, Newburyport, MA


July 15, 2013

In Newburyport as it is in Heaven

Arrived at work to hear that a woman dropped in looking for me. Wish I left it at that, but I made the mistake of asking why.

“She thanks you for all you’ve written about the waterfront.”

My co-worker likely confused waterfront Newburyport, which I have religiously avoided, with waterbottom Newbury, which I’ve repeatedly attacked. To paraphrase Reagan: See one hose job, you’ve seen them all.

“Religiously” is the operative word here. There’s no point debating those who adhere to a creed regardless of evidence.

In every party, pub and coffee shop conversation, every newspaper report, I am reminded of the Vatican in the 15th century clinging to the fallacy of a Flat Earth despite evidence presented by astronomers — including several of their own monks — all over Europe.

Evidence ignored today? Here’s a list — or what Mayor Donna “Where-Will-the-Children-Play?” Holaday might call “a Google search”:

Last several years, most New England waterways, including the Merrimack, have flooded.

Two years ago, a spring thaw nearly surrounded the Black Cow with water in its parking lot.

Last year, Hurricane Sandy surged New York’s East River 15 feet, flooding neighborhoods 10 times the inland distance that separates Newburyport’s waterfront from the jetties.

This year, meteorologists predict more left turns by hurricanes reaching further north in coming years.

Each year, satellite photos show rapidly melting polar ice caps — so too Greenland, our global neighbor along the relentless Labrador Current.

Does the name Plum Island ring a bell?

On the surface, the main thrust for development is both commercial and civic. Beneath the surface — literally as well as figuratively — it’s neither.

It’s religious. The religion is privatization. The creed is that business justifies itself.

None of this is unique to Newburyport. Nationally it became glaring in 1992 when presidential candidate Ross Perot criticized the Bush (Sr.) Administration for not caring whether America made computer chips or potato chips.

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