What harm could mining do in the watershed of the BWCA and headwaters of the Mississippi River?

In light of the ongoing process to permit the Polymet to mine copper in Babbitt with a processing center in Hoyt Lakes, I am reposting my article first published in November, 2012:

A view of Northern Minnesota as the battle rages for copper, sulfide mining near the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area.

 

America Incorporated or American Democracy?

I have long believed that our democracy was at risk through negligence.  Too many distractions: television, internet, shopping for things that money will buy, constantly processing useless and energy robbing information ….  We mistake a movie or sitcom for life, friends on social media for family, big houses and fancy cars for worth; and, in the process, miss the very life-giving force of living a life that is true to our own real needs.

It takes effort to develop these things and face-to face contact with our sleeves rolled up. It takes affection, appreciation and attention for this democracy to survive, all of which is at the heart of love.

May love prevail in this country.

 

What is the difference at the heart of any religion, when truth and kindness reign?

Kindness and truth are at the heart of all religions and so Christians are not alone on these matters.
Quotations from the Muslim Prophet Muhammad:

On kindness:
Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever has not kindness has not faith.
None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.
He who helpeth his fellow-creature in the hour of need, and he who helpeth the oppressed, him will God help in the Day of Travail.
They will enter the Garden of Bliss who have a true, pure, and merciful heart.

On riches:
It is difficult for a man laden with riches to climb the steep path which leads to bliss.
O Lord Keep me alive a poor man, and let me die poor and raise me amongst the poor.
Seek for my satisfaction in that of the poor and needy.

On truth (heaven, self-knowledge):
Heaven lieth at the feet of mothers.
He who knoweth his own self, knoweth God.
Learn to know thyself.

Success?

anita_northwoods_hike
Where will the quiet places be found, the wilderness areas that sustain all life if we, as a society, continue to place money above all else?

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.

For a better world.

 

In the Shelter of a Tree

fall_walk_painting

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?

 

An Open Letter to Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton

Dear Governor Dayton,

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.

Sincerely,

Anita Suzanne Tillemans

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aquifers surrounding the Babbitt area where Poymet wants to build a copper mine
aquifers surrounding the Babbitt area where Poymet wants to build a copper mine

Supreme Court of Minnesota decides that a ballot initiative on minimum-wage is the sole discretion of the Minneapolis City Council:

The Supremacy Clause of our United States Constitution (Article VI, Clause 2) established the Constitution as supreme law of the land, becoming the cornerstone of our political structure.  It established that no matter what the federal government or states wish to do the laws made would have to comply with the Constitution.

In deciding A16-1367 , did the Supreme Court of Minnesota comply with the first amendment:

“Congress shall make no law … prohibiting the …  right of the people  … to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

statue_sonnet_photo

 

A16-1367        Tyler Vasseur, et al., petitioners, Respondents, vs. City of Minneapolis, et al., Appellants, Ginny Gelms, in her capacity as Elections Manager, Hennepin County:

 

Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Daniel P. Rogan, Senior Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for respondent Ginny Gelms

“The district court erred in granting respondents’ petition pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 204B.44(a) (Supp. 2015), and directing the Minneapolis City Council to include a question regarding a proposed minimum-wage amendment to the Minneapolis City Charter on the ballot for the general election because the City Charter vests general legislative authority solely in the City Council.”


Acting Justices, Judge Randolph W. Peterson and Louise Dovre Bjorkman.

(Took no part, Justices David R. Stras, David L. Lillehaug, Margaret H. Chutich and Anne K. McKeig)

In conclusion, the Mn Supreme Court decided that:

 “Minneapolis residents are not permitted to directly implement legislation by petition” that their elected representatives, “so far, have refused to” pursue), rev. denied (Minn. Aug. 25, 2005).5

 Is it time for an amendment to the Minneapolis city charter?

On the Bluffs over Wakon-teebe

st_paul_overlook_2016

The pictured overlook stands on the bluffs above a cave that the Indians named wakon-teebe, known by various names as Dwelling of the Great Spirit or Mystery, House of Spirits  and the Spirit House.  It contains a crystal pool fed by spring water that had reported flows of 25 gallons per minute and held ancient Indian hieroglyphs, until they were destroyed by railroad construction.  A shadow of the original visited by Jonathan Carver in 1766, this cave stands on the banks of the Mississippi in the bed of what was once the great river, Warren, which discharged glacial waters from the largest lake ever known, Lake Agassiz.

What stood thousands of years took relatively little time to desecrate.  St. Paul & Chicago Railroad condemned the strip of land along its river bank, dug it down and nearly destroyed it.  Most of what was carved away held the cave’s petroglyphs.  The entrance is now sealed by a steel door following habitation during the Great Depression, curiosity seekers and landscaping for public and private use, all of which could not help to change the essence of what it was for thousands of years to the Native Americans.  The Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary is now home to this “spirit cave” and there have been improvements in the surrounding park.

The bluffs above wakon-teebe, designated Indian Mounds Park, hold sacred burial mounds many of which have been destroyed for expediency.  Only six were spared of at least 37 known in the area, to be registered as historic preservation sites.

At the overlook above the cave, garbage was strewn everywhere, the only two garbage cans, overflowing … plastic bags, pop cans, trash in abundance down the side of this bluff.  Votive candles on the stone walls below a solitary old tree testified to the still sacred nature of this place, where a vigilant bald eagle perched above the river valley.

Views from the bluffs are breathtaking and reveal the immensity of this river valley, filled now with artifacts of our “progress” — an airport, trains and tracks, barges and, among other things, Pigs Eye Waste Treatment Plant, while the Great Spirit has, evidently, been evicted and locked out, perhaps perched in the old tree above the cave.

The ironies still amaze and befuddle as mankind’s journey to full cognition remains, seemingly, elusive.

Setting Precedent / The Danger of Copper Mining at the headwaters of the Great Lakes

The state of Minnesota made a mistake in the late 1800’s by permitting a mine at the Hill of Three Waters in what is now known as the Hull Rust Mine.  By diverting the attention away from the actual fountainhead of the Mississippi so that mines could be established, and declaring the “official” head at Lake Itasca, a 2 mile square lake in the far west of the state, this made mining possible on the Iron Range; and has been a primary cause of pollution in the great Mississippi River and its wetlands at the source.  It has also set precedent for more mining in the highlands of the Laurentian Divide, the primary recharge source for three great rivers of the world, that of the Mississippi River, Rainy River and the St Louis River (extreme headwaters of the Great Lakes and the St Lawrence Seaway).  Now we stand to see another precedent set, one for copper mining.

DNR approval of the FEIS for NorthMet in March 2016, and subsequent opening for Polymet to proceed with applications for permits has opened the potential of a floodgate of pollution from copper mining in one of the most water rich and water dependent ecosystems in the North American continent, at the headwaters of three great rivers ….  There is, literally, no other place like it- because of this.

Links to information on the NorthMet Project in Northern Minnesota

If these permits are approved, allowing for a reduction in air and water quality and destruction of wetlands just south and along the border of the BWCAW, it will open the door to United States Forest Service approval of the land exchange, an exchange that Polymet cannot do without.

If the USFS approves the land exchange, this would be forfeiting its authority to mining interests over lands that were set aside for protection. The Forest Service would be trading, not only lands, but a trust that these ecosystems would be protected from exploitation for generations to come.

Polymet will be mining water resources, destroying wetlands, by their own admission; and, in effect, degrading natural resources, flora and fauna, with its lease to continuously extract metals in an open-pit mine. They will be requiring permits to do all of this, including permits to take endangered species on lands that the Forest Service was given in trust.

In addition, this would help establish precedent that could facilitate more land exchanges of this type. By trading these lands, USFS would, essentially, be demonstrating a lack of will in exercising its authority and create a barter system that conflicts with the role as steward.  It would allow exploitation and cannot be reconciled with this public trust … water being their most sacred trust.

The entire state and beyond would pay the price.

Status and submissions for Polymet’s air quality permit (NorthMet Project)

Status and submissions for Polymet’s water quality permit (NorthMet Project)

Status and submissions for Polymet’s request for 401 certification (NorthMet Project)

Highlights of second quarter 2016 as reported by September 15, 2016

May sanity prevail.

Fruits of Fossil Fuel

We can all agree that the advent of fossil fuel extraction and use has changed our world.  What does this mean?

Benzene is found in the air from burning coal and oil, at gasoline service stations, and in motor vehicle exhaust.  Some effects from short term inhalation are impaired driving from dizziness and sleepiness, and unconsciousness (at high levels).  It is known to cause irritation to eye, skin, and respiratory tract as well as creating changes in the composition of red blood cells, increased incidence of leukemia, risks to the fetus in pregnancy among other toxic risks.  It is known by the EPA as a known human carcinogen for all routes of exposure.

Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOX) are known to cause acid rain which affects our waterways and forests, destroying these natural environments ability to sustain life.

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/acid-rain-overview/

Petroleum Coke (Pet Coke): abundant toxins in heavy dust from bitumen: chromium, vanadium, sulfur, selenium … being used now in coal-fired power plants and emits 5-10 times more CO2 than coal.  Even so, it is excluded from most assessments of climate impact because it is considered a refinery byproduct.

Formaldehyde (from natural gas) a carcinogen with known links to leukemia and nasopharyngeal cancers, a potent allergen and DNA alterative, also contributes to ground-level ozone.  It is commonly used in fracking for which the industry does not report details of its use.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) an entire class of toxic chemicals which are known as carcinogens and genetic mutagens are endemic in the production of oil and gas. We can already see the effects on wildlife after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mercury, largest single source of airborne mercury emissions in the U.S is from coal-fired plants from and is known as a dangerous neurotoxin.   It will affect the brain development of a child, delaying walking and conversation, attention span … high doses in the womb and in infants can cause mental retardation, cerebral palsy, deafness and blindness.  In adults it is known to affect a person’s ability to reproduce, can cause memory loss, numbness in the extremities ….

Silica Dust or crystalline silica (frac sand) is a carcinogen and breathing silica dust can lead to silicosis, which is a form of lung disease with no cure. Commonly used during fracking operations, each stage of the process requires hundreds of thousands of pounds of silica quartz–containing sand. Millions of pounds may be used for a single well.

Radon used is a colorless, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas which though it comes from a variety of natural sources, the fracking industry represents a significant new and increased source of radon exposure to millions of citizens. Radon is released into local groundwater and air during fracking operations. It also travels through pipelines to the point of use—be it a power plant or a home.

Hydrofluoric Acid (HF) / Hydrogen Fluoride from oil and gas production is one of the most dangerous acids known and can damage lungs, moving into deep tissue, including bone, where it causes cellular damage.  It can be fatal if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

These are only 10 of the toxins attributed to the fossil fuel industry but there are other far reaching effects of oil, gas and coal production.

Greenhouse gas-induced climate change

Massive highway systems and traffic jams

War and increased Military, being one of the biggest consumers of fossil fuels

Loss of Wilderness

Pollution of the aquifers and air

Mountain-top removal

Earthquakes from fracking

Mining of water reserves

Species extinctions …

 

The automobile:  Could Henry Ford have imagined the long term results of widespread personal automobile use, the massive highway systems, the infrastructure to supply oil, pipelines through aquifers, offshore drilling and spills in marine ecosystems to supply an insatiable thirst for energy and wealth from its production, the danger to our air, water, foods and our health … the health of not only our species, but all others on Earth at stake?

Ford was a pacifist and believed that mass production of inexpensive goods coupled with high wages for workers would make life better for all. He believed that consumerism was a key to peace.  Has it been the answer?  Is money and access to all manner of disposable goods the panacea for what ails the human race? Are we all richer for having this kind of access?  The more money we have the more is spent … better yet to provide a life worth living to all in a fair and equitable world where money does not rule. Has material accumulation made us richer and created a peaceful world?  The results are obvious.

There is no end to this kind of consumption, because it never truly satisfies. While the renegade fossil fuel industry destroys sacred lands in North Dakota, the news media turns a blind eye and consumers head to the gas station to fill their tanks.

On the shore of the Olympic Peninsula’s rainforest

Cedar_driftwood_painting

We walked along the shore looking out over the Pacific Ocean, wandering around giant cedars that had drifted up along the shore … nature’s taking  …. and yet mankind continues to take so much more – clearing  mountaintops of ancient stands of cedars in the Olympic National Forest.  Giants felled, and man the so-called “conqueror”.

Was this path intended all along?  Civilizations have come and gone for much the same reasons; and we never seem to learn that these resources are finite.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Seems the only answer to this dilemma; and yet, where are we along that path?

Photos of Clearcutting on the Olympic Peninsula

Fall color?

To take a trip to look at the leaves, observe and enjoy the changing season perhaps might seem a distant and impractical use of limited time in a busy schedule, but don’t we all need this at some point in our lives?  Isn’t it a necessity to enjoy whatever color lights your path along the way? It has been said so many times that life is all about moments and that the best things in life are free.   In spite of this age tested advice, we have traveled too far away from true wealth, so that we can make a life that looks good on a balance sheet.

Too many people are living on a see-saw in a volatile financial market.  The “worst in us running the rest of us”.  As vested pensions were replaced by market driven portfolios, retirees, then, were chained to perpetual investment strategies at a time when enjoying the fall color might be warranted.  A lifetime of  paying into social security (double for baby boomers) and medicare, wall street retirement plans, insurance policies, mortgages and rents have left retirees wishing they could take that time. While young people with a lifetime of college debt ahead and low paying jobs, high rents and food costs are literally immersed in a world that sells everything but the things they need for happiness.

Perhaps we could all use a little color.

 

On Simplicity

Thoreau did not live to be very old and, even so, what profound sentiments filled his relatively short life.  I took this picture of a white pine at its prime and photoshopped the image to get this effect, adding the quote from HDT below:

white_pine_thoreau
In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.
Henry David Thoreau

The danger of frac sand mining in southern Minnesota …

Perrot_State_Park

It was a new experience to see Perrot State Park.  A beautiful place along the Mississippi River.  And yet we were advised not to drink the water from the campground faucets ….

A few years back, with a friend, I drove south beyond Wabasha, along the Minnesota side of the Great River Road.  This should have been the growing season, full of life … flora and fauna … birds flying and sounding in the wetlands and, even so, there was utter silence in the middle of this day near the place where there are frack sand mining operations, operations that you cannot see from the road … though their presence is becoming more and more evident through the years.

How long will we allow corporations to profit from the destruction of our environment, the loss of water and air quality, the diminishing quality of life?  How long will it be before we experience a silent spring?

 

The Looming Prospect of Copper Mining in the Uplands of Minnesota’s Water Legacy …

falls_northwoods

As I read the continuing saga of Polymet and it’s efforts to mine copper in the northern woods of Minnesota, I remember the over-40 years since this abominable prospect first showed its ugly head … a distant cry that seemed unfathomable, impossible.

It has been almost 50 years since my coming to Minnesota and since I saw this land of 10,000 lakes and the “mother of waters” for the first time, Lake Superior, a dream, an unimaginable, unbelievable natural wonder.  Naive and in love with this beautiful land, I could never imagine that we would poison the air and water, Minnesota’s blue-sky lakes and waterfalls, streams and wetlands with the castoffs of the mining industry and the coal burning plants used to support the mining process; but, this is what we have done.  Now we know what pollution can do.

Do we stand up and say “no more”?  Have we said to Polymet … “don’t even consider this prospect”?  No.  Through the Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota has sold the prospect of more mining, more lumbering, more degradation .. all for the sake of financial gain in a short term view.

But what of the long term?  We await the deciding. After many years of NO from the people in Minnesota, the DNR, the US Forest Service and the Army Corps of Engineers still hold the prospect over our heads.  How long does it take to say NO?

 

A Man of His Word

No matter what happens at the Democratic Convention, Senator Bernie Sanders’ run for the Presidency has deepened our awareness of politics in the United States of America.  We’ve seen biases in the media, state primaries, the falsification of our democratic process by allowing super delegates and corporate money into the process giving unfair advantage and influence, allowing multiple votes for officials and corporations. Bernie’s  campaign has been an example of what we need, men and women of their word who work for their electorate and do not take money from lobbyists and corporate interests.

By all that is intelligent and rational, politics as usual needs to change, because bribery by any other name is still bribery and should be illegal.  Campaign finance reform and laws concerning lobbyists need to be implemented to get money out of politics.  Our public airwaves belong to the public, not to corporations.  Elections need paper ballots that can be counted and validated, not touch screens and corruptible systems …. there is so much work to do.

We are still in the process of selecting the Democratic candidate for President of these United States and th Democratic Convention will begin next week on July 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, PA.  The 2016 Party Platform has been posted online and our work has only just begun … This document is ready for public input and submitted by the 437 DNC members who are also superdelegates.

There are 719 superdelegates in all, and since it serves a democracy to have an open and a fair election process, I have made a sort of this  in alphabetical order with last name first sorted according to preference:

Hillary Clinton, OMalley, Bernie Sanders and Uncommitted

Email contact when available to me during this sort has been given.  Let your preferences be known with respect, the only way to make a positive change.

For the sake of our democracy.

Anita

For Love is Lord of All …

white_pine_thoreau

Life is fatal. It is not a question that we all die … but how we live.

To live is to love with a sense of community … since no one lives without the kindness and good will of others on some level. Happiness and survival, then, are linked by love; and health, gained by living in a mutual effort to make our lives as rich and meaningful as is possible in this very short time on Earth … leaving a better place for our children.

When we see others suffering, as a consequence, it is our family that we see suffering, since we are all part of this fabric of life, and our understanding, deep-rooted and wordless.  Clean food, water and air are basic. To destroy these things for the profit of a few is not healthy and it is, in fact, a sign of dysfunction on a global scale and profoundly disturbing.

What will we do about the assault on the health of this planet? Are we working fast enough and diligently enough to install the systems necessary for peaceful coexistence? Building the resources for education of our children, all children, so that our species will evolve to a higher plain?

Time will tell. Will we have enough of it before our life as a species runs its course?

For the sake of our beautiful planet.

Anita

Loss of Innocents: The Politics of Fear and the Use of Deadly Force

Observing events of the past week, and in a quandary over the number of gunshots used in many of the police motivated killings, I wonder about over-the-top use of force in these cases.  Any officer, especially those given the responsibility of carrying guns, should be emotionally mature, competent, and trained in non-lethal methods of engagement, as a priority.  Even when a first bullet might be motivated by the expectation of lethal force, what can be the motivation for a second, third, fourth, and fifth?

In the cases of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, these were innocent victims, victims who cooperated with police to their demise.  What does this teach a wary public when there is no accountability, and how does this benefit the men and women in blue who use reason and apply caution in their handling of dangerous situations?  We are all put in danger.  Fear and loathing turn the ethos of “serve and protect” into a farce and make a good police officer’s job even harder, with hair-trigger reactions on all sides.

What must be done to move our system toward sustainable and positive outcomes in these situations can only be done through police training and education where prejudice and ignorance have no place.  The harm has already been done when we place guns in the hands of police officers who do not know how to apply respect and compassion with listening skills.  We do not have a problem with “super-predators” in our black communities any more so than in our white communities and our institutions, institutions that marginalize the powerless and create desperate men and women on all sides … men and women who will do what they think necessary, having few options, out of fear, to do what is right.

The shootings of Delrawn Small, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile this past week by police, and those of police officers Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Sergeant Michael Smith, Sr CPL Lorne Ahrens  in Dallas, who were protecting and serving community members in a peaceful protest, prove this point.  Observe the politics of fear in the use of deadly force where fear and loathing beget violence, and violence begets more violence, a very old story.  Three innocent black men were shot dead by police, police who are now on paid leave or at a desk job (none are in jail); while the black man, Micah Xavier Johnson, who shot police is dead – killed by a bomb, no less.  All of these killings were the product of fear and loathing, a failure in our culture to deal with the heart of injustice.

What can be done to change this pattern of violence in America today?  Certainly not more violence; because violence comes in many guises – not the least of which is social.  The culture needs to change.  Rather than a militarized police force with additional “troops” and equipment, perhaps institutional evolution motivated by kindness and truth … since the first thing sacrificed in these deadly encounters is compassion; and in the aftermath, truth.

Philando Castile

EPSON MFP image

Since the killing of Mike Brown, there has been an awakening across this country and the police force needs a revamping in our communities with accountability to a citizens’ board of review.  No innocent should be handled in the way that Philando Castile was handled by police.

In spite of the odds, young people of color are making a difference with very real courage.  In spite of the danger, they are willing to stand up to injustice.  In spite of a system that works to deny them equal opportunity, many are managing to live a life as Philando Castile, doing great good.

We cannot accept the status quo because we all lose when we lose souls like these.

Saplings, a canopy do not make.

In forest ecology, a canopy defined by the upper layer of all forests is a habitat zone formed by mature crowns of trees and containing a diverse system of organisms in a healthy ecosystem. It is a cover, and an environment so different than one without.

In terms of many urban areas, this canopy is quickly being destroyed in the name of “healthy forest” initiatives and for urban development, while saplings are given the impossible task of “replacing” what they cannot replace.

  • Faced with higher temperatures annually, middle-aged trees, as well as saplings are dying from drought. With less tree cover and more concrete, more heat, a vicious cycle of deforestation ensues and escalates.  Our canopy in Minneapolis, at less than 32 percent, continues to diminish.
  • Much wood is being used for energy purposes and for other commercial interests; so, through short-sighted practices and views, these mature trees become worth more dead than alive.
  • Rather than divert a road, create a sustainable alternative, short term development projects, new over-sized homes and housing developments  apply expediency over sanity.  It takes time to treat a pattern, to water a tree and keep it free from disease and pests.  It costs money too, sometimes.
  • Suffice to say, with less water and higher temperatures, a tree has no stamina to fight disease and infestations.  It certainly cannot survive a chain saw aimed at its destruction.  Witness the wholesale destruction of mature ash trees along one boulevard after another in Minneapolis.
  • Public policies that prioritize cutting down healthy trees from fear of infestation or disease, rather than watering and wise tree care, replace our canopy with saplings that have even less prospect of survival.

A canopy of mature trees, some that have stood for one hundred or more years cannot be replaced by saplings, no matter how many we plant.  Management practices  need to change to a holistic approach, understanding that all things, even emerald ash borer, has its place in this system.  Insecticides and removal should be emergency management options only.  Wouldn’t it be better to maintain a healthy forest, one that is managed long term to retain its canopy, with an urban forest management system that has teeth?

Elms that were cared for survived Dutch Elm disease.
Elms that were cared for survived Dutch Elm disease.

 

 

Leave the trees, please.

tree_3003On my walk this morning through a neighborhood of old trees, some over a hundred years old, I headed through one block where the canopy covers like a rain forest and cools like a mountain stream.  As I approached, unmistakable sounds of heavy equipment and saws broke the silence.

Another one and a half story home, built prewar, sold to be replaced with the newest rage, cathedral ceilings and marble; so the old white oak tree in its yard, towering over 80 feet above, was trimmed and removed … no replacement possible.  An old story where money matters most.

Old trees, more than commodities, more than board feet, outlast the structures that replace them, but for the next fad or money making development on horizon, which always seems to be of more consequence than these towering testaments to life.  Never mind the hundreds of species that depend on a tree of this size.  Never mind that it will take another hundred years to replace.  Never mind the shade and the oxygen it supplies.  Never mind the peace and tranquility it provides, the forests and the streams that owe their existence to these monuments!

This old tree could have lived another hundred years providing shade and shelter for so many.  It was not to be, though; because, you see, somebody needed to make money and that old tree was in the way.  Mankind must have his cathedral ceilings to replace the true cathedrals in nature, while millions of trees die from drought in California, and millions more from short-sighted views concerning real worth. Money blinding and narrowing the view, there appears to be no value in the life of an old tree.

As a society may soon realize in our actions, only too late, that one generation plants the trees that the next generation will enjoy; and, that we are quickly destroying our base.

An Artist’s View of the Jamar ONeal Clark Story

Jamar Clark
Jamar Clark

There are too many troubling aspects of the Jamar O Neal Clark killing and events leading up to the  fatal early morning hours of that November night – an event that actually began with a series of episodes over many months involving police brutality.  He had a case and that case ended with his death.

If we see with our hearts’ and not just with our minds’ eyes, there is no doubt that this young man was denied his rights and essentially murdered in cold blood; and that the account by law enforcement has been manipulated, not to serve the public good, but to serve its own interests.  The irony, then, is that this kind of “justice” serves no one, least of all the police department.

  • Why would the police pull Jamar out of view of the camera and out of the light? Wouldn’t lights and clear video footage have been helpful to assure a doubting public that the police acted within reason to serve and protect this community?
  • The police officers and the EMS deputy, 5’11 and 220 lbs, are big men. Both officers had guns, while Jamar was unarmed, a slim man standing 5’8″, no more than 160 lbs, and only 24 years old.  Were these men armed with reason instead of guns, perhaps this young man would still be alive.
  • As the EMS deputy approached, Jamar stepped back from the ambulance.  Two minutes later, he appeared lifeless with a bullet through his temple … after, it appears, having had his left wrist cuffed by Schwarze while Ringgenberg maneuvered the right hand over his head, without struggle, and slammed Jamar to the ground.  NO time to ask questions or use reason with this young man, to get to the truth of any matter.  Why was any violence necessary?  Why did Officer Ringgenberg use this take-down tactic when he was, obviously, not adept at using it, claiming this slight young man, Jamar, was reaching for Ringgenberg’s holstered gun as that officer lay on top of him and the other officer held a gun to his head. It doesn’t take much in the way of smarts to know that this was a no-win situation for Jamar.
  • By most all witness accounts and  by video evidence, there were no signs of any struggle from Jamar; but the EMS MVR does show Officer Ringgenberg flailing his legs wildly while laying on his back on top Jamar after the take down at the time of the shooting.  Does it seem reasonable that a trained officer would put himself in this position, placing his holstered weapon next to Jamar’s hands, when Jamar could have been easily cuffed standing.  By all accounts except his assailants, Jamar Clark was peaceable as he stood waiting for police officers and the EMS deputy on the boulevard.
  • Rayann Hayes’ says her last memory of Jamar alive was at the ambulance window looking in.  According to Rayann, she was given pain medication and remembers nothing after this in the EMS vehicle.
  • Why are relevant medical records closed to public scrutiny?
  • Why was ambulance #443 not sent to the forensics garage?
  • Why are the run reports for the two ambulances not available to public scrutiny?
  • Did Attorney Freeman take into account conflicting reports on the sequence of events involving the security of EMS vehicle #419 the night of the shooting?
  • May we have an accounting of all officers and attendants involved with ambulance #443 at rest two blocks away from the scene of the crime, before it was driven to HCMC with Mr Clark?
  • What of the red bag placed in Jamar’s transport after he entered, and then another identical (or the same) red bag quickly taken out, before ambulance #443 left?  EMS deputy Trullinger then placed this red bag next to an officer at the crime scene.  There is no red bag documented at the crime scene.
  • Shouldn’t the crime scene have been secured immediately?  As it was, video evidence and key witness accounts indicate that there were many unidentified officers walking in and out of said area.  Yet very few officers give testimony to this.
  • The views of Jamar’s wrists, taken for forensics, are obstructed by bandages, tape and tubes.  Only what appears to be the underside of Jamars’ right wrist is shown with the bandage lifted, and this photo is blurry.  The left wrist on the underside is not shown.  No fluid of any kind was moving through those tubes.
  • Had Jamar died at the scene?  He suffered cardiac arrest with a bullet through the temple that lodged in his brain.
  • Upon exit from ambulance #443, there is no IV on Jamar’s left wrist as it limply falls off the side.  The IV was in his right wrist; and it too fell off the side of his transport.
  • Crucial details are obscured in the videos from both ambulances and at very low resolution (360).  Shouldn’t an EMS MVR be of better quality?
  • If life preserving techniques were being used to save Jamar at HCMC, then, why wasn’t the bullet removed?
  • Any statement that there were no handcuffs because there were no contusions on Jamar’s wrists, presumes that he struggled.  An absence of bruising would have been just as likely if, as witnesses claim, Jamar was cuffed without a struggle.
  • Officers Schwarze and Ringgenberg were delivered to the 4th Precinct together in Officer Sworski’s squad car, who self-assigned.  Supervision of a sergeant is standard procedure.  Therefore, there was quite a bit of time for the officers to talk between themselves after the MVR automatically shut off in the 4th precinct parking lot.
  • The gun in question was handled by Sworski before being returned to Schwarze.  This Smith and Wesson brushed Officer Connor’s hat on the dashboard, as well.  NO way to handle crucial evidence from the scene of a killing. Why was it not bagged at the scene of the crime with both Schwarze’s and Ringgenberg’s gear?  Another failure to secure a crime scene.
  • The officers did not provide their clothing for forensics until December 2015.  Is this standard procedure in an investigation?
  • Officers Schwarze and Ringgenberg arrived at 4th precinct prior to the incident for break; and so their videos for the day downloaded and the MVR shut off automatically.  It was at 00:40 am that they were called to the scene on a code 3 reportedly arriving at 00:48:14.  Since the officers did not activate their emergency lights on the way to the crime scene, the MVR remained off.  They chose not to activate it manually.
  • With over 60 responders at the scene of this crime, emergency lights flashing, it begs the question, where are relevant MPD MVR’s  from 00:40 to 01:20am on that fateful night?  Surely there must have been something of substance on at least one of these videos.

Freeman’s one-man jury, using the perpetrators’ testimony above all, was flawed by prejudice.  It will not, nor should it be, the last word.   Words and/or manipulations of facts to create preferred outcomes will not make any of this right.  As it is in art and with any act that uses illusion to portray a particular vision, seeing is believing only to a point.  There is no amount of manipulation that will make truth out of a lie.

Hennepin Co. Attorney: No Charges To Be Filed In Jamar Clark Shooting

http://www.hennepinattorney.org/news/news/2016/March/jamar-clark-decision

http://www.democracynow.org/2016/6/2/the_system_is_set_up_to

Takedown Move Used On Jamar Clark Under Scrutiny

Man as Nature and Acceptance as a Path

interstate_park_fall

Indigenous cultures understood that man was part of nature.  How far we have wandered from that understanding … to evolve into a creature that deems, or dreams, himself outside the constructs of the natural world, in effect, defining himself as somehow superior to all other creatures and capable of framing his world in any terms he chooses.  The problem lies in man’s failure to understand and accept that he is inextricably linked to nature and he too, like all things, is subject to its laws.  Like the elements, all life and man, Nature is a process and God lies in the wisdom of this process.  Man has yet to fully accept the process.

All creatures survive by procreation and predation.  In life’s quest for itself, we are often pawns of biological rhythms and instincts; and so, mankind envisions himself capable of rising above this all too ‘sordid’ affair.  In this effort, he fails to acknowledge and accept essential qualities of life and, as a consequence, loses sight of vital solutions.

Chance and change, movement, the nature of life.  There is no life without death or night without day.  We rush foolishly to our own destruction when we deny the very truths of existence.  In fear of our own mortality and searching for eternity, man has wandered from the natural world and lost himself.

I am.  In these two words, a world, a universe.  Acceptance is everything, and life is born of this first step.  Judgments tend to separate us, categorize and catalog us, negate qualities in some and elevate those in others, in the end doing us all injustice.  In our unreasonable search for perfection, we often fail to see the beauty before our eyes, in our fellow man and miss countless opportunities.

Nature seeks balance and evolves perpetually based on outcomes.  Watch an otter whose catch has been taken by a coyote.  He complains and fights, as long as there is a chance he might prevail.  In the end, he accepts the outcome and begins another hunt, no wailing that life is unfair or questioning his very existence.  He is simply accepting the facts and the flow of life.  Man is the only creature that perpetually refuses to accept natural outcomes, including himself.  He builds dams in an effort to control the river and succeeds in destroying its essence.

Mankind’s egoism and lack of understanding perpetuate greed and destruction, like an allergic reaction attacking the body as if it were the enemy instead of a wellspring.  He searches for the ideal beyond existence while the real prize unfolds before him every day, every moment.  In this quest driven by fear, he misses the only perfection that life holds.  Is he afraid that in a moment of clarity he may discover his true self, that he, after all, is no better or worse than any other animal, a wave on the shore, or the moon in its perpetual cycle?

A friend once asked, rhetorically: “Why was anything forbidden in Eden if God had created a perfect world?’  A world in utter completeness and balance, the “perfect” world does not exist.  As soon as any balance has been achieved, life requires its undoing and in the end, we are unable to appreciate, in essence, the rose.  We remain fixed on an idea of beauty as if it were a finite definable everlasting thing.  Melancholy sits beside us while we contemplate how fleeting beauty and impossible the dream.  In our sorrow and our unwillingness to accept Nature, we miss the symphony.

Man falls into a trap on this path.  He cannot accept failure in his search for Eden, and cannot accept that this search is based on a false premise.  Seeking balance is a natural phenomenon but it becomes a problem when the search focuses on perfection as a static, narrowly defined commodity.  Man cannot own the dream and so he becomes contemptuous of himself for this perceived failure.  Where he might instill love and promote cooperation, acceptance, he fosters doubt, hate and fear, continuing a cycle of violence with dismal futures for the planet.  Mankind spirals down a path of destruction and self-hate, missing true potentials in his brothers and sisters since he is loath to see these same potentials in himself.

How do we define success in life?  Is it based on some narrow precept, or has it been fitted with tolerance and love, with the knowledge that not all is perfect, least of all Mankind?  Does it come with acceptance that the dance is a product of imbalance and imperfection, an understanding that at any moment, to be aware, to be alive is success itself?  In our search for something outside of reality, we miss all that truly matters!

In our determination to make distinctions, we judge ourselves superior to the natural world and surmise that “improvements” to all things can be made through man’s inventions.  We can never create anything outside of nature; and since no positive change is possible without truth, self-awareness is crucial.  The belief that our species trumps all others and rises above the forces of nature, that we can circumvent these forces defies all logic.  Simply observe.  For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Within this framework, life is movement from one state of being to another; and man’s machinations are subject to no less.  If we fail to respect our true selves, the natural instincts that created man and the imperfections implicit in all life, the world created from our ignorance will not be fit for life.

Man alters natural codes that took millennia to evolve.  He splits atoms and leaves the waste to pollute the earth.  He destroys mountaintops and calls the product “clean coal”, pollutes our seas with oil, our air and earth with its derivatives and calls it necessary.  In a rush to glean the resources of this planet, he makes choices based on profit rather than sanity and sustainability.  Man, in his renegade actions, refuses to practice common sense and beats a path of environmental ruin.  He is a hurricane with the potential to change course through self-awareness and respect, perhaps; but, we may never know, without the recognition that we are all part and parcel of this natural world.

Our life’s safari involves a hunt for more than food and shelter.  Like all living things, we reach for light and that light is in us all.  All Nature moves beyond the mundane in this dimension.  Birds sing at dawn.  Squirrels collect articles that have no practical use – like items in a child’s pocket.  All creatures appreciate beauty, and, like the otter, recognize truth.  For what is truth but a natural outcome, and beauty the same?  Our fate may very well be determined by our relationship to this process and our respect for truth.

In our quest to define a world in defiance of natural laws, mankind is racing down an incline blindfolded, without brakes and fully loaded.  Venturing into abstraction, we stretch the bounds of reality by searching for meaning beyond existence and perverting a basic instinct for beauty into a dogged search for perfection and for immortality, without understanding or respect for the nature of all things.  While we strive to realize our dreams, it would be wise to keep a watchful eye on the road, do proper maintenance, and obey the laws of physics, at least.

Inseparable from the natural world, man finds his dawn in beauty, but beauty is not a static ideal.  It is the well from which all life drinks, ever-changing, dynamic, boundless and perfect in its imperfection, an essential quality of life.  Acceptance, born of tolerance and truth, synchronizes with immutable forces that create and sustain life, in essence, the only Eden possible.

 

Pondering a picture of an Alberta lake …

Glacier Lake in Alberta
glacial lake in Alberta

 

I took this picture in the 1970’s of water in the mountains of Alberta. Since that time there have been changes but not to my memories.  How many memories would fill a mountain stream in West Virginia that is now being destroyed by mountain top removal?  How many memories do we, as a species, have of the waters that ran clear and cool before mining, drilling and fracking for fossil fuels?

I  remember the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness before the fires, and before the drills from companies seeking copper, gold and other “precious” metals took its toll.  I remember the stands of thousand year-old cedars in the west as I drove into Seattle to see waves crashing on the shore of the Washington coast … before the Fukushima disaster, before garbage islands and the Exxon oil spill … before so many bad decisions.  The cedars along the highway have been lumbered.  The oceans, and the species that depend on it’s health, are endangered … including mankind.

As I watch the destruction of trees, water, the air and the land  … all to greed and short term profit, I wonder if man will learn before it’s too late, too late for our species and the species doomed by our shortsightedness.  As the Minnesota “Department of Natural Resources'” approval of Polymet’s Final Environmental Impact Study for the NorthMet Project opened the way for the permitting process, we wait … wait to see what matters most.  Water or money?

 

 

More news on Northmet …

Bear Head State Park (near the proposed NorthMet Project)
Bear Head State Park (near the proposed NorthMet Project)

For information on the permit process (from the DNR)

and on financial assurance and preparations the DNR is making for the environmental battle ahead .

Permit processing will begin shortly.  One of the permits that will be needed allows for taking of endangered species.  There are timber wolves, Canadian Lynx, moose, many waterfowl and other important species that make this area their home …. not to mention the water.

 

aquifers surrounding the Babbitt area where Poymet wants to build a copper mine
aquifers surrounding the Babbitt area where Poymet wants to build a copper mine.

 

What will happen to fishing through loss of diversity and pollution of groundwater?
What will happen to fishing through loss of diversity and pollution of groundwater?

 

How many wilderness-related jobs and experiences will be lost?
How many wilderness-related jobs and experiences will be lost?
Moose in the Arrowhead ... already affected by global warming
Moose in the Arrowhead … already affected by global warming

Will a copper mine in Babbitt reach the dimensions of the Hull Rust Mine?

While the MDNR (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources) has approved the NorthMet Copper Mine Project’s environmental impact study in the St Louis County of northern Minnesota at the headwaters of the St Lawrence Seaway and Lake Superior , we wait for permits and the final RODs (record of decisions) from the National Forest Service and the Army Corps of Engineers. 

The project depends on the National Forest Service’s approval of a land exchange … trading public, “protected” lands for private lands so that Polymet can mine.

If Polymet cannot make good on their financial promises for this project (and these are many), then the taxpayers of Minnesota will foot the bill for clean up (a clean up, in all probability, that will go into an unforeseeable future.  Future generations will inevitably suffer the consequences.

For the sake of our waters,

Anita

Comment on the TPP

Comment#  1k0-8ncq-3csy :

 TPP Employment Impact Review

Docket number: USTR-2015-0012

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is not a trade agreement but a treaty and should be subject to due process as all treaties must be. It affects more than trade and will surrender “due process” in lieu of forced arbitration and tribunals picked by the few involved in litigation.

The proposed arbitration process under the TPP will naturally affect a wide swath of people, far beyond those privy to discovery because, unlike a trade agreement, it covers far more than trade; and the potential harmful effects of corporate policies made law, through this process, cannot be fought in courts of the land, but through private arbitration with business profits in mind.

In effect, these kind of decisions may affect those who have no ability or legal right through this “agreement” to protest or even know what is being arbitrated. It will naturally be prejudicial to the interests of those who have the power to present their case and view the details of the case; while the people who, most likely, will be responsible for paying the bills or suffering the effects of these decisions will have no legal input.

Sovereign nations that have agreed to this corporate agreement will not be able to opt out of this agreement as they would in a treaty if, in fact, the voters decided that the agreement was not in the best interest of their country. The citizens of this country would be forfeiting their right to public disclosure and discovery, the right to protect their jobs, their environments, their food through due process to corporate profits and interests decided in closed door binding arbitration.

In conclusion, this Trans-Pacific Partnership is not a pact between countries dealing simply with tariffs and trading arrangements, but a corporate business agreement affecting every aspect of a sovereign nation without allowing the protections afforded by the judicial system of justice in a treaty.

Please send your comments concerning the TPP … ASAP. Due tomorrow January 13, 2016!

After years of corporate discussion that left the public, the taxpaying citizen, in the dark concerning this so-called “trade agreement”, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we are now given two weeks, after Christmas and in the New Year holiday season to comment.  The deadline approaches, tomorrow January 13, 2013. Tasked to read over 5,000 pages and comment, it is no small wonder if few of us understand the full implication of this corporate agreement.

The poor slobs who will have to pay for corporate run of our countries, our environment, our jobs and our welfare will have very little to say if our Congress goes along with this lopsided corporate business agreement.  We will be forfeiting our sovereignty, public discussion and agreement to business and forced arbitration.

Please submit your comments at the link below in .doc or pdf format with the title “TPP Employment Impact Review” on the first page.

http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=USTR_FRDOC_0001-0366

Let your congress men and women know that the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership does not fly with the citizens of this nation; and that we did not have adequate say in the development of this legally binding document.

There is an excellent article at the Huffington Post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jacob-devaney/tpp-public-comment-period_b_8897524.html

Your input is so important to the future sovereignty and welfare of this nation.

Anita

Will we be paying to defend Polymet?

A law firm has already been hired by the state to handle any lawsuits that may result from the ROD concerning the NorthMet Project; and this leaves much to ponder.  Has the decision already been made to allow a copper mine in the headwaters of the Great Lakes?

The irony lies in the fact that most of us do not want to see this precious resource destroyed by copper mining (note the 10’s of thousands of objections from taxpaying citizens) … and yet, we, as taxpayers, might be footing the bill to defend the DNR in these kind of decisions, decisions that have granted the right to mine in water-dependent ecosystems of Northern Minnesota and along the Laurentian Divide.

https://www.minnpost.com/community-voices/2015/12/even-known-deficiencies-polymet-feis-pushed-forward

Send your questions and comments to Governor Dayton and let him know your thoughts.

http://mn.gov/governor/contact-us/

Comments on the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the NorthMet Mining Project and Land Exchange, Hoyt Lakes, St Louis County, Minnesota

aquifers surrounding the Babbitt area where Poymet wants to build a copper mine
aquifers surrounding the Babbitt area where Poymet wants to build a copper mine

 

As a follow up to my review of the FEIS, November 2015, I have included, as part of this letter, twelve comments and questions concerning the proposed copper mine in Babbitt and associated processing plant in Hoyt Lakes.

Comment #1

How would a land exchange void the responsibility vested in USFS as the steward of public lands presently in their care?

With the proposed land exchange, USFS would be forfeiting its authority to mining interests over lands that were set aside for protection. The Forest Service would be trading, not only lands, but a trust that these ecosystems would be protected from exploitation for generations to come.

Polymet will be mining water resources, destroying wetlands, by their own admission; and, in effect, degrading natural resources, flora and fauna, with its lease to continuously extract metals in an open-pit mine. They will be requiring permits to do all of this, including permits to take endangered species on lands that the Forest Service was given in trust, lands that USFS would need to trade in order for mining to occur.

In addition, this would help establish precedent that could facilitate more land exchanges of this type. By trading these lands, USFS would, essentially, be demonstrating a lack of will in exercising its authority.

This land exchange, essentially, would create a barter system that conflicts with the USFS’ role as steward and allows exploitation. By any reasoning, the land exchange cannot be reconciled with this public trust.

 

Comment #2

Is it wise to risk the security of the St Louis Watershed, one that feeds the greatest freshwater lake by area in the world, Lake Superior, and lies at the extreme headwaters of the St Lawrence River?

All life depends upon reserves of water; and the Arrowhead is at the source of one of the largest supplies on Earth. St Louis River, at the extreme headwaters of the St Lawrence Seaway, supplies freshwater to Lake Superior and the Great Lakes. Products of the Laurentide Ice Sheet melt, Rainy Lake, Lake of the Woods, and Red Lake formed in the basin of Lake Agassiz, which extended over 170,000 square miles, possibly the largest freshwater lake ever (similar in size to the Black Sea). This glacial lake provided water to northern Minnesota, the Red River Valley and may still be discharging its glacial waters from the fractured metamorphic bedrock aquifers of the Arrowhead. The FEIS confirms that bedrock of the region has low conductivity and could take thousands of years to discharge.

In addition to the glacial waters of Agassiz, others glacial lakes like Norwood, Upham and Aitkin, products of the LIS, as well, have discharged their waters into the Arrowhead of Minnesota. Diverse moraines such as the Vermilion Moraine, left evidence in patterns of glacial till that can be seen around Babbitt, Ely, the Embarrass River area, and Hoyt Lakes, overlain in many areas by lush vegetation and lakes.

Covered by such a luxuriant carpet, the land that Polymet and others want to mine can be as difficult to inspect for existing aquifers, confined or otherwise, as it is to locate existing faults and fractures of bedrock in the area. This does not mean they don’t exist.

The fact that the NorthMet Project prospect lies within the boundary of the Vermilion Moraine, along with the BWCAW and Ely, makes this even more difficult. The potential of water traversing aquifers through fractured metamorphic bedrock, sight unseen, is heightened. No one spot duplicates another, essentially with variations in depth to bedrock by hundreds of feet, coverage of waterlogged vegetation and lakes, and a diversity that is like no other on earth.

Like faults, aquifers can be inferred invariably through their effects. Observe the copious discharge of water from the Big Stoney along the north shore of Minnesota. Observe the waters that so readily flow from the area of the Mesabi Widjiu, in rivers like Prairie River and Swan River from the Hill of Three Waters, the Vermilion River, St Louis River, Rainy River, and the great Mississippi. All one needs to do is observe.

As faults and fractures allow water to disperse in bedrock, these aquifers eventually find outlet in rivers, streams, fens, wetlands, falls, ponds and lakes at varying distances and directions from the site of recharge in the Laurentian Uplands.

According to the FEIS, surficial aquifers surrounding the mine site have a low conductivity, though not as low as bedrock in the same area, which supposedly decreases with depth. In this environment, then, it took thousands of years for glacial waters to make their way to the basin of Lake Superior. These waters can be seen dispersing in rich wetlands and rivers throughout; and they continue to nourish land in the Arrowhead supporting a vast and intricate ecosystem.

Does it make ecological sense to place a copper mine where it can do so much harm to water resources, with the potential of collecting into highly toxic sludge, polluting more and more of the surficial aquifers of the region, as waters are made stagnant and dead over the years?

There will be floods. There will be upheavals, as history proves … waters will disperse, as it is the nature of water to do. What will be left after the mine extracts precious reserves of water from aquifers, seen and unseen, confined or not, to process metals that serve its profit margin? Will there be any wild areas left, named or unnamed, categorized or not when the pollution from concentrates, waste rock and filters have found their way through this valuable ecosystem and the watersheds of the Arrowhead?

Our national security depends upon protection of freshwater resources, and the Arrowhead stands as a source of one of the largest fresh water reserves on earth. No copper mine is worth the risk of degrading this precious resource.

 

Comment #3

How can protection of a species be reconciled with destruction of habitat and nesting sites?

Since the various animal species do not pay attention to lines drawn on a map, they will trespass naturally. Water knows no real boundaries, either, over time; and time is the key word. In time, all things great and small in this water dependent ecosystem will be affected by actions proposed today in the Arrowhead.

The FEIS notes, that approximately 1,535 acres (58 percent) of mature forest would be lost at the mine site alone, that the species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) found at the mine site would be birds from Table 4.2.5-1 and that they would be “displaced.” The FEIS goes on to state that it is likely these birds would not be injured or killed, though nesting birds could be affected. The FEIS states that the mine would not likely affect individual migratory songbirds or other bird species protected under the MBTA; but would likely affect habitat and nest sites used by them.

How does one “affect” another’s home, without affecting the individual; and, as a matter of course, disturb nesting sites without disturbing the propagation of a species? With time, more species than those cited by the FEIS would be “affected” in the course of their reproductive cycles; and this, in turn, would naturally affect survival of a number of species in the area.

 

Comment #4

What security is there in a mining economy that depends entirely on the market, one that will not contribute to the real long-term wealth of this area?

Such an economy based on mining depends on the whims of a market. Copper mining will pollute the resources essential to our survival, perhaps into perpetuity, while providing profits and wealth to relatively few people over twenty years, more or less. After the mines have gone, as we see today, there will be masses of unemployed people, desperate, in a failing economy.

Recycling metals is on the upswing and processes for this type of recovery are being more fully developed as the North Met Project is being pondered. This could make mining for copper less profitable in a very short time. The price of commodities will vary, and markets are fickle. As a consequence, copper cannot guarantee a secure future, and certainly not a green economy in the Arrowhead.

Statistics abound concerning the wealth of wilderness tourism; and it cannot be reconciled with a mining scenario. When the copper mines are gone, what will be left? The choice is truly between wilderness and mining. Transport down scenic highways to and from the NorthMet Project will weave a web far beyond the sites that FEIS reviewed. Tourists will be traveling down the Superior National Forest Scenic Byway, along highways and roads to Hoyt Lakes, Embarrass, Ely, Babbitt and Silver Bay.

These potential long-term customers will see the effects of mining and it will affect the tourist industry. The sounds of blasting, trucks and drilling are not conducive to wilderness by any stretch; and neither is the potential of streams and waterways polluted with sulfuric acid and other toxins from mining copper.

Atmospheric conditions are unpredictable and Polymet will not be able to control these. The sounds of drilling from exploratory wells for copper and other metals can be heard in the BWCAW at this time. If Polymet gets permission to pollute and take lands in the Laurentian Uplands, there will be little peace for these areas, no chance of true wilderness experience and tourism.

Jobs that create a steady future do not lie in mining a land that, once mined, is degraded. Fields that once grew wild rice, grow no more. Waters that held rich stores of fish are dead and dying. Ecosystems fail and waters need constant treatment. Wetlands that once held diverse flora and fauna are no more.

This is not security.

 

Comment #5

The FEIS did not adequately address the potential effects of fossil fuels on the atmosphere surrounding the NorthMet Project.

Fossil fuel needs will escalate at LTV and the mining site, fuel and coal needs for the plant and mine, fuel for the vehicles, the crushers, the earthmovers and trains. Acid rain will emerge as an even greater problem, and the FEIS did not address this issue sufficiently. Repercussions will be felt in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, most certainly, from atmospheric effects alone.

Coal fired plants have provided energy to mines along the Mesabi Range for decades and, in the last 50 years, signs of acid rain have degraded foliage and forests in the path of their plumes. Witness dying birch, and mountain ash (that have all but entirely disappeared along the North Shore of Minnesota).

The effects of a copper mine in this fragile ecosystem will reach far beyond the boundaries of the plant and mine sites with potentially devastating effects.

 

Comment #6

This FEIS does not address known fractures, fault lines within the project site, and those along the Range. What of the Waasa and Camp Rivera Faults? What of the Vermilion Fault?

The effects of faults and fractures have been downplayed in models, which were made to inform the FEIS. The connectivity of bedrock with surficial aquifers assumed to be low, and the upper surface of fractured metamorphic bedrock assumed to be fractured more heavily at the top than down under. This conclusion seems convenient and arbitrary, since these structures cannot be truly known, sight unseen. Is there some reason that Polymet did not use the available information on inferred faults for more in depth field study on these particular areas?

The devil is always in the details. Though details can be used to obfuscate and avoid larger issues, these particular details are major omissions in a study that assumes to represent a truthful picture of the potential risks involved to groundwater from seepages and discharge through cracks, joints, fractures, faults, bore holes, from waste rock, slurry and tailings basins in the Laurentian Uplands.

Inferences are made all the time in science, through reason and implication, through the use of data and study. All knowledge is brought about in this way. To discount information on inferred faults is careless. The FEIS makes its own inferences. It infers that bedrock has low conductivity around the site and plant. It infers that the pollution would not travel far from the sites. It infers that all systems will operate sufficiently as expected over the lifetime of the mine and into perpetuity. It infers that, if a fault is found, it will be dealt with successfully. It infers much in supporting a copper mining scenario. Details and independent, in depth fieldwork is still needed concerning bedrock aquifers, faults and fractures in the area because of their potential for being conduits of pollution into ground water reserves, sight unseen.

Polymet admits seepage will occur, but it continues to minimize the risks through assumptions concerning the conductivity of fractured metamorphic bedrock and sand and gravel aquifers throughout the area. Water will most assuredly traverse aquifers and find the path of least resistance. The FEIS minimizes and leaves these pathways open to conjecture with promises that all will be handled, in time.

 

Comment #7

Potential effects that can be caused by drawdown in artesian springs, are given little review and field study, limited by assumptions and documents supporting the FEIS conclusion that bedrock geology plays a small part in hydrology of the area.

At the same time, we are assured that if there are, indeed, fractures, faults and confined aquifers found during operation, or that drawdown becomes a problem, these issues will be dealt with at the time. Of course, once an artesian has been drawn down, the chances of drawing it back up are limited. At this point, there does not appear to be any technology that can guarantee the renewal of an aquifer, or restoration of ground waters fouled?

 

Comment#8

Considering the importance of geology in this complex area of Minnesota, the FEIS omits much in detail.

Ground water in the Laurentian Divide frequently diverges from surface topography and therefore locations of recharge and discharge can be impossible to predict. Polymet’s probabilistic models cannot possibly be informed adequately to address the enormous danger of mining water, drawdowns, depressurization of artesians, and upwelling of brackish water to name only a few dangers posed by this project.

In the process of review, some of the most relevant information appears to be missing from the FEIS, or discounted, much of the obvious geological and hydrological evidence that would prove a no action alternative best for the environment and for the habitants upstream and downstream of the proposed mining project.

For instance, significant evidence on the fractured metamorphic nature of these lands, inferred and actual fractures and faults that have been named, the prospect of artesian springs, other faults and fractures in bedrock that may conduct water from the site, the potential that water inflows are much greater by many accounts have been given short shrift in deference to a computer model fed with data chosen, in particular, for this study. It all seems quite arbitrary, and these omissions are significant.

The area that includes Babbitt, Hoyt Lakes and the transportation corridor are covered with sand and gravel surficial aquifers, which run the possibility of overdevelopment in irrigated areas. This region also includes igneous and fractured metamorphic bedrock aquifers, where water can be found in cracks, joints and fractures within otherwise solid rock formations. Hoyt Lakes is a land of sand and gravel buried aquifers, which can be a major source of water (eg the Biwabik formation). Further down the St Louis River, in addition to sand and gravel surficial, and buried aquifers, igneous and fractured metamorphic bedrock aquifers, there are also sedimentary bedrock aquifers. Even though yields from these sedimentary cretaceous deposits are supposed to be low, the possibility that ground water discharges in lowlands from sand and gravel and fractured aquifers, also in the area, certainly exists.

Igneous and fractured metamorphic bedrock aquifers line the North Shore of Minnesota where there are over sixty water features in falls, rivers, and streams. The St Louis Watershed drains a basin of over 3500 square miles at the extreme headwaters of the St Lawrence Seaway. It appears that waters from glacial lakes, formed during the melt of the Laurentide Ice Sheet might still be discharging into Lake Superior as these waters work their way through the fractured bedrock aquifers of St Louis, Lake and Cook Counties. As noted, FEIS confirms that due to low permeability of the bedrock, discharge could take thousands of years… and so it seems that polluted waters could do the same. Polymet would be long gone before the consequences of copper mining could be fully assessed.

The FEIS avoids much discussion on differentiating major geologic areas, although Ely, Babbitt, Hoyt Lakes, Embarrass, the BWCAW and the whole of Giants Ridge are encompassed in a single one of these regions. The FEIS avoids in depth review of the existence of confined aquifers (extremely important in the security of the groundwater), avoids discussing in particular dissimilarities in surface composites and bedrock as relates to their conductivity and connectivity, specifics on the variability of depth to bedrock, inevitable flooding scenarios, weather anomalies, likely spills and exposures, drumlin fields, watershed anomalies (for instance, the fact that the tailings pond at the Minntac plant has outgrown what was once the boundary of the Vermilion Watershed, redrawn on maps to put it within the St Louis Watershed). Polymet’s NorthMet Project will increase the size of this tailings pond and so it is crucial to understand fully the hydrology of both surficial and bedrock aquifers directly underlying this tailings pond in particular.

Metamorphic rock is mentioned very little in the FEIS, as it fails to note that most of the Arrowhead is covered by fractured metamorphic rock, and in the area of the project, that sand and gravel surficial aquifers are prevalent as well, major omissions in outlining the geology of the area. Through these errors of omission, the probability of surficial and bedrock transport appears minimal at best. Is it possible to make a valid review of the project’s feasibility without details like this?

 

Comment #9

Of course, a model cannot take into consideration all of the factors in this extremely complex area of the North Met Project prospect, and so, I wonder, why experiential data from over 100 years of mining was not favored over probabilistic prognostications and limited field study prepared specifically for the NorthMet Project?

The Mississippi is now polluted; the St Louis River, and waters off the North Shore are imperiled. One hundred years is so little time in the course of a history like the Arrowhead, but much damage has already been done. What would be the result after 500 years of seepage from the degraded rotted and rusted infrastructure of a copper sulfide mine?

Studies that fail to use extensive fieldwork and data available from mining experience of the Mesabi Widjiu over the past one hundred years since the late 1890’s are likely to misrepresent the risks involved with a copper mine in the Arrowhead.

 

Comment #10

Just as the tailings pond at the Minntac plant site outgrew the boundary of the St Louis Watershed into the Vermilion Watershed, will the pits and ponds at the North Met mine site, so close to the northern boundary of the St Louis Watershed, outgrow its boundary as well, reaching into the watershed of Rainy River?

Indigenous peoples have lived in this area for thousands of years. They know the lands and waters of the area. They have honored this priceless parcel that is the Arrowhead of Minnesota and the Mesabi Widjiu. Perhaps unwisely, maybe without a choice, the tribes ceded this territory by treaty in the mid 1800’s. How shamelessly we have treated this land since that time. The quality of water has degraded, wetlands have suffered, the forests have been lumbered, and lands developed and damaged through mining activity and pollution.

If water seepage and inflow has not been predicted realistically for this study, then, the potential for harming watersheds of the St Louis River, Vermilion River and the Rainy River is great. Tribes inform the co-lead agencies that inflows are considerably higher than suggested by the EIS. How has related data from this observation informed the FEIS?

 

Comment #11

Due to the precedent that a copper mine in Babbitt will set, if granted, the potential for mining pits and tailings basins surrounding the area of the BWCAW watershed will be greatly increased.

Exploratory wells have been made well past the northern boundaries of the St Louis River Watershed, into the Rainy River Watershed, and on the boundary of the BWCAW. As a consequence, if the North Met project for a copper mine is granted, this will create the potential of a succession of mining pits and wells that move from the NE of Giants Ridge into the domain of the BWCA Wilderness. Consequently, the NorthMet Project prospect has the potential of affecting a larger area than the study proposes.

Elevated levels of arsenic can be found in the BWCAW along with brackish waters from exploratory wells. These details cannot be overlooked because it foretells the real possibility of pollution from Polymet’s mine pits traversing aquifers and connecting the St Louis Watershed to the Rainy River Watershed. The potential of surficial and bedrock connectivity from the mine site to this highly diverse geology of the BWCAW region through fluid and interconnected wilderness waterways, glacial moraine and diverse geology is relevant to the discussion.

 

Comment #12

Relying on probabilistic outcomes that narrow the view and minimize the prospect of pollution reaching downstream seems unrealistic. The potential of downstream contamination throughout the St Louis River Watershed should be given full consideration in any responsible environmental study concerning the prospect of a copper mine in this ecologically important area at the headwaters of the greatest body of freshwater on earth.

The St Louis River Watershed is composed of tilted bedrock planes that lean toward Lake Superior. Some of this can be seen in Jay Cook State Park, downstream from the prospect. The topography of the Laurentian Uplands and the swampy lowlands is diverse, including beds of wavy bedrock and washboard effects in areas like the Toimi Drumlin Field. The diversity of topography is as great as the diversity of flora and fauna. These areas are hardly flat.

Consider that the final drainage of the Laurentide Ice Sheet is said to have occurred around 8200 YBP and this caused sea levels to rise between 2.6 to 9.2 feet. Can the inevitable flow of local waters to the sea be discounted in a study that truly represents the risk of pollution from a copper mine?

Lake Superior is the product of glacial waters that flowed from the LIS and from glacial lakes that grew from the LIS melt. The St Louis River developed in the basin of Glacial Lake Upham. Relative to the age of this earth, the rivers in Minnesota are young, still cutting paths to the sea.

If downstream effects were given due merit, the facts would be clear that the entire Arrowhead of Minnesota would eventually suffer loss and damage from the operation of a copper mine in the Laurentian Uplands. No reassurance will carry the weight of facts before our eyes, the water we drink, and the air we breathe.

Please do not permit this land exchange to occur.
Sincerely,

December 19, 2015 REVISION

Anita Tillemans

 

 

Replace the DNC Chair

Actions taken recently by the DNC to restrict access to the records of one candidate in deference to others, before all facts could be vetted, showed extreme prejudice. Debby Wasserman Schultz’ leadership as DNC chair, through her unapologetic actions, in this case, draws into question the entire process.

 

By risking the future of one democratically held grass roots campaign, it raises doubt concerning all campaigns.  As a consequence, I ask that Ms Shultz be replaced by someone who can engender renewed confidence in the democratic process that the DNC is vested to serve.

 

If you would like to see a change in leadership at the DNC, follow the link below:

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/remove-debbie-wasserman?source=s.fwd&r_by=14863166

What meaning does the phrase “long term” have in Polymet’s view?

Looking_into_BWCAW_hwy_1
looking into the wilderness

We, as the taxpaying citizens, cannot know how accurately the modeling was done for the SDEIS and the FEIS concerning the North Met Project because we are not privy to the minutiae.  We do not know how the data was applied, exactly; though, we do know that much data readily available on mining in the Mesabi Range was not used … nor were the effects of variables, like weather and cumulative impacts of waste from previous mine pits and tailings’ basins, added substantially into the calculations.  We are asked, simply, to trust Polymet and the vested interests in this mining operation, in effect … asked to trust that everything will be worked out in process as the mine is being built and operated with the awe inspiring words: “as needed”!

We are expected to trust in a computer model based on assumptions and short term, hand-picked data to determine outcomes of something that will be lived and experienced in real time holistically, possibly, for as long as any of the interested parties live and beyond, into perpetuity … without knowing what to expect from the effects of climate change, without proper in-depth long term studies of confined aquifers and other varied hydrological features in this very complex geological area of northeastern Minnesota being figured into the studies.

The “long term” studies of these environmental impact statements, after over forty years of flirting with the prospect of copper mining the gabbro complex, amount to a pittance … days, maybe 30, or as much as a few years chosen arbitrarily to prove the least damaging scenario.  Criteria established that skirts the Clean Water Act and fails to take cumulative effects from all mines in the area into account amounts to avoidance of the real issue: that no mining should be allowed in this water dependent ecosystem, that whole ecosystems will be changed forever and that no amount of “restoration” will bring them back.

Long term is not 30 days or a handful of years.  Long term is what we will all suffer if this mine is allowed to operate for any amount of time.  Long term for maintenance and so-called “clean up” will be forever.  What entity can honestly guarantee this?  What entity can project outcomes into a future that cannot be known?  Certainly we cannot know using the most cursory evidence mapped by and fed into a computer model engineered, chosen and paid by those who stand to profit.  It will give outcomes that feed the profit model, naturally.  Will the profit model work to prevent water pollution?  Will it work to protect our wilderness?

Are we looking for short term profit – 40 years, 100 years …  a bust and boom economy that sends our resources out of state and destroys the only long term benefits we have – our water, the wilderness, an ecosystem of such beauty?  Or, do we stand to protect our base from the few that truly profit in a mining scenario?  Do we live or merely survive?  This is ultimately the question.

Listen to our brothers and sisters who have lived here for generations, who have understanding of thousands of years – who know what it means to live in harmony with the lands and waters of this priceless wilderness that is northern Minnesota.

This is a land in the Duluth Gabbro complex that gave birth to glacial lakes that grew into Lake Superior and the Great Lakes, three of the greatest rivers on the North American continent, to the BWCAW … and still it sheds its water from glacial origins in over sixty creeks, rivers and falls along the North Shore, flowing into Lake Superior.

https://anitatillemans.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/alfred-creek.pdf

Comments on the FEIS are due on December 21, 2015 (an extension of one week from the original deadline).  We cannot afford to lose this treasure to mining interests.  Please let Governor Dayton know what you think as well.

Anita

 

http://duluthreader.com/articles/2015/11/24/6300_polymets_perilous_precipice

 

http://action.biologicaldiversity.org/o/2167/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=17396