By Dr. Jim Ferguson
It’s a good thing I live in the south because I like hot weather. I’d rather be too hot than too cold – as long as there’s a bit of summertime air-conditioning.

A hot, sandy beach in mid summer is not my cup of tea. I’m more of a mountain man than a beach bum. The view from our mountain cabin above Townsend, Tennessee is as beautiful as any place in the world. I have friends with vacation homes in the mountains of western Carolina where they escape the summer heat of the Tennessee Valley. But I relish summer mornings sitting on my porch or summer evenings driving with the windows down.

I’m writing this essay in route to the beach via Portland, but not Portland, Oregon, where we often visit my daughter, SIL and grandchildren. We’re flying to Portland, Maine to visit friends who avoid Knoxville’s heat at their beach house in Kennebunk. It has been a long time since Becky and I were in New England. I look forward to hanging out with my friends and I really look forward to lobster at least once a day! The last time I was in Maine, McDonalds was offering a McLobster sandwich. I realize I’m not a “Mainer,” but lobster on a bun “just ain’t right.”

Fortunately, the heat wave recently experienced in New York City and New England has passed and the forecast predicts sunny weather in Kennebunk with temperatures in the mid-70s. Not bad for a beach vacation. I would soon learn a different definition of “beach” which, in Maine, is more granite rock than white sand.

Humans have a biased and a present-moment sense of things. When it’s hot we imagine it’s hotter than we ever remember.  And when it’s cold, it’s terribly cold. I would not presume to tell a New Yorker experiencing the recent 110° heat that experience shows it will pass and will be cooler again soon. Presently, we’re experiencing heavy rainfall in Knoxville. No one is advising us to build an ark. The truth is the world gets hot, it gets cold, it rains and things dry out. Apocalyptic reports abound in the 24 hour news cycle, adhering to the journalistic mantra, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

I’ve become somewhat skeptical of everything I read and filter any “news” with my own observation, logic and the study of history. Despite what a modernist might say, there are few things that occur that have not happened before. The founders of our country studied the lessons of history. You should do so as well. Yes, I’m often critical of what journalism has become. However, I found a commendable section on CBSN Live called “The Uplift: Stories That Inspire.” It is a refreshing oasis amidst the reported chaos, offering food for the soul.

Recently, I’ve been asking friends whether they sense more wars, murders and shark attacks off the Atlantic coast, than there used to be. Perhaps our perception is biased. Perhaps there is just more space to be filled in the 24 hour news cycle. However, most of us have smartphones and Internet access, and admittedly we seem to be drawn to the drama and pathos of life more than the mundane or uplifting. The cartoon sage Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

As I travel to the ocean I have been thinking about reports of ocean pollution, garbage and plastic. With a bit of research I found a report that a billion gallons of sewage is purportedly dumped into the ocean from cruise ships each year. I’ve done considerable cruising and it has been my observation that cruise ships are extremely careful to avoid polluting.

Then I read that 10,000 cargo containers are lost from cargo ships into the ocean each year. Perhaps if we bought more American made products we wouldn’t need to import so much from China and endanger the ocean.

And lastly, I read that Canada has begun repatriating huge quantities of garbage it previously shipped to the Philippines for disposal. Why haven’t the Canadians been using their own land for garbage disposal rather than sending it to the Philippines?

I have always been puzzled how so many soda straws are said to find their way into the ocean, forcing California and Starbucks to ban plastic straws. In Knoxville plastic is either recycled or put into a landfill. New York City sends much of its garbage to landfills in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Perhaps Californians can’t resist throwing straws into the ocean. It turns out that China is the greatest plastic polluter in the world. Indonesia captures second place. The United States ranks a dismal 20th in the panoply of plastic polluters.

Some years ago I wrote an essay decrying litter along the roadside. I wondered what kind of an animal fouls its own nest. Actually, as I walk in our neighborhood I pick up trash strewn by these nocturnal human beasts. And I separate garbage and recycle. Some years ago, a liberal friend of mine was flummoxed to find me at a recycling bin. I assured him I was a conservationist and recycling before it was cool.

With pollution in mind, a recent news story from Berkeley, California caught my eye. Apparently, the city council in this bastion of progressive liberalism banned natural gas in new home construction. Hizzoners mandated that electricity be used for heating and cooking instead of energy from fossil fuels. Apparently these intellectual giants do not realize that electricity is largely generated from coal. But not to worry, Berkeley purchases electricity from Arizona and New Mexico where it is generated in coal fired power plants. Apparently, the civic leaders of Berkeley don’t mind transporting waste to others.

Fortunately, I was traveling and missed the garbage of Mueller’s Congressional testimony. Sifting through the soundbite refuse led me to remember and recycle the words of Shakespeare’s Macbeth as applies to our Congressional Hizzoners.

“[They are] but poor players

[who] strut and fret upon the stage and then [are] heard no more:

[Their’s] is a tale told by idiots,

full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

I cannot improve on the Bard’s analysis.