headwater streams

They’d seen the world go by outside the Impala’s windows, innumerable lives glimpsed. They’d flown through roads twisting along the Pacific coast, listening to the surf crash against the high bluffs there, the sound of the gulls crying high overhead. They’d seen little Midwest towns decked out for the fourth of July, everything draped in red, white, and blue, the boy scouts marching in the parade. They’d seen just about every monument and attraction- from Mt. Rushmore to Gettysburg to the world’s biggest ball of twine. They’d caught salmon trying to swim to the headwaters of cold mountain streams and lazy catfish down deep in the Mississippi. They’d passed by funeral processions and wedding caravans, shoes and kitchen utensils hanging from the undercarriage.

They’d seen kids of every size and shape and color playing every game under the sun, their activities only limited by the bounds of their imaginations and the amount of daylight left. They’d seen untouched snowfall on pines of the far north and the scorching deserts no human could tolerate for long. They’d listened to cicadas whirr and peepers croak in the trees on still southern evenings when the humidity made those last daylight hours a haze of honey-colored sun. They’d crunched apples pulled off Appalachian trees, smelled sweet, fresh-cut hay of the western plains, watched cotton bob in the Indian-summer breeze.

The Winchesters had seen it all, but blessed few had ever really seen them, seen them for what they were. At most they were a couple guys in a big black car and then nothing but the lingering smell of gasoline and a black smear on the horizon.

After they were gone the country didn’t change much. The air still smelled sweeter after a rain, the best ice-cream money could buy was still up in Amish country, and kids still played madly in the streets of their hometowns, those asphalt tracks holding worlds and worlds of possibilities.

But sometimes, on a late-August day deep in the afternoon, the kind of afternoon that’s so hot nothing moves- not kids, not bees, not even the air- there would be a shimmer on the road and little stirrings in the grass clippings and gravel there.

On cold mornings in New England- dark mornings that come to early and that are so bitterly cold your lungs deflate and your sinuses sting- sometimes there would be a puff of exhaust curling in the air when no car had passed by and the pattern of the snowfall would change a little bit, swirling around something that was no longer there.

Occasionally those winding Pacific coast roads would still crunch and a burst of wind rattle the leaves on trees nearby, even on days with no cars, no weather to be seen, the kind of sudden breeze that hits you after a car flies by, hugging the curves, reveling in acceleration.

The Winchesters had crossed the country more times than anyone could count, their family car a veteran of the pavement; they’d made the roads their home and it had risen up beneath their wheels. They were a part of it now, brothers passed into legend (sometimes, if you listen, you can still hear the growl of their big black car pulling up, her passengers come to smite the darkness). They were a part of the lore they had so long studied, their heaven that roadtrip they never truly took- no choices, no heartache, no impossible responsibilities.

Just two brothers, their family car, and the open road.

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The water flowing over these chunks for granite will eventually make it out the entrance of Yosemite in the Merced River. 

The Devastating Cost of Coal
It doesn’t just contribute to climate change. It hurts all of us—financially, economically, and medically.
By Robinson Meyer

When coal is mined today in some parts of Appalachia, it’s not by burly union men descending into black caves underground. The rock instead is obtained by a kind of landscape vampirism, a process with a simple and brutal name: mountaintop removal.

Mountaintop removal harms communities in special ways. Towns near removal sites are more likely to suffer from mudslides, dislodged boulders, and flash floods. Rocks and other debris, which the blasts can send flying, damage buildings and homes. Where forest used to be, there are ponds of coal slurry. Carcinogens and heavy metals fall into headwater streams, poisoning the water supply. And the environmental damage harms tourism and other local businesses: In Kentucky alone, almost 4,000 miles of streams have been polluted, damaged, or destroyed by mountaintop mining.

Coal has high costs beyond the reach of mountaintop-removal sites. The people who live in Appalachia pay for their community’s resource curse with their bodies. After miners retire, they—and others who worked near coal—suffer black lung, lung cancer, and other terminal diseases at elevated rates.

Coal takes a toll on even those who never descend into a mine: “All-cause mortality rates, lung cancer mortality rates, and mortality with heart, respiratory, and kidney disease were highest in heavy coal mining areas of Appalachia, less so in light coal mining areas, lesser still in non-coal mining areas in Appalachia, and lowest in non-coal mining areas outside of Appalachia,” wrote the authors.

The study estimated the full public-health cost of coal, in Appalachia alone, at $74.6 billion.

Thanks to the Obama administration, the drinking-water supplies of 117 million Americans will regain strong safeguards against pollution. These long-overdue protections also will ensure cleaner wetlands, headwaters, brooks, and streams that we use for swimming, fishing, and other recreational activities.

NRDC President Rhea Suh on the Obama administration’s release of a Clean Water rule that will restore pollution protections for tens of millions of acres of wetlands and thousands of streams all across the United States

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