Monday, December 8, 2014

The first law of holes (stop digging)

The framers are busy demolishing our existing roof. They arrived at 7:00 AM, while it was still dark. The thumps and bangs and thuds sound as if we have a herd of annoyed bison on the roof doing head-butts and wallowing on the remaining shingles. I'm hoping that the weather continues to be cooperative, that we avoid disasters and that the outcome is what we expected and wanted. The ice dams of recent years will hopefully be reduced and/or prevented from causing leaks. Eliminating branches the local squirrel population uses to get onto the roof will also help, because if they can't easily get onto the roof, maybe they won't be able to chew through some of the gaskets, as they have already. Unless the chewers are determinedly destructive flying squirrels in addition to gray squirrels. Sigh, some days it's hard to be a nature squirrel lover. Brunswick stew anyone?

ice dams
Photo by J. Harrington

My Twitter feed recently showed a Tweet from Aaron Klemz @aaronklemz, to the effect that one of Minnesota's mining titans has been repeatedly found falsifying pollution records. On the one hand, I'm really pleased to see the City Pages is covering this kind of issue. On the other hand, I don't understand why the mining industry persists in behaving as if they have a license to pollute and think no one will care. I'm going to be fascinated to see how this is supposed to work out in Minnesota, because if Essar isn't discharging either process or stormwater, what is it the the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is going to regulate? Zero discharge? That would be a step in the right direction.

Despite the fact that it's the Christmas season, I'm about to forgo any good will I've been engendering toward mining companies. Let them eat rocks and pound sand if they can't and won't run a well regulated operation. How many folks that see reports of industrial behavior which falsifies pollution records are going to give any benefit of the doubt to an operation like PolyMet or Twin Metals? And then there's this kind of issue being raised  (@NoSulfideMining) by the Pebble Mine Project developers in Alaska. It would be nice if someone could convince lawmakers and judges that we're no longer in the gold rush claim jumping days when we needed to allow miners to ravish the environment. Of course, if we started to do that, next we might start to insist that Big Ag start to meet their environmental responsibilities on a regulatory basis like the rest of the world, Heaven knows, we couldn't have that.

northern Minnesota's hard rocks
northern Minnesota's hard rocks
Photo by J. Harrington

A Story

Philip Levine, 1928 
Everyone loves a story. Let’s begin with a house. We can fill it with careful rooms and fill the rooms with things—tables, chairs, cupboards, drawers closed to hide tiny beds where children once slept or big drawers that yawn open to reveal precisely folded garments washed half to death, unsoiled, stale, and waiting to be worn out. There must be a kitchen, and the kitchen must have a stove, perhaps a big iron one with a fat black pipe that vanishes into the ceiling to reach the sky and exhale its smells and collusions. This was the center of whatever family life was here, this and the sink gone yellow around the drain where the water, dirty or pure, ran off with no explanation, somehow like the point of this, the story we promised and may yet deliver. Make no mistake, a family was here. You see the path worn into the linoleum where the wood, gray and certainly pine, shows through. Father stood there in the middle of his life to call to the heavens he imagined above the roof must surely be listening. When no one answered you can see where his heel came down again and again, even though he’d been taught never to demand. Not that life was especially cruel; they had well water they pumped at first, a stove that gave heat, a mother who stood at the sink at all hours and gazed longingly to where the woods once held the voices of small bears—themselves a family—and the songs of birds long fled once the deep woods surrendered one tree at a time after the workmen arrived with jugs of hot coffee. The worn spot on the sill is where Mother rested her head when no one saw, those two stained ridges were handholds she relied on; they never let her down. Where is she now? You think you have a right to know everything? The children tiny enough to inhabit cupboards, large enough to have rooms of their own and to abandon them, the father with his right hand raised against the sky? If those questions are too personal, then tell us, where are the woods? They had to have been because the continent was clothed in trees. We all read that in school and knew it to be true. Yet all we see are houses, rows and rows of houses as far as sight, and where sight vanishes into nothing, into the new world no one has seen, there has to be more than dust, wind-borne particles of burning earth, the earth we lost, and nothing else.


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