The route carried us through this year’s potential bumper crop of corn covering thousands of acres in western Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota. Those fields gradually transition to a seemingly endless expanse of wheat as we traveled westward. Then the Rocky Mountains, Glacier Park and the Cascade Mountains make for a spectacular finale. The rhythmic, measured pace of the train allows one to soak in the atmosphere and environment. Our nation is truly blessed with abundance. It’s a great trip.
Views from the observation car’s windows present an interesting juxtaposition of competing energy paths to a prosperous future. On the one hand, the route passes frac sand mines in central Wisconsin and the oil boomtowns of North Dakota. Train cars loaded with western coal race down the tracks. Conversely, wind farms grace the high plains of Montana.
What would James J. Hill’s vision be today to secure our “empire”, and to provide lasting value and prosperity for America? The preponderance of scientific evidence tells us the continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels is already altering the climate disrupting the ideal agricultural conditions we’ve enjoyed since our nation’s founding. Alternatively, the clean energy and energy efficiency industries already provide more jobs per dollar invested than do the fossil fuel industries. Which would a modern day James J. Hill choose? Would he continue to extract and pay for harmful fuels, or would such a visionary harvest the free energy that falls on and blows across the thousands of miles of the Empire Builder route?
Our future is in the balance. A healthy, clean environment is our most valuable resource – one we can’t live without. After all, this pale blue planet is the only home we’ll ever know. We’re here forever… Earthbound.