Monday, March 23, 2015

A sustainable economy? It's an art

Layoffs are once again hitting the Iron Range. Copper is in a worldwide slump. There's growing support to leave fossil fuels in the ground. One of the places that initially fueled the industrial revolution is looking to the future instead of the past.
"Wales led the world into fossil fuels, pioneering the changes and the challenges these fuels have brought, yet today Wales has now become a leader in the race to find new ways of delivering our wellbeing, based on new clean energy sources more suited to the economic, social, and environmental needs of the 21st century. Wales has all that is required to lead the race out of fossil fuels. It has some of the best renewable resources in Europe; wind, tidal, wave, bio-fuels. Wales has skills, training, manufacturing, innovation, connectivity and an emerging sense of national confidence. But getting the best out of such a massive triple challenge means using the time and the oil we have left to their very best effect. Despite being a world leader in many ways, the rate of transition is still far too slow to provide a reasonable chance of catalysing global agreement and preventing devastating environmental changes. There are of course technical barriers but the biggest challenges are cultural. (Zero Carbon Britain; Ashbourn; Wales Underground; BBC Wales History)"
Meanwhile, Minnesota's Senate Majority Leader, from the Iron Range, blames environmental regulations for the layoffs at taconite plants.

The St. Louis River entering Duluth Harbor
The St. Louis River entering Duluth Harbor
Photo by J. Harrington

There's an old saying among planners, or maybe that's a saying among old planners, More of the same never solved a problem. The Reserve mining leadership opposed environmental regulations too. Maybe if the Iron Range's leadership took a clue from the folks [see above] who helped start all this global industrialization, the Range could become a world leader in sustainable, or at least environmentally acceptable, mining.

It was a kid from Hibbing who wrote "He not busy being born is busy dying." Those living on the Iron Range can try to hang on to the last millennium or they can take matters into their own capable hands and choose what shade of green they want to be. The following aren't the only options but they're today's shades.
It seems to me the only thing Wales has that the Range is missing is better vision. More information regarding Wales, sustainability, and the arts can be found in a report on how artists are responding to sustainability. It's titled Culture Shift. Does anyone on the IRRRB know some northern Minnesota artists or have contacts at the Arrowhead Arts Council?

The Future

By Neal Bowers 

(Detroit, 1950) 

Because the jobs were there
and a man could get rich
working on the line, the South
retreated North to Michigan,
whole families eating crackers and baloney
by the side of the road,
changing drivers to keep
moving through corn fields
and foreign towns,
sundown and darkness,
the moon a prophecy of chrome,
the stars 10 million headlights
of the cars they would build.

Ahead lay a city bright with steel;
behind, the dark fields folded
over everything they knew;
and when they dozed
on cramped back seats, they dreamed
such dreams as the road can make,
of drifting on a lake or stream
or lying down in hay to dream of traveling,
so that when they woke to a bump,
a couch, a voice saying, “It’s your turn,”
they were lost to themselves
and took a few moments
to remember their names.

Mostly behind their backs,
the locals called them
rednecks, crackers, goddamned rebs.
Strange to be strange,
in their new neighborhoods,
to be ethnic with a thick accent
and a taste for food the grocers didn’t stock—
hog jowl and blackeyes, turnip greens,
roasting ears, souse-meat—
the butcher shrugging,
the produce man shaking his head.
Sometimes their own voices
took them by surprise,
sounding odd and out of place
in the din of a city bus, ringing
lost in the evening air when
they called their children in for supper.

At work they touched
parts of tomorrow,
next year’s models always
taking shape and vanishing,
the present obsolete, the past
merely a rumor,
all hours blurring
into one continuous moment
of finishing a fragment,
each piece the same piece,
movements identical,
endless, like a punishment in hell.

No way out but back
to their old lives, a future
they already knew by heart,
a few on the road each month
in cars they may have helped assemble,
tokens of their failed success,
legacies for boys to find
years later rusting on some lot,
banged up but still a dream
and fast enough when overhauled
to make them feel they could blast
straight into tomorrow,
as they raced their engines at each stoplight
and cruised their towns in circles.


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