Monday, April 16, 2012

The Pebble Mine Controversy - Missing the Mark

I suppose it's time to finally write this.  I'm not angling for a newspaper re-print, or a free trip to the White House (although...I'd take one if offered), or to gain more followers on Facebook.  I hope those facts earn me your attention for the next few several minutes.  The debate over Alaska's Bristol Bay Pebble Mine deserves an honest look for what the resource offers to humankind - the kind of discussion that flatly ignores hyperbolic pleas that "The EPA's mission is to stop mining!!!!"  and the converse argument of "USA! Jobs! Regulations kill jobs!"  Come on, people. In our hearts, we know that "preservation" works too little and too slowly, and that those vaunted "American jobs" never quite seem to materialize in the advertised numbers, even when regulations are peeled back simply for jobs' sake.  What we have here is a big mess.

Call me cynical.  Call me a "paid conservationist" (I hear that in some circles, that's an insult).  In 2012, many Americans are still unwilling to acknowledge that life is expensive.  That it won't and can't get cheaper, no matter what the politicians say, because we haven't been paying the environmental or societal bills of resource extraction for the last 400 or even 1,000 years - and now the bill is coming due.  That the answer to our nation's woes is neither eliminating the EPA, or doubling its budget.  That doing either would not significantly impact resource extraction or resource protection (if you're under the assumption that the EPA and its emissary USACE are doing an effective job of regulating water pollution, please, look up "Nationwide Permit 21").  Let me spell it out.                                                                

We are looking at all the wrong things. 

The earth is about 5,000 miles deep and the atmosphere is 300 miles high above us.  It's big. Yet, the portion of both which generally sustain our species on this planet is only about 10 miles over our head and a half mile below ground or sea level.   And of course, the vast majority of the food grown for 7 billion humans grows in an 18 inch layer of rich soil at the surface, heavily oxygenated.  But for some Godforsaken reason, we're doing all we can to kill this fragile lens where we exist.  We are literally killing our life support system. And all our pro-conservation and anti-regulation folks can argue over is whether 25 years of economic gain is worth the risk of losing game fish and drinking water for roughly that same period of time.  Come the hell on. It's the wrong discussion entirely.

 Unless we start thinking about things differently, there will simply never be enough.  Not enough water. Or fuel. Or food.  Or open space and protected land to help us recall what we have inherited from God and nature. 

 But please, don't let me interrupt the discussion about whether some mining jobs that could last 1, 10, or 25 years is worth the risk of harming salmon for 1, 10, or 25 years.

To those of you headed to Washington today to meet with the President about this issue, I hope that your conversation is earnest, and deadly serious, and looks far beyond this one site in southwest Alaska and its 25 year life span.  I hope you get to ask the EPA directors in attendance how they plan to evaluate natural places like this per these places' ability to sustain human life, economics, and natural beauty into the next 100 or even 500 years.


Steve Zakur said...

Wow! Well said!

Devin Angleberger said...

That's exactly right...yeah we could get some extra jobs out of it, but really, we could get some more jobs out of other places.

I agree with Steve, well said.

River Mud said...

Thanks gentlemen. I think there are good arguments for and against the Pebble Mine project (more good arguments AGAINST than FOR), but if we only look at these projects with a 25 year mindset, we are doomed :(