Friday, December 22, 2017

'Twas the Day After Solstice, a seasonal wish

We have an early Christmas present for some, perhaps all of you. It depends on how much of a William Gibson fan you are. We loved the Neuromancer and quite enjoyed some of his other works. Gibson offers an observation that we find to be quite cheering, if we look in the right places. He's reported to have noted that "The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed."

If we turn our minds and hearts from the idiocy currently being perpetrated in Washington, D.C., we can find good news scattered about. For example, we recently learned that Kinross Gold preserved fish and wildlife habitat with Trout Unlimited and RMEF. That's not the kind of behavior we would have expected historically from a mining company.

In a similar vein (sorry, we couldn't resist), the Northern Plains Resource Council has a several times amended Good Neighbor Agreement with the Stillwater Mining Company. The key provisions of which are that it:
  • Provides for citizen oversight of mining operations to ensure protection of the area’s quality of life and productive agricultural land;

  • Establishes clear and enforceable water quality standards that go above and beyond state requirements;

  • Provides local communities with access to critical information about mining operations and the opportunity to address potential problems before they occur;

  • Ensures public safety and security while protecting the interest of miners through traffic plans designed to reduce mining traffic on country roads;

  • Raises the bar for environmental excellence by setting goals and objectives for developing new technologies. This is accomplished through a cooperative framework of local citizens, third-party experts, and the mining company.

St. Louis River, downstream of proposed PolyMet project
St. Louis River, downstream of proposed PolyMet project
Photo by J. Harrington

We find ourselves wonder if a similar agreement might be possible in Minnesota, and what it might take to bring one about for something like the proposed PolyMet project. Could an agreement be crafted that would adequately address the concerns of many of the stakeholders who currently, and with good reason, strongly oppose copper-nickel sulfide mining that puts precious Minnesota water resources at unacceptable risk?
Gibson's premise makes me wonder if the emergence of things like Good Neighbor Agreements, the growing interest in the possibility of "sustainable" mining and the increasing recognition that our earth's resources have limits, both in sources and sinks may not be signs of an unevenly distributed future we need to bring about more broadly. That's at least one of our Christmas wishes for this year.

near the entrance of the Boundary Waters
near the entrance of the Boundary Waters
Photo by J. Harrington

Oh, and lest any of you think we may have eaten too many holiday sweets and become Pollyanna-is,   today we also signed up to help Save Bristol Bay from a resurgent Pebble Mine proposal. It seems to us that there needs to be a much better balance between the need for metal resources and the quality of the other natural resources that are put at risk. Search our prior postings on sustainable mining if this interests you. We need to make mining companies, and government regulators and our elected leaders, more sensitive to the idea that a social license to mine doesn't include a license to kill places or their inhabitants.

The Everglades



Green and blue and white, it is a flag
for Florida stitched by hungry ibises.

It is a paradise of flocks, a cornucopia
of wind and grass and dark, slow waters.

Turtles bask in the last tatters of afternoon,
frogs perfect their symphony at dusk—

in its solitude we remember ourselves,
dimly, as creatures of mud and starlight.

Clouds and savannahs and horizons,
its emptiness is an antidote, its ink

illuminates the manuscript of the heart.
It is not ours though it is ours

to destroy or preserve, this the kingdom
of otter, kingfisher, alligator, heron.

If the sacred is a river within us, let it flow
like this, serene and magnificent, forever.

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