Monday, July 3, 2017

Freedom's just another...

The sun is shining, birds are singing, fawns are scampering, goslings are waddling. It's Summertime and, at least for the moment, the livin' is easy. It was a time, in many ways like the present, when I was in the audience at Janis Joplin's last concert, at Harvard Stadium. Of course, we didn't know at the time it was going to be her last concert. Probably just as well or the crowd would have been even bigger and more rowdy. Here's a link to her setlist that evening.

I mention that concert because it's again Summertime, almost 50 years later. When I was there, the Charles River Basin was infamous for its pollution. In 1972, the Federal Clean Water Act was passed by Congress and signed by the President. Now. many years later, Boston's (and Cambridge's) combined sewer overflows are much better managed, to the point that serious studies are underway to establish the feasibility of a swimming facility in the Basin. Before I left Boston for Minnesota, a standing joke was that, if one fell into the Charles, they'd have to rush you to the hospital for a tetanus shot.

Mississippi River, Stone Arch Bridge
Mississippi River, Stone Arch Bridge
Photo by J. Harrington

Minnesota's Twin Cities resource, comparable to Boston's Charles River Basin, is the Mississippi River, which already has several beaches. Minneapolis is now looking at redevelopment of the Upper Harbor, without consideration of swimming. In light of the huge investment that's been made by the federal and state governments, plus the Metropolitan Area and the cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul and South St. Paul to control combined sewer overflows to the river and improve the quality of the wastewater discharge from the Metro Treatment Plant at Pig's Eye, I hope those planning for the river's use include more opportunities for recreation on and in the water.

We too often get locked into our thinking about natural resources. Lake Mille Lacs, long know for its walleye fishery, has recently been "ranked No. 1 bass lake in the nation." Will resorts continue to grasp at history or take advantage of future opportunities? Think about how polluted water throughout Minnesota's agricultural regions plays out with those who would consider moving there and starting a business. Is someone from Morris or Wilmar going to head to "The Cities" for swimming as well as shopping? Or, would the whole package work better if small town living were combined with a quality environment. If Boston, Minneapolis and St. Paul can clean up their historic messes and enjoy thriving economies in part because of the investments required, what does that tell those living in greater Minnesota about the value of water resources for more than growing corn and soybeans.

Mississippi River near Lake Pepin
Mississippi River near Lake Pepin
Photo by J. Harrington

Let me bring this back to the music of my youth and another Joplin classic, perhaps my favorite, Me and Bobby Mcgee, with Kris Kristofferson's incomparable lyrics for July 4th, Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. Think about it, please.

A Nation’s Strength



What makes a nation’s pillars high
And its foundations strong?
What makes it mighty to defy
The foes that round it throng?

It is not gold. Its kingdoms grand
Go down in battle shock;
Its shafts are laid on sinking sand,
Not on abiding rock.

Is it the sword? Ask the red dust
Of empires passed away;
The blood has turned their stones to rust,
Their glory to decay.

And is it pride? Ah, that bright crown
Has seemed to nations sweet;
But God has struck its luster down
In ashes at his feet.

Not gold but only men can make
A people great and strong;
Men who for truth and honor’s sake
Stand fast and suffer long.

Brave men who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others fly...
They build a nation’s pillars deep
And lift them to the sky.


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