Sunday, October 26, 2014

Choices have consequences

One of my favorite reasons for supporting local bookstores is more often reflected in some stores than others. When Northernlights Books was open in Duluth's Canal Park, I used to try to get there every few months because they had a section on local poets and poetry. Neither of the independent bookstores I most often get to in the Twin Cities has seen fit to honor my urging (complaining?) and set up something similar. I want to know about local issues, thoughts and perspectives, and that's not anything I'd every expect from online sellers or what's left of national chains, which I used to avoid on general principles. Fortunately for me and other local bibliophile locavores in my neck of the woods, Scout & Morgan in Cambridge usually has a well organized and identified selection of local books written by local authors. I'm in the midst of reading and absolutely enjoying The Road Back to Sweetgrass by Linda LeGarde Grover. Although I don't live in northern Minnesota, I've spent a fair amount of time working and visiting there and recognize many of the settings. It's well written and has me feeling regretful each time I have to put it down. Check your local independent bookstore or public library for a copy.

Autumn tamaracks in northern Minnesota
Photo by J. Harrington

Thinking about life in northern Minnesota brings me again to the issue of mining and jobs. The notion that the Iron Range may need to choose mining or a more sustainable future is reflected in a thought-provoking piece referenced in The Daily Yonder about "Why millennials are avoiding small towns." It states:
“Small towns will have to hustle to recruit and retain millennials, experts say. The American Planning Association urges local planners to mimic the appeal of city centers by creating “density.” That means keeping the walkable neighborhoods and traditional town centers that millennials say is key to making a community a desirable place to live.
A little more digging reveals that Alexandria MN is #7 on the 2013 list of "best" small towns on the Livability web site. Also providing some insight is the concept that, just as manafacturing is starting to reshore to the US, the rural brain drain is starting to reverse itself to become a brain gain.
“We want our youth to stay, but at the same time, we want them to have the opportunities that they are not going to have if they necessarily stay here,” explained a rural high school educator and interviewee. “We want them to go out and find these opportunities, but… we need some of the more successful ones to come back and… really push the town to grow and succeed.”
The more I look into what's going on these days to support sustainable rural living, these less I run into any reference to "high-paying mining jobs" as the way to that future, unless they also bring in value added work. I am again reminded that we didn't leave the Stone Age because we ran out of rocks.


By Charles Bernstein 

Directions: For each pair of sentences, circle the letter, a or b, that best
expresses your viewpoint. Make a selection from each pair. Do not omit
any items.

1.a) The body and the material things of the world are the key to any   
       knowledge we can possess.
   b) Knowledge is only possible by means of the mind or psyche.

2.a) My life is largely controlled by luck and chance.
   b) I can determine the basic course of my life.

3.a) Nature is indifferent to human needs.
   b) Nature has some purpose, even if obscure.

4.a) I can understand the world to a sufficient extent.
   b) The world is basically baffling.

5.a) Love is the greatest happiness.
   b) Love is illusionary and its pleasures transient.

6.a) Political and social action can improve the state of the world.
   b) Political and social action are fundamentally futile.

7.a) I cannot fully express my most private feelings.
   b) I have no feelings I cannot fully express.

8.a) Virtue is its own reward.
   b) Virtue is not a matter of rewards.

9.a) It is possible to tell if someone is trustworthy.
   b) People turn on you in unpredictable ways.

10.a) Ideally, it would be most desirable to live in a rural area.
    b) Ideally, it would be most desirable to live in an urban area.

11.a) Economic and social inequality is the greatest social evil.
    b) Totalitarianism is the greatest social evil.

12.a) Overall, technology has been beneficial to human beings.
    b) Overall, technology has been harmful to human beings.

13.a) Work is the potential source of the greatest human fulfillment.
    b) Liberation from work should be the goal of any movement for   
       social improvement.

14.a) Art is at heart political in that it can change our perception of   
    b) Art is at heart not political because it can change only
       consciousness and not events.

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