Thursday, April 16, 2015

Our "brains, technology and regulations" aren't enough

I'm delighted to see Congresswoman McCollum is taking a leadership role in trying to protect some of Minnesota's most significant assets, and I'm not referring to minerals. She's introduced a bill "that would prohibit all future mining on federally managed lands in the Rainy River Watershed area up in northern Minnesota...." This has, somewhat naturally, upset the Congressman for Minnesota's Eighth District, where I reside and where much (all?) of the Rainy River watershed is located.. He is quoted as having said "The fact is, we have the brains, technology and regulations to both mine and protect the environment." I would probably be a little more in agreement with Congressman Nolan's assertion of "facts" if My Minnesota hadn't just yesterday listed a number of examples that, in my opinion, clearly demonstrate our collective failure to use whatever brains, technology and regulations we have, at least as far as protecting our environment goes. I for one don't want to wait until the St. Louis or Rainy Rivers reach the condition the Cuyahoga River was once in, then it caught fire, or the condition of Lake Superior when Reserve Mining used it as a dump. Using our brains strongly suggests ounces of prevention trump pounds of cure and years of litigation.

St. Louis River
Photo by J. Harrington

We've created a world in which "GOP lawmakers strip rail safety money from North Dakota budget: ‘Accidents are gonna happen’ anyway"; in which "we see that more than 4,100 lakes and stream sections across the state [Minnesota] – or more than 40 percent of the total – are classed as “impaired” because they fail to meet federal quality standards.

The major driver of these impairments is excessive inputs of nutrients, primarily phosphorus and nitrates from fertilizers, and the major source of those nutrients is row-crop agriculture. [emphasis added]

Farmers who say they want to be good stewards, but oppose buffers and other clean water requirements, or mining proponents who rail to protect diminishing sectors of northern Minnesota's economy while out of state executives in those same sectors draw outrageous salaries, strikes me as being situations with too small a fig leaf to cover a naked emperor (I think I just mixed my metaphors). If you've ever watched the movie Network, count me "mad as hell." Today's posting is my equivalent of opening a window and yelling. Today's poem describes too what may be loosed upon us if we unrealistically rely on our "brains, technology and regulations." Isn't that what those downstream of Mount Polley counted on? Aren't those what we hope will protect us from exploding, derailed oil tank cars coming from North Dakota through the midst of Minnesota's population centers?

National Poetry Month

The Second Coming

By William Butler Yeats 
Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.   
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out   
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert   
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,   
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,   
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it   
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.   
The darkness drops again; but now I know   
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,   
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? 

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