Monday, July 28, 2014

Lowell Asbestos Mine

I've recently become fascinated by Vermont's seemingly unspoken history of industrialism and manufacturing. Far from the carefully managed image sold to tourists, Vermont was never the agrarian paradise that so many of our postcards and gift shops would have us believe (a town nearby is conspicuously named Eden).

Having grown up here, I remember being taken to the granite quarries of Barre and seeing the railyards nearby, but Vermont also has a colorful history of mining copper, asbestos, and other resources. Now, as the debate about hydraulic fracturing or fracking rages on, I find myself contemplating that seemingly forgotten image of Vermont as a small but industrious state. Of course, asbestos gives you lung cancer and fracking poisons the water; but we also find ourselves reckoning with the "man-altered landscape" (to quote the New Topography movement).

What are the long term ramifications of this? Perhaps I am ill-fitted to say. Nevertheless, we must bring ourselves 'round to this discussion. Ignorance of a previous industrial era will leave of ill-served in navigating the next.

An imposing sign greets visitors to the long abandoned facility outside of Lowell, VT

A view across the yard of the Vermont Asbestos Group mine near Lowell, VT

Electrical equipment and conveyors still climb the long abandoned site, shuttered decades ago when asbestos was discovered to be severely carcinogenic.

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