American Power Symbols
On Friday evening, while driving east from Crane Creek NWR along Ohio's north coast, I encountered this scene with two symbols of the power and might of our fair country. If you've ever driven Route 2 between Cleveland and Toledo, you can't miss the hulking towers of the Davis Besse nuclear power plant. Its cooling towers have dominated the northern Ohio skyline for decades. The plant, while not Three Mile Island or Chernobyl, has had its share of recent problems.
As I drove by, I noticed an adult bald eagle perching practically in the shadow of the nearest cooling tower. And it struck me, this juxtaposition of two such oft-used symbols of America's power. My mom often comments about how, when she was a girl, there was no more stirring representation of America's power than photos or footage of smoke billowing out of smokestacks. It took us a while to consider what all that smoke was actually doing to us and to the environment.
The adult bald eagle is indeed a striking bird, white head and tail, all-dark body. Everything an eagle does is majestic, especially if you don't pay attention to its mooching ways (it often robs ospreys, gulls, cormorants of food) its preference for carrion (it's so much easier to eat fish that are already dead and just sitting there), or its unbelievably wimpy call (the red-tailed hawk's scream is habitually substituted for the eagle's on movie soundtracks, in commercials, in political ads, and in the intro to The Colbert Report).
I remembered coming up here to Lake Erie in the spring of 1982 with my ornithology class from Miami University (of Ohio). We came up to see THE bald eagle nest. Yes, there was only one and we viewed it from about a mile away through a spotting scope. It was a big deal. Now eagles are common in northern Ohio, nesting in the hundreds throughout the state.
As I sat there on the roadside, I didn't want to think about the PCB load this bird was probably carrying in its system. I didn't want to think about how nuclear power can be both clean and low-impact or completely deadly. I just wanted to appreciate the two symbols for what they were, and what they are.