Monday, November 7, 2011

Some see shocking destruction, others see 'jobs'

If you get the Journal Sentinel, you saw this photo that nearly filled yesterday's front page:

If you didn't see it, please check out the link and then just let yourself feel your reaction to it. Then visit the photo gallery for some more stunning photos:

This is what Gogebic Taconite and their supporters want to bring to the Hurley/Ashland area of our state.

They want to open an enormous wound that can never be repaired.

But this is the thing - where some see destruction on a vast scale from these giant iron ore mines, others see jobs in a bad economy.

What future do we want for this Packer fan?
As if this really is the only thing we can think of to provide some employment. When you consider the long term costs in ecological destruction, the threats to other parts of the economy (tourism being one), and the collateral damage that will come in terms of more development, higher housing costs (that almost always happens), demands for water, and such, seems to me to be a myopic trade-off, to say the least.

Again, it is crucial to note this: permitting this mine - just like permitting huge industrial dairy farms that pollute, make animals and us sick, and threaten the livelihoods of family farmers - is a political decision far more than an economic one. Because we could make other decisions to create employment opportunities in other kinds of industries that might also pay well - without sacrificing the ecological future of our state.

When it comes to our political parties, these days it sadly comes down to whose interests they represent. Whatever we think of the Walker/Fitzgerald regime, we know whose interests they represent - some of the dirtiest, most toxic industries around.

When I saw this photo of Michigan's Empire Mine, and after reading the article, I found myself wondering: If this photo alone does not shock us into action, what will? If we continue to say yes to this - and to industrial farming and to the shipping industry that is fighting efforts to keep invasive species out of our lakes and to the Koch brothers' Georgia-Pacific Co. which wants the right to put more industrial pollution into our waterways - then we are simply deciding to run faster along this course towards the ecological wreckage of our state.

Is this what we want? Do we allow these corporations and their politicians to manipulate our economic needs and stresses to open our state for dirty businesses, instead of businesses that promote the health of our natural resources and our people, and that are ecologically sustainable?

Are we lacking the creativity to build our state economy on something other than polluting industries and low-wage retail outlets (like Walmart in South and West Milwaukee)? I certainly don't believe so. I believe we are being manipulated into supporting a lot of really bad decisions. And I hope we can come up with a new sustainable, nature-loving, quality of life economy in time to pass on a healthy, beautiful, precious Wisconsin to the generations coming up after us.

So when these moments of decision arrive in terms of what businesses will be allowed to grow and thrive in our state, supported with our tax money, keep this photo in mind - and ask yourself, is this what we really want?

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