Michael Maiello's picture

    Open Spaces

    It's rare that I praise Nicholas Kristof because, most of the time, he typifies the kind of "conventional wisdom of the TED Conference" type that I just can't stand.  You know, the pro-globalization, let's let a blue ribbon panel of tech billionaires and former maverick politicos solve all of our problems, bunch.  The Bloombergians.  Oh wait, but I'm not here to bury Kristof but to praise his column, "We're Rich (In Nature)."

    I'm not a hiker-fisher-camper dude.  If I want to get close to nature I'll read some Hemingway in a bar somewhere, preferably in a large city were my drink is overpriced because I'm paying for "atmosphere."  I was raised in New Mexico, a land full of federally protected forests and deserts, and I hated using them for anything but high school car sex and eating magic mushrooms.   When I grew up, I chose urban.  But Kristof is absolutely right that the protected wilderness land in America is one of the country's greatest assets and whether or not you have the urge to tromp all over it, it is something that should be protected and nurtured for as long as there is a United States.

    Kristof warns that Republicans want to raise revenue by selling logging, mineral and energy exploration licenses to both American and foreign companies.  Republicans will always argue that this is a good thing because it raises revenue without raising anybody's taxes and because it will help America win independence from the global market when it comes to various commodities be it oil, gas, uranium, timber or rare Earth minerals.

    Worse, says Kristof, the existence of nature's philistines (people like me who don't like to get dust on our designer jeans, deeply discounted at Filene's Basement) the Republicans stand a good chance of getting away with it all.

    A few things.  First, no matter what anyone tells you, no big stash of oil, gas or mineral found in U.S. territory will win any sort of independence for the U.S. so long as these commodities are traded on global markets.  See, the companies drilling for this stuff plant to sell it immediately, not put it in storage for the future use of U.S. citizens.  Some of the companies who will win these licenses aren't even American anyway.  If this were about saving resources until we need them then we'd just leave the resources in the ground, where nature gives us rent free storage.

    Second, the U.S. government always gets screwed in these licensing deals, probably because the government is so heavily influenced by lobbyists for the industries it negotiates these contracts with.  If you go look at dictators ships where lobbyists get their hands cut off just for speaking you'll see that the typical contract is 50% for the company doing all the work and a 50% royalty to the host government.  That never happens in the U.S.

    Third, the situation is worse, I think, then just licensing.  During the debt ceiling debate, Republicans argued that the government could meet is obligations by outright selling land to private interests.  This is not unprecedented and could definitely be sold as a way to keep taxes down.

    See, as far as I'm concerned, you can keep your National Parks.  Keep your switchbacks and dusty trails and smelly outhouses and bugs and rock falls on your arm and you're trapped for days and then you have to cut off your arm and then James Franco wins an award.  Just. Keep it.

    But keep it for everyone. 



    Five stars!  

    I would have typed actual stars but the ascii code I know made shamrocks.

    This is the sort of push back progressives should be using:  reason with wit -- not snark, genuine wit. 



    Hi Emma . . .

    Five shamrocks are much better than five stars... :)



    Great piece Destor . . .

    Ya' know... there's a whole crap load of sand and rocks in the Mojave Desert they can sell to private industry...

    Oh wait ... They already are...


    Nice piece, Destor. Republicans just don't get the concepts of "pristine" and "priceless".

    I miss the days when my legs would carry me along the dusty switchbacks in the Eastern Sierra's, the only place on earth I thought God might inhabit. No bugs at thirteen thousand feet but you do have to hang your food so the bears won't get it at night.

    I also miss the city, like sipping bourbon on the rocks and listening to Bobby Short at the Cafe Carlyle. "We'll have Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island too, it's lovely going to, the zoo." 

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011, Kennecott Mining is scheduled to blow a hole in the base of Eagle Rock in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This hole will become the entrance to a sulfide mine that is expected to produce billions of dollars worth of nickel and rare earth minerals. This mine is expected to play out in five years or less. Then, Rio Tinto, the Chinese company with a horrendous human and environmental abuse reputation and who owns Kennecott ,will pull out, taking what few local jobs it provided (most of the high-paying mining jobs are filled by people already employed by Rio Tinto and relocated to the new mines) with them when they go.

    But, it was some jobs, right?

    Well, opponents of the Eagle mine furnished a study that said if a real effort was made to develop tourism and sportsmen activities in this wilderness area, it would return billions to the local economy for as long folks want to take vacations. There would be real sustainable employment.

    But, no. It’s more fun to blow shit up and take the chance of poisoning 20% of the world’s fresh surface water instead, because, you see, this mother lode is located beneath a river that flows into both Lake Superior and Lake Michigan…and Lake Michigan flows into Lake Huron, which flows into Lake Erie and yada, yada, yada.

    So, yeah, they are gonna dig a mine underneath a river. Apparently they have some kind of plan to hold the river up while they dig around down there. If the plan doesn’t work, boom, there goes the river and everything downstream gets polluted…because, did I forget to mention that the tailings from a sulfide mine, once exposed to air and water, become poisonous? Did I leave that out before? Oopsie. Yeah, Kennecott left that little tidbit out of lot of the propaganda they fed the locals.

    Anyway, sorry for the long winded comment, destor. It was a lot longer before I edited out the arrest of the old lady walking her dog on this piece of ceded Indian land where Eagle Rock sits, or the 20 car state police SWAT team that was ordered up by Kennecott to take away two peaceful protesters for remaining to pray at the Annishinabek sacred site. Yeah, I guess I didn’t mention before that Eagle Rock is sacred to the local Indian tribe…actually, to all the Annishinabek tribes. Gonna blow a hole right through it, though.  ‘Cause some mid-level gov’t employee said it wasn’t a real religious site because it didn’t have a building on it, so Kennecott got it’s forbearance, probably with the help of the fella that quit his gov’t job and came to work for Kennecott. And…. Ah, hell.

    It was a ten year fight and the whole country is losing, not just the Yooper locals. The fix was in for Kennecott the whole time. The fix is in everywhere where corporations want to enrich their coffers by hauling away pieces of our commonwealth. Politicians proved to be useless when petitioned. At this particular hour on this particular day, every last politician in this country is less than a wad of greasy dog crap stuck to the bottom of my shoe. That’s how much help they were. That’s what I think of them. Every last one of them.

    I am Annishinabek. These politician assisted corporate assaults on our earth slice through my spirit. As an Ojibwe woman, the endangerment of our water slices through my heart. i am a little bit broken right now.

    Destor, even though you don’t like to get your pants dusty, thanks for supporting of those of us who do.

    I hope this doesn’t mean I have to start reading Nicholas Kristol now.

    Y'know, we all tut-tutted when it became clear how badly the USSR had polluted Lake Baikal, but between fracking, tar sands and this rare earth crap we're well on the way to surpassing them.

    This story is almost too sad to read.

    The notion that a site lacks religious significance for want of a built structure is so revolting.  I grew up surrounded by the Native American pueblos north of Albuquerque and some of these places are truly old for humans, especially by new world standards.  Sometimes, the spiritual aspect predates the building of permanent structures.  I've also hiked the Samaria Gorge in Crete where spiritual structures exist, but were built well before the temples and columns of Athens (they look like piles of rocks, put there in tribute).  First we wondered where we were and how we got there.  Speculation in real estate came quite a bit later.

    Reposting your "a few things paragraph" with attribution on my FB page, Destor. Should have asked--sorry!--and will take it down if you object--but I thought it was that good.

    What's here is here for sharin'!  Thanks!

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