Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Minnesota's Mine Fields

Some years ago I had the pleasure of working with Iric Nathanson when we were both employed by what was then the Minneapolis Community Development Agency. He has a column in the current MinnPost comparing the PolyMet "controversy" with the 1978 DFL split. I don't disagree at all with Iric's analysis. I do wish that government and politics would focus more on (re)solving issues than creating cockamamie compromises or going for a winner take all "solution." (I'm not suggesting the governor is doing either at the moment.) One of the basic questions that I haven't seen addressed anywhere is whether northern Minnesotans (Iron Rangers) would be happy with any source of 360 "high-paying jobs) or if they only would settle for the PolyMet jobs. Another question is what happens (if anything) to the folks who have those jobs when the mine closes in 20 years or so (if it does). Looked at another way, I'm really curious about whether this is about specific mining jobs or the broader questions of economic and community development in northern Minnesota. Does that question fit what my lawyer friends would call "asked and answered?" I don't recall seeing the answer yet nor even reading about the question being asked.

northern Minnesota rock
northern Minnesota rocks     © harrington

Have any of you heard of the process called a root cause analysis? It might be helpful to move Minnesota toward a satisfactory resolution to the "PolyMet controversy" (satisfactory, at least, to all except PolyMet investors and employees). One of the reasons the PolyMet proposal appeals to northern Minnesotans is because of the jobs. Presumably, an effective economic development strategy that yielded comparable jobs without the long-term environmental risk should hold even more appeal, especially if the types of jobs involved had a projected life of more than 20 years. I'm not suggesting such results would be achieved in the next year or so. I am suggesting that an alternative to a boom and bust economic cycle should be sought. The folks at Strong Towns have some interesting insights on local growth. Has anyone invited them to take a look at the options that might be available as alternatives to PolyMet? If not, why not? What would a sustainable "New Normal" look like on Minnesota's Iron Range? Are there markers on such a path?

northern Minnesota cairn
northern Minnesota cairn   © harrington

Some time ago we linked to Wendell Berry's The Peace of Wild Things. Today seems like a good time to share it directly.

The Peace of Wild Things

By Wendell Berry 

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

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