Sunday, January 11, 2015

Pecking at Minnesota's environmental politics

Since bread remains a staff of life, and requires unpolluted land and water to produce, let's start today's posting with a report on yesterday's bread baking. I'm sure some of you have been waiting with bated breath to learn how the Vermont cheddar bread turned out. The answer is "not bad," or, since I was once a college English major, not badly. It had a mild cheddar flavor (I may try a sharper cheese next time) and a firm crust. There was a little more moisture in the loaf than I prefer, but that's something to be adjusted through future fine tuning efforts. I may have used too large a segment of dough for the cloche, letting the dough had sit for another 24 hours or so might have helped. I vaguely recall going through similar concerns when I first started baking any kind of artisan bread. I'm really pleased that this experiment didn't turn out to be one of those "we'll know better than to try this again." Would that it were so easy to fine tune some of my poetry efforts or Minnesota's politics.

pileated woodpecker
pileated woodpecker
Photo by J. Harrington

Our politicians are much like our woodpeckers. Some are big but not very common, like the pileated woodpecker feeding at the suet feeder this morning. Others don't seem to fit their labels, like the "red bellied" woodpecker that showed up yesterday. Then there are the rank and file types, like the downy and hairy woodpeckers we see almost daily. The all want to feed on the same resource, but rarely harmoniously at the same time.

red bellied woodpecker
red bellied woodpecker
Photo by J. Harrington

I think I've mentioned in prior postings that, back in Massachusetts, where I come from, politics is a full body contact sport. Minnesota seems to be determined to catch up. I'm not sure the results will be as palatable as my bread. I'm thinking about the Southwest LRT line issues, the release of the "final" PolyMet EIS later this year, and the continuing saga of oil pipelines versus rail shipment of Bakken and/or tar sands from Canada. (Although some would have us believe that pipelines would provide relief to Minnesota farmers and/or utilities relying on BNSF for coal stockpiles, there's no assurance that I'm aware of that anything other than capacity and economics will affect what gets shipped where and how.) At least we don't have that troublesome Minnesota State Planning Agency trying to make sense out of capacity, priorities, alternative route corridor selection and a variety of other issues that might better serve Minnesota if they could be considered in a more holistic framework [wrote the recovering planner]. Of course, for a holistic approach to be effective, we'd have to commit to electing those willing to let their positions on issues be affected by facts. That's all too rare these days. Maybe as our resource and economic constraints become more obvious, we'll see cooperation and compromise take precedence over fundamentalist ideology and reelection requirements. We are all in this together and need to learn how to better share responsibility and resources. Aren't we, don't we?


By Muriel Rukeyser 

I lived in the first century of world wars.
Most mornings I would be more or less insane,
The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,
The news would pour out of various devices
Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.
I would call my friends on other devices;
They would be more or less mad for similar reasons.
Slowly I would get to pen and paper,
Make my poems for others unseen and unborn.
In the day I would be reminded of those men and women,
Brave, setting up signals across vast distances,
Considering a nameless way of living, of almost unimagined values.
As the lights darkened, as the lights of night brightened,
We would try to imagine them, try to find each other,
To construct peace, to make love, to reconcile
Waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other,
Ourselves with ourselves. We would try by any means
To reach the limits of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves,
To let go the means, to wake.

I lived in the first century of these wars.

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