Posted by: mesabimisadventures | December 11, 2009

The Reality of Reality

Interesting.  I just looked to the right of my desk and saw that I have a PolyMet hat sitting on my bookshelf.  It seems fitting since that project has been on my mind a lot lately as well as the minds of many Minnesotans.  People talk about how we’re at a crossroads right now, trying to decide if Minnesota should open its first copper/nickel mine or if the ore should be left where the powers-that-be (or more accurately, volcanic activity, but I digress)  placed it in the ground. 

Proponents, such as myself, look at the issue from a few dominant perspectives.  One perspective wants the jobs on the Range.  That isn’t my driving factor to want the mine to be located up here, not for myself anyhow.  My tush is pretty firmly set in Side Lake and after 9 months of driving everyday to Hoyt Lakes from here back a few years ago, I know I don’t want to repeat that drive.  However, I can understand people’s strong desires to have these jobs up here.  That is one key “yay!” to mineral resources, it’s pretty difficult to outsource the jobs when the ore is located here.  Mining  jobs pay real wages where the workers can afford to actually contribute money back into their local economies.  The lure of PolyMet is not only the 400 primary jobs, but the vast number of secondary jobs that will spin off.  You don’t need an economics degree to understand the impact of 400 jobs that pay well over the living wage. 

The perspective that I approach this project from is based on the reality of reality.  I played a little game in my head on my way home today called “Cradle to Grave” where I mentally assessed my life to see where my consumer goods came from and where they will end up going someday (yes, sad I know, but this is what happens when you’re me).  I live a very simple life and for the most part, deplore gross consumerism as something for insecure people, but the origins of my material possessions reflect the make-up of the United Nations fairly well (if China had about 50 more delegates than every other country).  I imagined a world where all of the mined materials [including plastics (oil-based after all)] were gone tomorrow.  My book would have no spiral binder, my pen would vanish, I wouldn’t be able to listen to MPR, my gardening tools would vaporize, my house would collapse as screws/nails and other holding-together-thingamabobs fell out.  I don’t understand what the alternative to mining is to those who blast it religiously.  A ban on freely reproducing because society’s carrying capacity would drop sharply without metals and fossil fuels? 

If people oppose mining so passionately, why must they continue to support it through their purchases?  Could they please admit that a semi-modern life is dependent on the miners and mining activity they abhor so greatly?  The Industrial Revolution happened, sorry?  I’m exhausted by the hypocrisy as they write editorials about how destructive and soul-destroying mining is while on their laptop in a nice warm home with running water brought to them courtesy of mining and metals processing.  Sigh…

My old boss had a simple rule.  We weren’t allowed to go to him with a problem unless we had considered our solutions and could present options to him.  I completely understand that policy now.  I have grown weary of hearing about the evils of PolyMet without one single solution being offered, other than not mining here.  The opponents might as well stand up and declare “let’s outsource our impacts to Mother Earth.”  It’s as if certain people only became aware of the source of their quality-of-life now when faced with it in NE Minnesota.  Where did they think all the gidgets and gadgets lining the shelves at Target came from before this new awareness?  This Christmas as they purchase gifts, will they think twice before buying the batteries for Junior’s toys?  Will they look at the origin of their wrapping paper and realize that even processed paper contains material that was mined?  Will she be as excited for the diamond necklace or will she finally understand that her bling-bling came from a hole-hole in the ground-ground?  The larger question for me is, will they even care or will they believe that their consumer habits are fine as long as others far, far away have to live with the consequences of their checkbook decisions?

There are no easy solutions in this debate and it saddens me that it’s tearing the Range apart (as described a few days ago in the DNT).  However, it amuses me (in a non-haha sort of way) that people are so focused on their different perspectives that they cannot sit down and honestly, calmly discuss what they have in common and figure out how we can bring those viewpoints together.  Here is what I see in common between all of us.  Okay, most of us, some people are just totally off the spectrum either way and I will choose to believe they are not representative of well, anybody other than themselves.

1) We would like to maintain a decent standard-of-living which means that we’ll be using products containing materials that were mined. 
2) We dig having clean water, clean air, clean soil and veggies/critters that we can eat confidently knowing they won’t cause us to keel over.
3) We would like the Iron Range to stay economically and socially viable with a diverse economy comprised of a magically delicious mix of service- and resource-based jobs.
4) We care about the next generation and well, this generation too, I guess.
5) We enjoy NE Minnesota because it isn’t the Twin Cities (I had to slide that in because you know I’m right, hee hee) and we like it all nature-y and stuff.

Is a rational discussion possible at this point or am I just an idealistic Aquarian?



  1. You really hit the nail squarely on the head with this one! 😉

    Most people are so focused on what they perceive to be the “right way” they fail to see any other possibility and and have a “damn them to hell that disagree with me” mentality. Nor do they seriously research and understand the subtle nuances of the issue. You, with your whirling dervish of a brain, absorb all the information, hit the “brain puree” button and come up with myriad possibilities, rather then the strict party line most people learn from the propaganda machines that spew out their brain-washing, mind numbing, folded, spindled and mutilated ideas.

    And now I’ll quit before I begin a Dennis Miller type rant of my own!

    Keep up the awesome work, someday when you publish your writings we can all say, “we knew her when she was just a brilliant blogger!”

  2. A couple of helpful/informative sites for you, JK. the first one has one of my favorite images for the anti-mining crowd

  3. Nicely written Julie! Mining can almost always be done in a way that respects the environment. But, I do think that it’s always a good idea to keep some pressure on the bean counters because so much is at stake. And, bean counters don’t have a good track record for caring for much beyond themselves (AIG, Lehman Brothers, Enron, etc. etc.).

    If a serious, preventable environmental mistake is made in mining, I believe that management should face charges. It’s the old, but always important, rights and responsibility equilibrium. If they can accept the responsibility fully then I say let mining move ahead. I’d like to see this high standard applied to mining no matter where in the world it occurs, but I know that’s a long shot.

    Well, I’d better go buy a can of pop . . . in a can.

  4. THANK YOU!!!! I’ve been looking for someone with a well-educated perspective on this issue! Not just someone ranting and raving one way or the other with no education, experience or resources to back up their opinions!

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