Thursday, June 30, 2016

Water Ethics: its time has come

I'm a book person more than a movie person, although I've really enjoyed most of the movies I've seen that were based on books I've read. Frank Herbert's Dune is the exception that proves the rule. I loved the book and hated, vehemently, the movie. Water, water management, and water ethics are central elements of the book. I've been thinking about Dune, again, ever since Governor Dayton proclaimed Minnesota's need for a water ethic. My enthusiasm for his proposal is tempered by the acute awareness that it's been more than four decades since we established a national goal of "fishable-swimmable water" and we've still immersed in water quality problems.

Sunrise River flows into the St. Croix
Sunrise River flows into the St. Croix
Photo by J. Harrington

Then again, some of the more interesting and creative people I know of are tackling the question of Fostering A Water Ethic. The Center for Humans and Nature, in Chicago, has made available on line "3 Videos, 3 Articles, 3 Responses, & 3 Blog Posts" that "highlight the many ways we can mindfully reimagine our relationship with and governance of the life-giving gift of water." In the highly improbable event that Governor Dayton ever reads this blog, I hope he makes time to look at the Fostering material. I think he'll enjoy it, especially the photography. As I've explored the contents myself, they've caused me to forego my usual cynicism and to think harder and, hopefully, more creatively about what I can do to make Minnesota's Water Ethic viable and successful. With hard work and luck, it might become as successful as was Dune. We need something like that.

The St. Croix and Minnesota flow to the Mississippi's Lake Pepin
The St. Croix and Minnesota flow to the Mississippi's Lake Pepin
Photo by J. Harrington

We can't continue to rely on government and regulations to protect us from ourselves. Flint Michigan's potable water failures are but one example of that. The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy informs us that the Minnesota Court of Appeals found that Metro Council can increase its phosphorus discharge to Lake Pepin despite the abysmally slow progress on reducing agricultural pollution, a major (the major?) contributor to algae blooms in the lake. If Minnesota's farmers don't clean up their act, Lake Pepin and many of Minnesota's other wonderful water resources will become essentially useless. Right now 40% of our waters aren't fit for fishing and swimming. Stay tuned for musings about how we can connect some of those dots. We remain awash in our own waste.


By Brian Russell

the unthinkable prospect
of a world in which I am left
to my own devices

which are few and as soon
as the batteries die useless
first order of business

I draw a map in the sand
mark where I stand as the capital
of civilization   within me the
detailed blueprints of the pyramids
and the concept of zero
beyond me the finite frontier

the many miles of undeveloped
shoreline with spectacular views of a
sea filled with intricately depicted
monsters   I have a lot to do before

I introduce the new world
to art and astronomy and industry
medicine and technology
ethics politics democracy

by a show of hands we shall elect
which tree to burn in the first fire

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Please be kind to each other while you can.