Monday, November 17, 2014

Is Another Minnesota Miracle possible?

You may have seen the news that the US and China have reached agreement on reduction of greenhouse gases, climate change and clean energy. Promptly thereafter, Republicans, who had argued that the US couldn't do anything without China's participation, found fault with the agreement. This has become of increasing interest to me since the outbreak of Arctic air we're experiencing here in Minnesota, while neither a Polar Vortex nor directly attributable to Anthropogenic Climate Disruption, follows last Winter's Polar Vortex in making life less pleasant and comfortable than typical. But, and here's the real point, based on some research being done right here in Minnesota, and elsewhere, I've started to wonder how much we could accomplish for both jobs and the environment if we stopped treating them as an either / or situation and had politicians that wanted to actually solve problems.

Minnesota North Shore River
Photo by J. Harrington

I just learned this morning that the University of Minnesota, Duluth, is doing some promising research on bacteria that might be able to consume sulfates from our northern rivers. This could, if true, help both wild rice production and mining jobs. That made me wonder if something similar could work with mercury. I'd much rather have mercury removed from the food chain than fiddle with whether the fish consumption advisories are conservative enough. The answer appears to be: possibly. There are mercury-eating bacteria. Now, all of this caused me to further wonder, in an uncharacteristically optimistic vein, what would happen if politicians acted to solve problems other than getting (re)elected? How about genetically-modified politicians who try to actually accomplish something? I could probably support that kind of GMO. After all, bacteria solving some of our notable environmental problems seems consistent with the concept that humans are simply one way bacteria reproduce themselves, sort of like the chicken and the egg. Something to think about and look forward to being thankful for some day, wouldn't you say? Maybe the upcoming Republican majority in the Minnesota House could take a lead on being sure the studies being done are adequately funded, and the Senate could think it's a great idea to support. Another Minnesota Miracle?