French.

French military support was the key. Ships, guns, mercenaries. It was a loan we agreed to pay back. The French revolution was a stroke of luck indeed. Afterwards, when Napoleon suggested we repay our war debt, we said “What war debt?” Phew.

What Did We Have?

Slaves and land. Sugar and rum. Most slaves lived in the south, but were brought here by New England sea captains. Held in New York, and Boston, sold to slavers at northern markets, they were then sent south to be resold to individual owners. Our entire economy was based on slaves.

The new-born United States had no factories, no national bank, currency, credit, courts, laws, or central government. Even before 1776, slavery was the polarizing issue in the colonies. When it came time to write a Constitution, it was obvious abolishing slavery would doom it, so slavery became law, laying the groundwork for America’s bloodiest war.

87 years later, more than 600,000 lives would be the butcher’s bill for that “deal.” It would twist and distort American history, shape our politics, society, culture, and social alignments. Its legacy remains. When you dine with the Devil, bring a long spoon.

Welcome to the Blackstone Valley

People needed work. Trade goods. If this country was going to develop into anything, it needed reliable sources of income.

Slave and rum might work for a few, but most settlers didn’t own ships. Moreover, slaving was never a profession for “nice folks.” Decent people might live off the labor of slaves, but actually buying and selling people was more than they could stomach.

As great minds gathered in Philadelphia to draft a document to build a nation, other great minds sought ways to make money. It’s the American way.

Renovated into elderly and affordable housing, the old Crown and Eagle mill in Uxbridge is beautiful today.

The Crown and Eagle Mill today, renovated into elderly and affordable housing.

As the Constitution went into effect in 1789, the American Industrial Revolution took shape on the banks of the Blackstone River.

Moses Brown had been fighting his own war. He was battling the Blackstone. With a 450 foot drop over a 46-mile course — an average drop of about 10 feet per mile — the Blackstone River is a powerhouse. Not a wide river, its sharp drop combines with its narrowness and meandering path to give it much more energy than a river of this size should generate.

As the Constitution was gaining approval, Brown tried to build a cotton thread factory in Pawtucket, RI at a falls on the Blackstone River. He was sure he could harness the river to power his mill, but at the end of 1789, the score stood at Blackstone River – 1, Moses Brown – 0.

America had her welcome mat out in those days. We needed people. We weren’t picky. All immigrants were welcomed, a stroke of luck for Moses Brown.

Slaterville Mill -- oldest mill in the Blackstone Valley

Slaterville Mill — oldest mill in the Blackstone Valley

In December 1789, Samuel Slater — a new immigrant from England — began working for Brown. Slater was an engineer with years of experience working in English textile mills. In less than a year, he built a working mill on the Blackstone River. America’s first factory was open for business.

Slaters Mill restoration (museum)

Slater’s Mill restoration (museum)

Mills sprang up everywhere along the Blackstone. From Worcester to Providence, its banks were lined with mills and factories. More sprouted by the Merrimack and eventually, everywhere in New England where a river ran.

The Blackstone Canal

What made the Blackstone a natural for generating power made it useless for shipping. Horse-drawn wagons were slow and expensive. It took 2 to 3 days over dirt roads from Worcester to Providence.


When winter came, the trip was impossible. All of which led to the building of the Blackstone Canal.

What Does This Have To Do With Slavery?

Mills brought employment to the north. It created an industrial base which would give the north the ability to fight a civil war and win. It started with the river, continued with a canal, expanded with railroads. Which is why the Blackstone Valley is the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution … a revolution that brought the U.S. into the modern world and positioned us to become top dog on the international scene.


The canal system remains largely intact. Trails along the canals where horses towed barges are walking paths. Barges are gone, but small boats enjoy the open stretches of canal and river.


Railroads were the game-changer. When rail arrived, the canal was abandoned. Business boomed.

By the end of the 19th century, the Blackstone River was lined with mills and factories. The Blackstone supplied the hydro power and in return, the river was used to dispose of industrial waste and sewage.


By the early 1900s, the Blackstone River in Massachusetts was grossly polluted. This was also the beginning of the end of the textile industry in the northeast and the beginning of mass unemployment in the north.

As of 1923, the majority of nation’s cotton was grown, spun and woven down south — and that’s where the mills went. One by one, they closed, never to reopen. Without its mills and factories, the valley’s population began to shrink.


In 1971, the Blackstone River was labeled “one of America’s most polluted rivers” by Audubon magazine. It was the low point. Time to clean up the mess.


We’re still cleaning up. Although not as bad as it was, the watershed isn’t clean yet. Against all logic and reason, waste-water is still being discharged from a sewage treatment plant in Millbury. It’s hard to fathom the reasoning, if any, of those knuckleheads still pouring sewage into our river.


Good news? The birds and fish are back. American eagles nest in my woods. Herons and egrets wade in the shallows to catch the fish who breed here. The river is alive, if not entirely well. An apt description of our nation too.


Ice and snow still covers our land. It snowed several inches overnight. But it’s warmer today. Above freezing for the first time in weeks. I believe this is the first day of the great melting. Everything is dripping.

72-birds in the bush_023

I opened my window. I was able to pull off the sheath of ice which has clung to the window frame for weeks. I looked below and saw that birds had gathered.

72-birds in the bush_007

This land is home for many creatures, humans being the only primate. Some years, a bobcat lived here. Those years, we had few small animals. Our local bobcats are about the size of a large house cat, but powerful for their size, with a voracious appetite for squirrels, chipmunks, and rabbits.

72-birds in the bush_029

We have birds. Buntings, woodpeckers, chickadee, robins, cardinals, jays, crows, hawks, American eagles. Big red-winged hawks who like to chow down in our driveway. It isn’t a charming sight. I’m always grateful when the big birds leave and take their leftovers with them.

72-Vertical-birds in the bush_008

Coyotes are always nearby, as are fishers, raccoon, and skunk. Opossum, snakes, chipmunk. Our greatly reduced squirrel and rabbit population hasn’t quite rebounded from several years of depredations by bobcats. The cats have moved on to other hunting grounds. I hope our squirrels and bunnies will be back.

I hear owls, though have never see them. There are deer in the woods. Garry sees them from time to time. I’ve caught glimpses, but never a clear view.

72-birds in the bush_032

This morning, the birds were camped out in the frosty forsythia hedge. It must provide something they can eat. While I watched, a dark furry shape slunk by. Fisher? Fishers have returned to the valley after having been hunted to near extinction. Now, they vie with human for space to hang out in the sun … and being rather bad-tempered and sharp-clawed, usually take the field. One of them takes over our back yard on warm summer days. He likes napping in the sunny areas and does not (apparently) want human company.

The birds are not afraid of the fisher. Their perches on the forsythia put them above the fisher. He cannot get them. He knows it. They know it. He moved on, hoping for an unwary chipmunk or a juicy rat. Pickings have been lean for prey and predator on this  land, this winter.

72-birds in the bush_031a

I like our land as it is. We use a bit for the house, a bit more for two small yards, front and back, and a driveway. The rest of our acreage belongs to the wild things.

A Plot of Earth – You’re given a plot of land and have the financial resources to do what you please. What’s the plan?