Monday, August 24, 2015

Making change

I think we're enjoying an early Augtober. This happens frequently in My Minnesota so I'm not going to panic just yet, unlike those "investors" worldwide who seem to be panicking because the world economy isn't growing at more than a 15%/year  rate. I realize that most of us humans resist change. I know I certainly do. I also realize that we've created a world economy that isn't sustainable. That means if we care about our future, our children, their children, and our own old age, we need to change. The more we resist change because it doesn't fit our unrealistic expectations, the more traumatic the effect will be when change does occur. Would we rather have lots of little quakes or just one that's 9.1 on the Richter scale? We can't stop the tectonic plates from moving.

I usually find it easier to adjust to a gradual change. From what I've read, species evolution can better adapt if the rate of change isn't excessive? That (sort of) brings us back to Augtober. During the past week, I've seen a handful of trees in scattered locations that have begun to put on autumnal hues. Several of the plants have already changed from blooms to seed heads. The local dragonfly population has thinned out and, thank God, so have the deer flies. All of this before the state fair has even started.

a hint of color changes to come
a hint of color changes to come
Photo by J. Harrington


dried seed heads in front of goldenrod
dried seed heads in front of goldenrod
Photo by J. Harrington

Two weeks ago we reached this year's world overshoot day. We still have about four and a half months to go this year. We're acting like the person who tells their bank "I can't be overdrawn, I still have checks left." Detroit relied on the auto industry just as the Iron Range and much of northern Minnesota has relied on mining and forestry as extractive industries and western and southern Minnesota is relying on industrial agriculture as an extractive industry, with southwestern Minnesota trying to import water from the Missouri River in South Dakota, in part because the industrial farms have polluted most available surface and groundwater. Northern Minnesota and its mining are busy trashing those water sources. Remember the Pete Seeger song, Where have all the flowers gone? It has the chorus "When will they ever learn? [repeat] Does that seem to fit what we're doing to our home state as well as our home planet?

And yet, there are alternatives. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been doing work on "green mining." They note from one case study that
"Some major changes in their environmental mining policy since closing in 2002 include:
  • Changes in tailings storage. Paste-tailings are now dried out and laid flat in a facility, which makes them less volatile and and more compact. This reduces:
  • The supply of fresh water needed, since the water from tailings can be recycled
  • Chemical reagents in tailings that can be recycled along with the water
  • Eliminates the need for 120 evaporation ponds ("Molycorp Innovations," 2012).
  • New technologies which use the excess cerium in stockpiles. Xsorbx uses cerium's magnetic properties to remove phosphorus from water ("Molycorp annual report," 2011).
  • Using waste heat from mining to generate steam and power, thus decreasing the carbon footprint.
In addition to being less environmentally damaging, these changes also reduce Molycorp's production cost by saving on water, chemical reagents, heat, power and total area used for stockpiling and waste piles. As such, these regulations are both environmentally friendly and economically feasible."
It would seem that some of us are able to learn some of the time. There's hope.

The Waking

By Theodore Roethke 

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.   
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.   
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?   
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.   
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?   
God bless the Ground!   I shall walk softly there,   
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?   
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;   
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do   
To you and me; so take the lively air,   
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.   
What falls away is always. And is near.   
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.   
I learn by going where I have to go.


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