~ observations in photos, prose, poems and artwork ~
Category: Landscape Ecology
Landscape ecology, the science of studying and improving relationships between ecological processes in the environment and particular ecosystems. These systems involve all flora, fauna … of which humankind is one of the most influential.
As I have been all my life, in a query about the working of the world through art, writing, studies, observations … wondering just how far we will go, how far we can go in our quest to develop past a state of survival. With ever increasing populations and an insatiable desire to dominate the natural world out of fear, we seem destined to repeat the same mistakes … destroying the very thing that sustains us and nurtures us.
Will we continue to foul our water and air and destroy our canopy? Will we curb our population growth with respect so that we can sustain a life worth living for all species on this planet, through planning and wise management? What is life without the beauty that comes with diversity? What is life without kindness? What is life without truth? What is life when it comes so cheap with no respect? Will we eventually move toward stewardship not dominion? Sometimes I question whether we have any choice in our lives but the attitude we choose.
Life is a bed of roses, truly, but with thorns; and so it seems that the appreciation of beauty is, not only, as Thoreau believed, a “moral test” but essential to life. We all have trials, moments where the corruption in our justice system, political and social systems, or injustices and misfortunes on a more personal level seem to far outweigh the good in life … tests that promote a sort of pessimism and a cynicism that keeps us from appreciating the good that comes our way in each passing moment.
(The above case was fought four long years and I include my comments at the above link.)
I truly believe that it is wise to find joy, no matter what may come your way; and that the greatest joys are shared. It seems also true that beauty as it is, in the eye of the beholder, comes in many guises and needs an open mind and eyes wide open to see … like truth.
Understanding the true meaning of success was a journey through a maze of propaganda and a lifetime of searching for the truth. I searched in the first place because I understood viscerally that propaganda was leading me in the wrong direction. It did not make me happy to follow these trails. I did not find true wealth in money and material things. Truth for me was found in the humanity of a smile, the beauty of a sunset, the warmth of firelight … and so I found that success in my life was inextricably linked to beauty, and that knowledge of this truth was the only thing that could bring me the happiness so important for it realization. It required me to reach outside of myself into a larger landscape to fulfill the admonition:
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Jesus of Nazareth
Truth and kindness, then, made its way into my formula for success. Suited to every individual bar none; and the difficulty lies within ourselves, our own ability to see beyond the mundane sphere of our lives to the greater world around us, in order to know true success.
What would this planet be like if we took it upon ourselves to make this our life’s mission; and if we understood that whatsoever we do to the most humble of us we do to ourselves?
It does not mean going out of our way to do good for others. Leave someone alone, if need be. Show respect as you would have it … a simple smile or a greeting. What would you want? What would you expect if you were in their place? This kind of success knows no boundaries and no static definition. It is defined by the people who live it.
On a walk through one of our parks a few years back, I noticed this growth on the trunk of a tree … a fairly reliable sign that the tree was dying. New growth from old on a day in October. It seemed poetic in all the splendor of that fall day.
It has long mystified many … just where some of the water from one of the dual falls of Devil’s Kettle on the Brule emerged after disappearing into a pothole. Sticks, many tossed, have not shown up downstream; and so, the tales persisted and curiosity was piqued.
Hydrologists’ tests measuring flow still show some disparity between the charge and emerging waters, 2 cubic feet per second approximately; and, as a consequence, this fall, a fluorescent dye will be poured into Devil’s Kettle’s pothole to see where this emerges downstream.
The “big stoney” and the Duluth Complex have formed over billions of years and many upheavals; and so the surface and the underlying ground and aquifers are very complicated mixes of many formations.
I had long ago decided to be happy … but got distracted along the way by so many things that occurred to cloud the issue, the issue of living honestly and with integrity … finding joy as a child would, naturally.
One cannot be happy without this and there is no wealth without it either. Where do you find your joy?
monarch on coneflowers
in a child’s eyes
historic architecture, the Bell
the Bell Museum
a walk in big woods
a view through the trees
Nipigon Sunset 1980s
a walk on sandy shore of Superior
Northern sunset over a fishing dock
canoeing in the North Country
a walk in the woods
path tthrough the woods in October
blanket of golden leaves
straight-line winds over Superior on the UP
sunset on the UP
Starfish on the Olympic shoreline / photo
return to the sea
Chequamegon Bay on Lake Superior
glacier lake in Alberta
gathering on a coastal shore
path through the woods
full moon rise (“super moon 2016)
To be satisfied with what one has; that is wealth. As long as one sorely needs a certain additional amount, that man isn’t rich.
One can view this house on the way to Silver Lake by bus. The tree on its east, now gone, was a reminder of the elms that stood majestically along the boulevards in Minneapolis over 45 years ago. These trees have been taken down in great numbers … because, it seems, it was more cost effective to lumber them than to save them.
Trees are money of course. Never mind that they harbor and nourish wildlife, birds of all kinds and others, including humans, that require the shelter, the food, the shade, breadth and breath of an old tree.
Heart-sick watching these giants being harvested in the city of Minneapolis … to make room for more big box houses and parking lots, water parks, roads, sidewalks, and for pulp, mulch, or table tops and doors.
When will we, as a society, learn that old growth trees are essential … that we need clean air … clean water … and earth that is growing? In this regard, trees are vital. Money will not provide this. We will continue to see species extermination until this is learned in earnest throughout the whole of human society.
Do we own our technology, or does it own us? Do we own our possessions, or do they own us? Will we be happier with bigger houses and fancier cars, trips to somewhere else when we have no true investment in the places we live? Better not to grow any investment if it means destroying our base and, with it, the living legacy of our old trees.
I miss the canopy that stood over the boulevards in Minneapolis when I arrived almost 50 years ago … replaced by saplings, which are being trimmed regularly to optimize board feet when harvested. The arbor that arched over our streets cannot be replaced in an entire lifetime. What kind of world are we making on our way to making money?
The headwaters of the Mississippi, the Rainy River and the Great Lakes, as we know, originate in northern Minnesota extending through the heartland of this country to the Gulf, the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean and the Rainy River to Hudson Bay; and, so, water knows no boundaries, especially those drawn on a map. It permeates all of life. It is our base. Words will not change the truth that we, as Minnesota citizens, have a responsibility, not only to ourselves but to the entire biosphere, now and into the future, to preserve this vital, rare and important aquifer that is Minnesota.
I have watched the prescient actions of your office involving our water legacy … the studies and the foresight to do things that have been lacking for too long. For over one hundred years, the state of Minnesota has condoned mining in the Laurentian Divide and for one hundred years, the Mississippi has suffered all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. The Great Lakes, too, have seen damage. The waters of the St Louis River are imperiled because of mining. Even the Rainy River watershed has not escaped mining pollution. Elevated levels of lead and mercury … not including acid rain from coal-fired plants that support mining operations, smelters and other correlated equipment have done their part to imperil this once pristine aquifer and landscape, where the great inland freshwater sea of Lake Agassiz drained its cache.
In spite of this over one-hundred year history of mining in Minnesota, the mention of damage done by one of the river’s greatest polluting industries is rarely mentioned, if at all, in regard to the resulting pollution downstream. In fact, the Environmental Impact study done on the NorthMet Project for Polymet was done using computer simulations … as if there were hardly any field studies at hand.
I hear that Polymet will “create jobs”. I hear that the XL Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline will create jobs too … the failsafe claim of these polluters. How much better to create jobs that sustain the environment rather than destroy? What better than to change the framing of this picture? Desperate measures to sustain an industry that will destroy these vital water reserves, in an ecology that has no precedent on Earth, will serve no one in the long term.
By allowing mining of the precious waters of northern Minnesota, we endanger a vital resource for the entire planet. Mineral leases in the watershed of the Rainy River will ensure damage to the Quetico, the lands surrounding the Superior National Forest and the BWCAW. Granting Polymet the right to mine and process the waste in Babbitt and in Hoyt Lakes will be a grant to mine, not only copper, but water. The pollution will find its way into the deep reserves of the area, to the Great Lakes and possibly into the BWCAW, as it will set precedent for further mining of the sort.
Can we excuse this for any number of jobs, jobs that will be here today and gone tomorrow? Neither you nor I, Governor Dayton, will be here when our children and grandchildren have to answer for the decisions we make today. We will not see a clean-up of these waters … for there is no clean-up possible once copper mining begins. It took 10,000 years, or more, for the pristine, glacial waters of Agassiz to permeate this precious aquifer. There is no knowing the extent to which it could be damaged by copper sulfide mining.
No one person can make the necessary changes in toto. These must be made by all of us changing the way we work and play, the choices we make. As Governor of Minnesota you have a mandate above and beyond that of a resource manager as you so aptly prove. You are the designated caretaker of this important aquifer, duly elected by the people of Minnesota and that role cannot be overstated. Your water initiatives and the two summits give hope. It would be well that the Minnesota legislature works with you to accomplish this very important work.
The Department of Natural Resources plans to hold a sale of state-owned non-ferrous metallic mineral leases in Beltrami, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake of the Woods and St Louis counties. This acreage totals about 195,324 acres.
The notice was published today in the EQB Monitor and State Register, Monday, Jan. 30. For information on the sale and solicited public comments, please view the DNR’s website and the link below:
At the recent water summit in Morris, Minnesota, Governor Dayton reported that 40% of the water in Minnesota is unfit for human recreation, in some areas this percent is over 90%. In the Gulf of Mexico, there is an area of over 120 miles where there is no life … a dead zone, my words not his. He made the point that, in effect, what we do with our water is everyone’s business. So true.
It is right and good that we work to protect our waters by educating the public on conservation and clean up measures. The most effective and best real long term measure, though, would be to stop pollution at the source.. Do we accomplish this by selling the very land and waters that need protection to those who would exploit it?
These leases are being sold now for exploration and this means more intrusions into an already endangered aquifer. The DNR would not sell leases if there was no intent to grant mining permits. Twin Metals and Polymet are only two interests that seek to mine for copper in these invaluable northern aquifers.
In effect, by selling mineral leases at the source of the Rainy River, the Mississippi or the Great Lakes, and linking money made from any of these leases to public education, the state of Minnesota creates a dichotomy, since mining of these water reserves endangers the future of the intended beneficiaries. Better yet, invest in equitable education by creating the kind of environment with a future in it.
Paper Birch, like a litmus test, react to their surroundings, as pollution from the coal-fired plant in Silver Bay has proven over the past forty plus years. Along the north shore of Minnesota, where paper birch and mountain ash bowed their heads in this northern region for centuries, they are now dead and dying.
Some would like you to believe that the cause for this mass dying-off of birch in the north country was drought … or, even earthworms; but anyone who has seen the cause and the effect in real time can testify to the truth.
Drought is not new and neither are earthworms, not as the coal-fired plant in Silver Bay and mining, relative newcomers to this ancient land. It would do us all well to remember as the native Americans understood:
What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset. – Blackfoot
“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.”
Three of the greatest water systems in the North American continent find their source in Northern Minnesota. Polymet, among others, would like to mine copper in the rich, diverse and water dependent ecosystems of St Louis, Lake and Cook Counties.
Once polluted these underground reserves will never be the same … no more land of sky blue waters … and no more beer.