Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Could Pipestone or Cloquet become Minnesota's Waukesha?

Dear Governor Dayton,

Please take a few minutes to read, if you haven't already, Andrew Revkin's New York Times opinion column on "Human Destiny." The points Revkin raises about climate change are, I believe, comparably valid regarding most of the the earth's limited, non-renewable resources as well as some of our theoretically renewable ones. That includes Minnesota's non-renewable mineral resources and the quality and potability of our nominally renewable water supplies.

St Louis River
St Louis River
Photo by J. Harrington

I have no doubt that you're aware of the Waukesha request to divert Great Lakes water for local use and to support local growth. I assume you're also familiar with the governance debacle that continues to poison the children of Flint, Michigan. These are but two examples of short-term, economics-driven, decisions that hinder our longer-term ability to thrive as a species. That's one of the major conclusions Revkin references in his column like this:
The alternative future is one where we decide to make the transition to a carbon-free economy before we’re forced into it by the depletion of fossil fuels. We’re going to run out anyway, and will need to learn to do without fossil fuels, so why not get weaned early, before we’ve trashed the climate? If we do that, we might not just buy ourselves a world, but a whole Universe.
Minnesota shore of Lake Superior
Minnesota shore of Lake Superior
Photo by J. Harrington

It seems to me that similar reasoning, and constraints, should be applied to Minnesota's pending decision on the PolyMet NorthMet copper mine proposal and similar "development opportunities" affecting the exploitation of both northern Minnesota's minerals and southern and western Minnesota's agricultural soils. I'd like to suggest Minnesota still has some opportunities to "get weaned early," before we've irremediably polluted our waters to the point that Pipestone or Cloquet become the next Waukesha.

You're already showing legacy-creating leadership with the agricultural buffers and water infrastructure initiatives you've already proposed. Please continue and extend that leadership by denying permits for copper mining activities that involve unrealistically long remediation activities (500 years +/-water pollution abatement). Such frameworks could well end up making the issues facing Flint and Waukesha look simple and economical by comparison. The least expensive remediation almost always involves prevention. Please continue to emphasize the least expensive way to protect Minnesota's life-supporting resources. As Flint has no doubt learned, and Waukesha may be learning, "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone." Minnesota still has some choices about what its got. Please protect those choices from "irrational exuberance" regarding treatment timeframes and financial assurances.

Exuberance

By Dolores Hayden
Exuberance sips bootleg gin from a garter flask
with a ruby monogram “E.”

She wears a red dress one size too small,
eyes wide, she flirts with everyone, dares

Lincoln Beachey to fly until he runs out of gas,
rides a dead engine all the way down.

She watches Ormer Locklear climb
out of the cockpit two hundred feet up,

tap dance on his upper wing
as the houses of  honest families

with their square-fenced yards
slide below his shuffle. An oval pond

winks in the sun, like a zero.
Exuberance challenges pilots

to master the Falling Leaf, perfect the Tailspin,
ignore the Graveyard Spiral, the Doom Loop.

These aviators predict every American will fly.
Exuberance believes Everybody Ought


to Be Rich,  John J. Raskob explains why
in the Ladies Home Journal. She gets stock tips

from her manicurist, call loans from her broker,
buys Radio, Seaboard Utilities, Sears,

orders shares in investment trusts — why not? — 
chain stores keep multiplying, cars, trucks,

planes, houses. This nation is all about growth,
growth and leverage, look at the skyscrapers shooting up,

men rivet steel, floor after floor, high-speed elevators
spring through the cores, planes soar over them all.

Sherman Fairchild has made a million
selling aerial photographs of real estate.

Exuberance travels constantly, owns land
in Miami, Miami Beach, Coral Gables, Palm Beach,

she trades “binders” on lots five times over,
befriends Mr. Charles Ponzi from Boston

who is raking in a bundle near Jacksonville.
Prices for sand and palms are sure to rise.

But how do we know when irrational exuberance

has unduly escalated asset values?

Wall Street has been wing walking,
call it barnstormer capitalism,

soon the bankers and the brokers will steal
the aviators’ lexicon, claim their own tail risks,

graveyard spirals, doomsday cycles,
wonder how everything blue-sky stayed up so long.

Exuberance buys more stock on margin,
volume runs high, the ticker tape

can’t keep up, higher, higher, higher,
Black Thursday, not a parachute in sight.


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