Friday, January 16, 2015

It's about interest in and on principle

Yesterday I checked out some of the St. Croix River access points and dropped by Wild River State Park. The only place I could see open water was at Taylors Falls just below the hydropower dam. At the Franconia Landing, some young fellows were heading out with what looked like portable fish houses. At Wild River I learned that swans hadn't been seen for a few days. Additional searching on the Internet helped confirm the lack of swan sightings. Since I was unsuccessful at getting some photos of swans this trip, I'll just have to keep trying. I'm delighted that trumpeter swans have been restored to Minnesota and the St. Croix Valley. They even summer in my "backyard."

trumpeter swans at Carlos Avery WMA
trumpeter swans at Carlos Avery WMA
Photo by J. Harrington

Swan restoration is clearly a conservation success story, as is, we hope, the healing of the hole in the ozone layer. But, as My Minnesota posted yesterday, humans seem to be determined to play Russian roulette with the Earth's life support systems. At least that's the way global corporations behave as they extract Earth's resources to produce more stuff they need us to buy so they can make a profit. Since we can't, in the foreseeable future, move to an as yet unidentified Planet B, and we won't all fit on the International Space Station, maybe we should revise the way we do business here on Earth. That's what much of yesterday's posting was all about, and yesterday wasn't the first time the question of sustainable development has been written about on My Minnesota. This, in a round-a-bout way, brings us back to biomimicry. As Janine Benyus writes on page 7 of the paperback edition of her BIOMIMICRY book:

Nature runs on sunlight.
Nature uses only the energy it needs.
Nature fits form to function.
Nature recycles everything.
Nature rewards cooperation.
Nature banks on diversity.
Nature demands local expertise.
Nature curbs excesses from within.
Nature taps the power of limits.

running on sunlight
running on sunlight
Photo by J. Harrington

If Minnesota had an economy powered by sunlight (wind and solar energy) and if our transportation system used only the energy it needed, we might not be facing the economic, political and related problems mentioned here yesterday. If we were more cooperative in our political endeavors, we might all be happier and better off and be able to lower taxes. My Minnesota has often posted in favor of the benefits of local food, a local economy, local expertise, becoming indigenous and native to a place. It could be argued that one of the problems greater Minnesota faces with its "workforce housing shortage" is that the "shortage" frequently occurs in a one industry or one company town. If the industry or the company has market problems, the jobs to repay the loans that bought the housing could disappear. Banks don't like that kind of risk and, as we are seeing with Essar and Minntac, maybe Minnesota should avoid the risk of picking winners and losers in international markets. Maybe Minnesota should bank on diversity more than monoculture, or duoculture when it comes to mining. The more I look around these days, the more I'm thinking that biomimicry offers a framework Minnesota could use to create its economy for the future. As Donella Meadows wrote in her brilliant and captivating Dancing With Systems "The future can’t be predicted, but it can be envisioned and brought lovingly into being." I truly believe that, if Minnesota relied much more on the tools and philosophy of biomimicry to manage present and future development opportunities, Minnesota could again be known as the state that works. We might even become known as the state where common sense is uncommonly common. Throughout billions of years of evolution, Nature has been using and refining the principles quoted above. You might say her approach has been successfully time tested. Maybe it's time we tried more of it. We might even like it.

A Pot of Red Lentils

By Peter Pereira
simmers on the kitchen stove.
All afternoon dense kernels
surrender to the fertile
juices, their tender bellies
swelling with delight.

In the yard we plant
rhubarb, cauliflower, and artichokes,
cupping wet earth over tubers,
our labor the germ
of later sustenance and renewal.

Across the field the sound of a baby crying
as we carry in the last carrots,
whorls of butter lettuce,
a basket of red potatoes.

I want to remember us this way—
late September sun streaming through
the window, bread loaves and golden
bunches of grapes on the table,
spoonfuls of hot soup rising
to our lips, filling us
with what endures.


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