Monday, January 4, 2016

Let's not include fish kills in our New Normal

For the first official work day of 2016 we have blue skies and sunshine. We also have someone other than yours truly noting that state government isn't doing what we would hope for about agriculture and water quality problems. Thanks to Jeffrey S. Broberg and his commentary, Whitewater River fish kill: State agencies feign helplessness, and to the Star Tribune for publishing it.

Summer corn field
Summer corn field
Photo by J. Harrington
Fortunately, we hope, Governor Dayton has a Water Quality Summit planned for next month. That's the same month DNR expects to announce a decision on the adequacy of the Environmental Impact Statement that talks about treating polluted water from a proposed copper mine near the Boundary Waters for 500 years (about twice as long as this country's been in existence). Meanwhile, back at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, studies and conversations are underway about the  level of protection from sulfates necessary for wild rice, and how to specify that level and then measure if it's being met, as are proposed revisions to the water quality standards. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find someone else in the Governor's mansion by the time the rule-making process finally plays out, although finding an actual schedule on MPCA's web site for the rule-making revision is a challenge.

If you care about Minnesota's environmental quality, especially our water quality and the ability to safely harvest and consume fish and wild rice, it's probable that none of this comes as a surprise to you. It's unfortunate that legislators keep seeing a jobs versus the environment trade-off when the issue is what kind of jobs and for whom. It would be better, it seems to me, for all Minnesotans, if environmental quality got as much attention and support as protecting children from dangerous labor. But then again, agriculture has managed to keep itself largely exempt from child labor laws.

I like to eat as well and often as much as the next person (sometimes more and better than). One of the reasons my family buys much of our food through a local coop or a community supported agriculture share or from a local farmers market is that it gives us a chance to get a feel for how the food is grown and whether the farm family and the environment are protected from harm. If such food costs a little more, so be it. Over time we might even save on medical bills. A sustainable world won't be attained or maintained with the attitude of "beggar our neighbor we have to save money." I sometimes wonder how many of the families that believe they can't afford local, organically-grown food have the ability to pay a hundred dollars a month or so for cable or dish TV. Minnesotans need to adjust our priorities to survive and thrive under a New Normal. I hope the Governor continues to show leadership to get many of Minnesota's priorities where they belong. That's why I wrote this post about the water quality improvements I support. I expect Governor Dayton's successor to do more of the same if he or she wants my vote. How about a jobs and the environment platform?

Why I Don’t Piss in the Ocean

By Maggie Dietz 

Once my sister told me that from her summit at the city
pool she could see the yellow billows spread like gas
or dreams between kids’ legs. In something the size of the sea,
you can’t be sure who’s watching from above. Let’s say
it’s the Almighty, twirling His whistle, ready to blow it
at any moment and let loose the bottomless Apocalypse:
the ocean would make bone of a body, coral of bone.
Piss, and a tiger-fish darts through a skull-hole, a weed
weaves itself through ribs. You, too, have seen
the bulbs flash from the sea. You, too, have felt
it breathing down your neck. You eat fish. You’ve heard
that mermaids sing. My dreams are as beleaguered as the next
Joe’s, my happiness as absurd, but I’m not going to go
piss in the ocean about it. No, not in the ocean.

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