What Else Are We Going To Do?
Almost 20 years ago I moved to a small town on the shore of Lake Superior where its vastness, its power and its beauty inspired me. It was then that I knew I was to do everything in my own power in defense of the water.
Recently I was talking with my friend, Pete, who works tirelessly in defense of the water, the land and its creatures. Day-in-day out he does educational work – taking people out to where they can see the source of Class 1 Trout Streams bubbling up in small springs. And he lets them decide for themselves. Is this something that we collectively value? Sometimes when people are seeing a Class 1 Trout Stream for the first time, they are hooked and that can be inspiring. But sometimes the work of educating can seem so small.
So I asked my friend Pete, how does he do it? How does he keep up his energy and commitment when it sometimes seems so futile. He just said, “what else am I going to do?”
Working together patiently, defining our collective values and looking for creative approaches to our economic needs—these are activities that can keep us going. What else are we going to do?
The idea of “the greatest good for the greatest number of people for the longest time” – is at the heart of a development-oriented managed-use approach to our natural resources.
The proposed Polymet mine promises 300 jobs for 20 years. And it also calls for up to 500 years of monitoring and clean-up. This equation does not add up to development—it is simply extraction.
Although it emerged at the beginning of the 1900s within the US Forestry Service, the idea of “the greatest good for the greatest number for the longest time” also applies to our ways of governing ourselves and living together in communities. In an essay on Patriotism, Terry Tempest Williams says that this is the bedrock of democracy– “the greatest good for the greatest number of people for the longest time.”
A few organizations by the numbers:
- United States is not quite 250 years old.
- Minnesota just over 150.
- MN DNR about 80 years old
- US – EPA founded in 1970 – 44 years old.
- PolyMet – How long has Polymet been in existence?
Among all these groups, I would like to know which one can make a genuine and credible promise to be around monitoring for up to 500 years.
As far as I can tell, the only people who have been around here for 500 years are not too pleased by this proposal.
I think there are a number of ways to “do the greatest good for the greatest number of people for the longest period time.” We need to keep talking to each other, keep working collectively and creatively— It’s one story at a time.
One peace at a time.
What else are we going to do?