The Seventh Generation

Samhain                                  Waning Thanksgiving Moon

Any of us who work the legislature and the administration for any purpose have to take the 6.2 billion dollar deficit seriously.  It will disrupt state work, occupy legislative time and distract attention from other matters, especially longer term matters like environmental and conservation issues.  It could also, in light of its direct cause, the economic crisis and slow return of jobs to our state economy, tilt the scales in favor of jobs based proposals like the Polymet hard-rock, sulfide mine proposed for the edge of the Iron Range.

In times when the books balance and the state’s economy hums along at full employment decisions with long term consequences are still hard to make.  It would be easy, then, in hard times, to simply duck the issues of logging off our state and national forests, their resiliency in light of climate change and the damage to them wrought by invasive species and powered vehicles.  It would be easy, then, in hard times, to put off financial investments in mass transit.  Why spend money when we already have roads and buses?  It would be easy, then, in hard times, to put off more ambitious clean energy goals, continuing to pump electricity out of toxic emitters like coal plants, balking at ground floor investments needed in wind and solar energy.

It would be easy, but it would not be wise.  We have learned already, the hard way, that mountain tops once removed, will no longer rise toward the sky.  We have learned, the hard way, that sulfide mining produces heavy metal and sulfuric acid waste that lasts not years, not decades, but centuries, outlasting the companies that produced it, the jobs created and the governments that allowed it.  We have learned, the hard way, that generating energy with dirty fuels like coal, gasoline and nuclear fission has consequences, world changing, life shattering, additive changes.

This means that especially now we must be vigilant, careful, thinking about the seventh generation when we make our decisions.  Will the seventh generation of Iron Rangers be better off with hard-rock sulfide mines spread along the Range?  Will my seventh generation, my grandchildren of the distant future, find a boreal forest in Minnesota? Will there still be unpaved portions of the metro area?  Areas saved by the development of rail, bicycle and pedestrian pathways?

Hard times, hard as they are, come and go.  The clean waters we love, the dense forests through which we hike, the fresh air we breathe can all be imperiled by decisions made with long term benefits lost, traded for short term gain.

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