Sunday, February 1, 2015

Repeat after me: growth is good, growth is good, growth is...

Welcome to February. As I wonder whether the groundhog will see his shadow tomorrow, I 'm also pondering an article in today's Star Tribune about the transformation of the Park Rapids area. Presumably it was good for growth when Potlatch bought forest land for commercial production. Now it's good for growth when Potlatch sells that land so it can be turned into potato production. Growth is good. That's consistent with those in Minnesota's legislature who think that environmental regulations in this state are too stringent, and that evaluating the environmental impacts of precedent setting projects (e.g., PolyMet), so those impacts can be mitigated appropriately, takes too long.

the wild and scenic St. Croix River
the wild and scenic St. Croix River
Photo by J. Harrington

After all, as long as our lakes and rivers look pretty, what difference does it make if we're warned not to eat fish we catch there. We can buy fish at the market. Isn't that just as good? Our political mantra is "Growth is good" regardless of who benefits and who doesn't and who may actually lose. That's akin to the mindset that thinks 35 permanent jobs in exchange for the Keystone pipeline is worth the environmental risk even though the big profits go to the 1% here and in Canada. Is it possible that those approving the projects aren't the same ones exposed to the risks of project failure? Would political leaders vote the same if they had to spend some of their own money to mitigate a problem attributable to a project they approved. In the development arena, funders look to have developers with real skin in the game. Would the IRRRB and DEED have invested in Duluth Metals stock if it was their own money and not the taxpayers? Supposedly our elected officials have skin in the game since they can lose the next election. But, for one thing, the harm is already done by then. For another, sometimes the harm can't be undone. I live in a county where local officials closed the middle section of a public road to accommodate a prospective industrial development that wanted privacy. Neither the county nor the company offered to pay for the extra gas I use to drive around the closed road. If we continue to buy the corporate propaganda that growth is good, and vote for those who are most pro growth, we'll deserve the future we'll get.

the wild and scenic St. Croix River?
the wild and scenic St. Croix River?
Photo by J. Harrington

I'll once again quote Bobby Kennedy on this, because I think he's both correct and wise. (The $800 billion GDP he mentions was in 1967 or thereabouts.)
"Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product - if we judge the United States of America by that - that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans."

New Water

By Sharon Chmielarz 

All those years—almost a hundred—
the farm had hard water.
Hard orange. Buckets lined in orange.
Sink and tub and toilet, too,
once they got running water.
And now, in less than a lifetime,
just by changing the well’s location,
in the same yard, mind you,
the water’s soft, clear, delicious to drink.
All those years to shake your head over.
Look how sweet life has become;
you can see it in the couple who live here,
their calmness as they sit at their table,
the beauty as they offer you new water to drink. 


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