Thursday, May 21, 2015

Which side are you on?

First off, be sure to read today's Earth Journal column by Ron Meadore. He raises interesting questions about Governor Dayton's "agricultural buffer" legacy as it comes out of the legislative session. Second, check out the Ani DiFranco album and/or performance from which I borrowed today's title. I think we're looking at a much broader problem for the Governor and the Democrats if he doesn't veto bills which have terribly egregious environmental provisions. We're going into a special session anyhow. Budget bills without policy would be better than bad policy. 
Even though many of our major environmental laws were brought to us with notable assistance from Republicans, they were enacted in the days when bipartisan compromise didn't pull an automatic trigger for a knee-jerk primary challenge in the next election cycle. Between those good old days and now, it was the Democrats who brought us the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA] and are now trying to foist a secret Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP] on us. As I read the history and prospects, NAFTA and TPP have and will do serious damage to two of the constituencies that have long been supportive of Democrats, labor and environmentalists. Now, at least in Minnesota, those claiming to represent labor interests on the Iron Range are joining with Republican agricultural interests to gut Minnesota's long-standing and previously successful environmental protections, ignoring public health and recreational employment factors that also make up major elements in our economy.

Minnesota needs cleaner waters, not standards exemptions
Minnesota needs cleaner waters, not standards exemptions
Photo by J. Harrington

If the governor doesn't veto bills with unduly onerous environmental provisions, I suspect more and more Minnesotans will take a closer and closer look at the Green Party because we feel that the Democrats don't have our environmental backs. It seems really hard to get folks to understand that the economy and jobs aren't just about "saving money" on consumer goods. They're also about air clean enough to breathe, water clean enough to drink and swim in and support fish and wild rice we can safely eat. It's about saving money on health costs and creating enough jobs that enable folks to earn enough to pay for decent housing and education for their children. All the pieces need to work together, even under divided government. Or, perhaps a better strategy for many of us might be to stop our enabling behavior and let the pro-free trade, anti-environment free riders wreck everything. Then hope that will bring enough of those who don't bother to vote in off year elections to their senses to join us and engage in fixing what's been broken. Minnesota already has 40% of its waters not meeting "fishable-swimmable"standards, much more in some parts of the state. What's an additional 10% or 15% level of failure? We can't safely eat most of the fish from most of our waters right now. 

Minnesota needs cleaner air - solar does it
Minnesota needs cleaner air - solar does it
Photo by J. Harrington

After all, our air is not as bad as urban China's. We don't yet have to wear breathing masks. That means we could save a few more dollars by burning more coal. Maybe this global warming stuff won't be as bad as the scientists say. Our politicians know what we want. They keep trying to give it to us. The nice thing about America is we get to choose and live with the consequences. But the choices are supposed to be made with our informed consent, not behind closed doors and made at the last minute by those whose primary concern is to get reelected every 2, 4 or 6 years. Some of us, or our children will have to deal with the consequences for much longer than that. Or if, like us, you believe the "choice" between the economy and the environment is a false choice, that we don't have to settle for either/or, think about how we can get more creative politicians working for us in a better system.

I Went into the Maverick Bar

By Gary Snyder 

I went into the Maverick Bar   
In Farmington, New Mexico.
And drank double shots of bourbon
                         backed with beer.
My long hair was tucked up under a cap
I’d left the earring in the car.

Two cowboys did horseplay
                         by the pool tables,
A waitress asked us
                         where are you from?
a country-and-western band began to play   
“We don’t smoke Marijuana in Muskokie”   
And with the next song,
                         a couple began to dance.

They held each other like in High School dances   
                         in the fifties;
I recalled when I worked in the woods
                         and the bars of Madras, Oregon.   
That short-haired joy and roughness—
                         America—your stupidity.   
I could almost love you again.

We left—onto the freeway shoulders—
                         under the tough old stars—
In the shadow of bluffs
                         I came back to myself,
To the real work, to
                         “What is to be done.”

Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.