This month’s issue of Wired Magazine includes an interesting article about a little town in Oklahoma called Picher. The article is titled Welcome to Armageddon, USA. It tells the incredible story of a once thriving city; a city that died because of its hollow foundation.
“Picher sprang up as a 20th-century boomtown – the “buckle” of the mining belt that ran through Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri. The earth underneath it produced most of the lead for US bullets in World Wars I and II. The population peaked at 14,000 in 1926. But when the lode ran dry in 1970, the mining companies moved out.
One-third of all houses in Picher are undermined by massive voids. Sinkholes are a major problem; the city is literally swallowing itself. “The water pumps were shut off when the mines closed; their subterranean chambers refilled with groundwater and leaked acid into nearby Tar Creek, threatening the town’s drinking water. Kids started coming home from swimming in ponds near the mines complaining of what they thought were sunburns, never realizing that the pools were full of caustic chemicals.”
The police department has disbanded. The schools have closed. The government has dissolved. Picher is a dead city. Very few people still live in Picher, and they are considered radicals. One of these radicals, John Garner, says that he will continue to live in Picher and keep the town alive. All of this despite the dangerous levels of poison in the air and water and the dangers of looters who come to disrupt the peace. But even Garner recognizes the biggest problem is that “there is no next generation…looking to carry on the fight.”
As I read this story, I thought of the spiritual implications of mining our foundation. If we do, we will find ourselves in the same situation as Picher, OK. We will be full of sinkholes. People will leave by hundreds and the thousands. Our children will be poisoned. And ultimately, we will find ourselves fighting for something that has no chance to live because there will be no next generation looking to carry on the fight.