Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Gardening jobs on the Range?

This morning MinnPost carried a Cyndy Brucato column about Iron Range DFLers echo GOP mining rhetoric in letter to Klobuchar, Franken. Reading it, and the responses from Senators Klobuchar and Franken, left me with the extremely unusual feeling of being the only adult in the room. (I think it's only happened once or twice before. ; >) Let me first try to clarify a few points as background. I'm not against development. I'm not against mining. I do believe we have a deeply flawed system that hinders our ability to provide both living wage jobs and a clean, livable, enjoyable environment. I further believe this flawed system is made even less workable by political "solutions" that often make Republicans and Democrats look like the Hatfields and McCoys and sometimes makes the Democrats themselves look like, oh, never mind. And, finally, I know there are alternatives to the mining versus the environment war.

northern Minnesota
northern Minnesota                        © harrington

Here's ten basics as I see them:
  1. Minnesota has a history of iron mining.
  2. That means there should be iron mine areas that have been successfully reclaimed and turned into assets.
  3. Here's a link to MN DNR's web page on mine reclamation. (I'm underwhelmed by the examples of mining reclamation success.)
  4. Minnesota's Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board's page is a little better, but still nothing to really brag about, in my opinion.
  5. We're losing sight of the human context of the issues when we frame them as jobs versus the environment. Both are needed for a thriving human community.
  6. Our next door neighbor to the north is working toward the concept of sustainable mining.
  7. There's an existing knowledge base on sustainable mining that can be built on and added to.
  8. There's a proven economic development concept called Economic Gardening from which Minnesota, and the Iron Range in particular, might be able to gain a substantial benefit.
  9. There's a number of Democratic Minnesota politicians and environmentalists reengaging on longstanding, unresolved issues instead of solving 21st century problems.
  10. As a recovering planner, I can tell you that "more of the same never solved a problem."
Buckminster Fuller is supposed to have observed that “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Do you suppose that might apply to the Iron Range, mining, and economic development in northern Minnesota? It's about work and earning a good living, isn't it?

What Work Is

By Philip Levine 
We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is—if you’re
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
You rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it’s someone else’s brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours of wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, “No,
we’re not hiring today,” for any
reason he wants. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding you for your brother,
who’s not beside you or behind or
ahead because he’s home trying to   
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wagner, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You’ve never
done something so simple, so obvious,
not because you’re too young or too dumb,
not because you’re jealous or even mean
or incapable of crying in
the presence of another man, no,   
just because you don’t know what work is.

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