Heartening Tale Of Kids And Creeks

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Ever-sensitive stoneflies.

Fish with puffy cheeks.

Watery worms lurking under decaying leaves.

Phosphates and nitrates, pH and acid, spectrophotometers and the inspiration of a good question.

Who needs textbooks — when the world offers up a wonderful education for anyone willing to stop and look and wonder?

Of course, it does help to have an inspirational teacher like Beverly Adams, who handed out waders and took her high school ecology class to muck about in the East Verde River.

So the kids discovered that wriggly stonefly larvae are so sensitive to chemicals that they’re the canary in the coal mine for water quality in little streams.

They discovered that fish puff out their cheeks in response to out-of-whack oxygen levels in the water —and how too many plants, too much decaying debris and not enough riffles can affect those oxygen levels.

They did the tests to confirm that the East Verde’s still a clean little creek, despite the threat of phosphates and nitrates from septic tanks, gardens and farm runoff.

In short, they spent a day paying close attention to the world — and perhaps getting excited about science, which remains the best response we’ve come up with so far to the innate human need to ask “why.”

Thank goodness for teachers like Adams, who have the creativity and enthusiasm to come up with such field trips — which could shape all sorts of future choices for those students. She also runs the photography club, by the way — God bless her.

Mind you — such classes represent the real economic stimulus program. Granted, it’s not shovel ready. So while the state legislature chops away at education to straggle through to the end of the year, the dirty little secret is we need these kids to save us. The ultimate economic fate of the country depends on those students sloshing through the East Verde, exclaiming in delight when they scoop up a happy stonefly larvae.

The nation’s leadership in science and technology has been the foundation of the nation’s postwar economic miracle and we’ll need another generation of eager minds asking the next good question to sustain the economic revolution that has remade the world economy.

So get out the spectrophotometers kids and tally up the stoneflies — we’re counting on you.

Supervisors fiddle; Economy burns

Priority list or grab bag.

Priority list or grab bag.

Priority list or grab bag.

Ooops. Doesn’t matter. Money’s gone.

Forgive the irreverent summary of the Gila County Supervisors’ bizarrely protracted discussions about how to present a stimulus bill wish list.

So now it turns out that even the famously inefficient U.S. Congress can decide on how to cook up a $800 billion stimulus package quicker than Gila County can figure out how to ask for a taste.

Supervisor Shirley Dawson thinks the county has a better chance snagging some crumbs if the list makes it clear a new jail in Globe is the top priority. Supervisor Tommie Martin says the county should just list everything by category, so the finicky feds can pick and choose.

Supervisor Mike Pastor, meanwhile, sits there saying plaintively — “can’t we all just get along?”

So set aside for a moment whether spending $37 million on a new and bigger jail in Globe makes any sense as a job-producing measure. First, some part of it oughta be in Rim Country. Second, it’ll end up requiring the county to hire more people to staff the jail when it doesn’t have any money. Third, should we locking up so many non-violent offenders in the first place?

But never mind that. This entertaining squabble doesn’t bode well for the future. If the supervisors can’t come to some reasonable compromise about how to list projects that won’t get funded anyway, how will they make the tough choices lying just ahead?

The county’s long rhetorical fiddle as the economy burns accomplished only one thing we can think of: It made even Congress look decisive.

No small feat, come to think of it.

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