Thursday, February 6, 2014

Interuption to Normal Programming

I'm interrupting normal gratitude programming to bring you this extensive commentary - 

I went to the public meeting on the proposed mining and land exchange near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (Northern Minnesota).  They didn’t clarify during the comment period who the land exchange involved, but based on history I could venture a guess.  There was an open house before the public hearing where I guess I could have learned this as well as other info; however, I didn’t know that was what the open house meant.

It was that really cold Tuesday recently when schools were closed etc.  I’d made phone calls for the Sierra Club the night before recruiting people and some had weather concerns which I shared.  So I was surprised to say the least to see easily over 1000 people there.

I’ve mentioned to a few people recently that I’ve been a bit obsessed with watching Byron Katie videos on YouTube.  I was prepared to use her “The Work” strategy with the stressful thoughts I expected to experience at the hearing.  I exercised right before hand and came in with my intention/hope to provide a more peaceful than frustrated presence.

As I mentioned the place was packed.   I stood at the door and accessed the least crowded portion of the room and headed there.  After finding a seat (most were filled), I soon came to realize I was in the mining portion of the room.  Most people had stickers on that said either 500 (500 years of water monitoring/clean-up) or “I support mining”.  I hadn’t parked in the typical locale (no surprise) so I guess I missed the sticker passer outers.

The hearing was 3 hours of testimony – names drawn randomly each had 3 minutes to comment.  This was the last of three public hearings.  I’d read online earlier that day that a previous one up North had been largely supportive.  I was surprised at how many miners (with hard hats etc.) were there.  Later it was hinted at (unconfirmed) that some were being paid to be there.

Either way I thought about how silly it is that we see this issue as No NorthMet Mining versus Yes NorthMet mining, as if we are on opposite sides.  In fact – nearly everyone – certainly everyone living locally – wants clean water.  And nearly everyone wants sustainable jobs.

The number I heard was this may provide jobs for 20 years.  And that is the story repeated again and again throughout the world.  Water monitoring/clean-up/maintenance may need to occur for 500 years.  As someone skillfully pointed out MN has been a state for 155 years and the U.S. a country for 237 years and this company expects to be a corporation for 500?

Someone else pointed out that 8000 pounds of copper is needed for each wind turbine.  You know how people would say “save paper/environment” do it electronically?  Well, yes logging is tough on the environment but compared to mining for all our phone and computers and TVs – forget it.  Anyway, windmills and solar panels and light rail and electric car plug-ins need copper.  And the countries where that copper is being mined (Chile, Peru, China, Russia) mostly have less environmental safeguards than we do.

However, once again someone point out – we only recycle 25% of our electronics.  We already have all these mined material not being used.

So back and forth it goes.  Just waiting as each speaker began - to find out which side she/he is on.
So it goes the drama of humanity, of engagement, of being right.  This story unfolds night after night, hearing after hearing, room after room.  

But here comes an another example -

A young man gets up to take his 3 minute turn.  He is opposed to the mining – I don’t recall the specific reasons he provided…He ends his time saying something like, “I wish I could grab a beer after this with some of the miners here to talk.  But I won’t be 21 for a few months.”

I have to reiterate how divided this room is – not only divided by stickers worn, or where one was (which was clear as ½ of the room or the other would applaud), but also in appearance.  I was surrounded by barrel chested, somewhat scruffy big men (and a few suits too), the other side had a completely different look.  When one of them mentioned owning land or a cabin up North, I would inwardly cringe.  The men around me saying “I live there!”

And here was this skinny 20 year old college student who didn’t care about divisions.

For the future to look different – we have to BE different and he was my shining example.  He didn’t have the best factual argument (which I give to the person who pointed out that this is in the Great Lakes watershed where 20% of the world’s fresh surface water is found) or the most powerful speaker (which I give to a First Nations woman who moved me to tears), but he was a living embodiment of Rumi’s

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing
There is a field.
I’ll meet you there.”

I left the public hearing around 9:30pm – about ½ hour before it ended.  As I was walking out I saw the college student, and guess who he was talking to? 

 A miner.

He reached out his hand, and someone took it, and there they were opposite sides, talking and smiling.

I waited until they were done and then told him how impressed I was by his lack of adversarial-ness in his comment.  What can we/will we/could we all create together?

In all the Byron Katie videos I’ve watched the most profound concept she has seeded in me is – 

“Defense is the first act of war.”

I won’t even attempt to explain that here as I am only at the beginnings of grasping it.  But she demonstrated the concept and I could glimpse the truth.

My sister-in-law gave me 365 Dalai Lama – Daily Advice from the Heart.  This is my favorite so far

“Loving thoughts and actions are clearly beneficial for our physical and mental health.  They express our true nature.  On the contrary, violent, cruel, and hateful acts shock us.  That is why we feel the need to talk about hem and why they make front-page news.  The problem is that little by little, insidiously, we come to think that human nature is wicked.  One day we might convince ourselves that there is not hope for mankind.”

On a lighter note I just read a great article on all this by none other than Aljazeera America

My favorite part -

"What we're seeing with the PolyMet proposal is kind of like their profile," says Betsy Daub, policy director for Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. "They're going to put their best face forward, and their best face is 500 years of water pollution."

The public has until March 13th to comment.  More info at the link.  Here is the email for comments.

When the last tree has been cut down,
 the last fish caught,
 the last river poisoned,
 only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.

Native American saying

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