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OPINION | GREG HARTON: Hope can be a wonderful, and deceptive, thing

by Greg Harton | December 18, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.

I'm no scientist. That's no theory. It's a fact established by years of empirical evidence.

But it doesn't take a scientific rocket (thanks for that description, Danny Ford) to grasp the amazing potential of scientific advances.

This month's breakthrough on fusion energy is a hopeful sign for humans and this planet we live on. In short, scientists were finally able to produce more energy through the process of fusion than it required to achieve that process.

Yes, it's a long way from a solution to our polluting ways of producing energy. But fusion could become a path toward carbon-free energy. Imagine a capacity to power the electrical grid in a way that would help return earth's environmental conditions to those of pre-industrial times. Imagine a time when human activities work more in concert with the constraints of Earth's environment than against them.

Just another one of those over-excited tree huggers? No. But the idea of a planet thriving because of our activities rather than being damaged by them, it seems to me, should be a concept everyone can get excited about, unless they're making money off behaviors that do such harm.

I admire the hope that's inspired by such scientific discoveries.

•••

Hope, I must admit, sometimes gets the best of me. It can sometimes be cruel, even though I can hardly conceive of a life without it.

On Nov. 9, a Wednesday, I published a simple box on our editorial page: "Brenda Blagg is taking some time off," it informed our readers. "Her column will return when she does."

Every Tuesday since, around 11 a.m., my mind has triggered an ingrained response: Check my email for Brenda's column. It took a second or two for me to remember checking my email wasn't necessary. Her column, which I've had the privilege to edit for more than a decade, was on a medically induced hiatus. Brenda, at 75, faced some serious medical issues, but she'd continued to write until she literally collapsed.

It was a blessing -- certainly for me -- that Brenda had spent those few hours before that medical crisis with friends and journalism colleagues at an after-party celebrating another successful two-night run of the annual Gridiron Show in which local journalists sing, dance and act (all loosely defined) in comical skits about news events and personalities. Brenda was a founder and mainstay of the show, particularly with her colorful, wonderfully crafted "Ain't that right, Elmer?" monologues from the fictitious Letitia Mae Stufflebeam. This year, she sat in the audience -- twice.

Brenda had been ailing for some time, but that night she was in great spirits, so much so her collapse came as a shock. In the weeks since, she spent a lot of time in the hospital and in rehab, but had most recently improved.

All along, no matter what other columns I used on Wednesday's editorial page, they were always temporary substitutes. It was, after all, Brenda's space. She would, of course, come back, I thought, even mindful of the challenges she faced in restoring her health. Hope convinced me she would return with her observations, rooted in more than 50 years of covering Arkansas news.

Hope sometimes precedes heartbreak.

As many of you know, Brenda died last Wednesday. I've known of her longer than I've known her, but I'm so glad I got to know her directly. Others have documented her well-earned place in Arkansas journalism history, which was significant.

I'll just say I will miss her kindness, her example, her wisdom and her graceful tenacity. I'll continue to admire her decades-long dedication to keep the workings of Arkansas and local governments transparent for the public those institutions are intended to serve. I'm proud to have worked with her, laughed with her and learned from her.

Print Headline: Hope can be wonderful, deceptive

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