Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Remembering time #phenology

More and more oak leaves are are changing from green to bronze, brass and copper. Black cherry trees are putting some of the local maples to shame. The hummingbirds and just about all the butterflies are gone. There's still an occasional dragonfly to be seen. Ladybugs, or something like them, are sputtering through the air, sometimes landing on a human neck or hair. Those mice that haven't yet been caught in a trap are still looking for warm Winter abodes. Dog-walking today, I saw a pileated woodpecker, which reminded me that, probably in several weeks (famous last words?) it will be time to set out the suet feeders (day time temperatures near freezing come a little after Thanksgiving).

black cherry tree in October
black cherry tree in October
Photo by J. Harrington

Yesterday the current (November/December) issue of SIERRA, the eponymous Club's magazine arrived and I was surprised to see Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) on the cover highlighting the lead story, Border Dispute. As you would expect, it's about the problems a Twin Metals mine, if approved, could be expected to impose on the BWCA wilderness. (When I "Googled" one of the assertions in the article, I discovered that the staff at the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library compiled, last March, a resource guide on copper-nickle and sulfide mining.) The SIERRA article also notes that "Tourism today contributes $850 million annually to northeastern Minnesota's economy, but it's still viewed by some as a second-rate industry."

tourist attraction in northern Minnesota (BWCA)
tourist attraction in northern Minnesota (BWCA)
Photo by J. Harrington

One of the points that I've not seen made, and I'd like to see better considered, is the long-term economic future mining offers compared to year-round tourism in northern Minnesota. Although tourism may have its negative environmental impacts, I've not seen it referred to as an extractive industry such as mining. Additional background is available in the book North Shore, but its geographic coverage is limited to areas along Lake Superior's Minnesota coastline. If copper-nickle-sulfide mining is allowed to proceed, many (most?) tourists will move on to less industrialized "wilderness" areas. Then, when the ores run out, can Minnesotans believe that, this time, mining will leave behind any better impacts than it ever has? If Minnesotans care about their children, and their children's children, maybe out seven generations?, mining as it's practiced today, managed to meet minimal legal requirements instead of minimal environmental impacts, doesn't offer a sustainable future. The SIERRA article suggests, if the reader wants to do something to help protect the BWCA, "...urging Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to withdraw all minerals in the BWCA watershed from the federal mining program:" I'd be happier if I were sure that such action would also apply to the proposed PolyMet mine.

Northern Minnesota's phenology is going to be stressed due to climate change. Additional stresses from mining pollution could become the straws that break the back of the tourism industry. Who pays for the retraining for those employed to outfit and service tourists when the ores are gone? Phenology and Joy Harjo can help us to decide if we


Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.

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