Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

April 6, 2013

Cool breeze at North Pole while Robinson story heats up the coming season

— For most of us, the unwelcome winter snowstorm this week was an inconvenience. The highway problems are usually the worst for everyone. As a teacher, I am always concerned about children being on the highways early. To be honest, my own safety matters - as does yours. Slick highways are no fun for school endeavors and those who must make the decisions about late schedules or cancellations have an extremely tough job.

Parents with children (and jobs) have to schedule baby-sitters and/or juggle work schedules on short notice. Hopefully, this “last blast” will put an end to the season’s onslaught. One final note: for those who are employed in the winter resort business, snow is not a bad thing. In recent years, there have been some mighty lean times for skiing enthusiasts in this part of the country and many of us may not consider just how much the livelihood of those in that business is affected by warm weather.

Not one to attack Punxatawney Phil or Concord Charlie or any of the rodents who “predict” the coming of spring, I am  just glad to be back in the sunshine for a while. Weather is making quite a difference up north these days and that is probably impacting the changing calendar around here. We all keep our eyes on the price of petroleum and in our school rooms we often remind children that perhaps the biggest drain on their future incomes will be the price of energy.

In the Arctic, oil is heating up claims to territorial boundaries. Some people are absolutely sure that global warming is a fact and this northern region is proof positive for them as the search for oil intensifies. It is at the North Pole, of all places, where geography is literally making waves.

Water long covered is now ice-free and energy companies are scrambling to claim the prize. One scientist said recently “We have never had a situation where an ocean has appeared overnight. The ice kept everybody out and now all of a sudden the ice is gone.” (Although the ice may be gone, one can just imagine the environmentalists shivering with dread about the planet’s climate might shift.)

With approximately 13 percent of the world’s oil and as much as a third of the world’s natural gas in that area, the financial stake is enormous. Russia is intent on making a claim and working now to assert that the suddenly open water is an extension of the Siberian continental shelf. If they are successful then the overall Russian territory could include as much as five billion tons of oil and natural gas.

China is also eager to see if any inroads can be made. Their method is to invest in Canadian ventures. Countries from Denmark to Finland - and including the United States - who were formerly most interested in the environment are now very involved in the northern financial prospects since the ice disappeared.

The fabled Northwest Passage, first completely free of ice in 2007, is of prime concern. It would be about 4,000 miles shorter for ships than the Panama Canal route. Canada is poised to claim that it controls part of the passage although the U.S. is one of the countries, which says that the route is in international waters. Russia is also disputing control of the passage.

There is truly no business like snow business - or the lack of it.

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This is the month for Jackie Robinson’s contributions to again be recognized. Robinson broke into the major leagues with the old Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. Although he was 0-for-3 that first day, he hit a social home run for the nation. Not since the late Moses Fleetwood Walker at the turn of the century had a man of color participated in a major league baseball game.

Robinson was a noted athlete who excelled at UCLA before joining the U.S. Army prior to his work with the Dodgers. He had already asserted his belief in equal rights, earning a positive decision from a military court after an issue with riding a bus as a soldier. Together with Dodger boss Branch Rickey, the intensely competitive Robinson made a promise to hold his emotions in check for three years after he made the majors. He was true to his word, enduring a variety of taunts, threats, and snubs without retaliation. Along the way, he became rookie of the year, a noted base stealer, a great second baseman with a fine batting eye, and a key toward helping Brooklyn win its only World Series in 1955.

Now a movie is on the horizon to again chronicle the achievements of Jack Roosevelt Robinson. He truly helped to make baseball the national pastime it was designed to be.

Larry Hypes, a teacher at Tazewell High School, is a Daily Telegraph columnist.

 

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