Water is life

 When I was a little girl poisonous chemicals were sprayed freely to kill randomly, to knock down the dust on unpaved roads and dumped into sewers to be forgotten. Rivers in the East caught fire, Duluth’s own waterfront was littered with junked cars and a family drive through industrial cities was filled with smokey haze and strange smells. I was told it was the “smell” of jobs and money being made.
The adverse effects of those actions were documented by ecologist, Rachel Carson in her ground breaking book, Silent Spring, which inspired the modern day environmental movement.
In the words of the late, Maya Angelou “When we know better, we do better.”


What was once a rare event, today I see eagles flying nearly every day above my Moose Lake, Minnesota home. When the sun does shine the sky is blue. We are doing better, but more work needs to be done.

From water shortages to animal extinction today’s children have spent their lives threatened by dire warnings. Our young adults have grown cynical as industry and government concede their future for immediate rewards that have the potential to cause irreparable harm to the environment.
The Arapaho have a saying; “Take what you need and leave the land as you found it.” We must offer the next generation hope by ensuring the land will be left better than we found it.
For more than a century, mining has sustained families on the Iron Range. We have supplied the ore to win a war. Powered by immigrants and protected by unions, iron mining has not only served us in war time it has also provided economic security for hundreds of hard working Northlanders and their families. The development of taconite, recovery of ore from mining waste and new methods of steel making are extending the life of this important industry.
Research and development and new investment continue to find ways to support the industry and the families who depend on iron ore mining. Government regulations have reduced the negative impact to our environment. But over the years we have also seen how mining’s cyclical nature has resulted in devastating shut-downs and the flight of our young people to big cities. Understanding our iron ore deposits are finite we must empower our communities to develop new industry suited for the 21st. Century that will serve our communities and protect the region’s fragile ecosystem.
As a young journalist I was told the 8th District is powered by Taconite, Timber and Tourism. These were the three legs of the stool that supported the Northland economy. State and federal mining regulations and forestry management practices have allowed us to use our resources wisely while maintaining our tourism industry. In an effort to expand our economy a full court press is now underway to mine non-ferrous metals within the St. Louis River and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness watersheds.
This new-to-Minnesota mining process comes with the promise of new jobs. It also comes with the potential for dangerous pollution to our air and water by the exposure of sulfide-laden rock and its harmful runoff if it is not done right. This form of mining has had devastating, long term consequences for other communities and we must proceed carefully by utilizing science based evidence along with our hearts and minds focused sharply on the future health of our children and grandchildren.
I am not yet convinced non-ferrous mining (also known as sulfide mining) can be done safely, nor that we can protect our environment from the potential harm this form of mining may bring under the current plans now being debated. One miss-step will burden generations to come. While I agree copper, nickel, gold and palladium are the building blocks of the future…I know in my heart that without water, our most precious strategic reserve, there is no life.
Until there is science based proof that this new-to-us mining process can be done safely I believe these strategic reserves should remain where they are; deep under ground.
For children’s sake we must get this right.

Redefining the party of my youth

What is our responsibility for the well-being of others? Is it possible for us to live in harmony with those who don’t share our religious or social beliefs? At a certain age the call to answer universal questions becomes harder to ignore or place in the hands of those we believe are a bit smarter or more powerful.CIMG7491.jpg



Among the more pressing involves the legacy we leave our children and defining the care and respect we must focus on our elders, people with disabilities and those who have been beaten down simply because of the color of their skin or country of origin. In a perfect world— a hard day’s work is enough to finance a family’s basic needs with more than a few dollars left over to educate our kids, take an occasional vacation and set aside for a rainy day. But in the real world the rain never seems to stop.

Many Northlanders live pay check to pay check and shop for bargains at big box stores or the local dollar store. When the check doesn’t stretch ’til the end of the month… a visit to the food shelf is the only thing preventing a child from going to bed hungry. While many of us work hard to make ends meet with an ever shrinking dollar—- foreign interests and powerful corporations reap the rewards provided by hard workers in the Northland. The power of the “one percenters” continues to grown as they  grow richer. Sadly while we focus on work—the strength of our unions is also being chipped away along with the power of our voices. Redistricting, voter suppression and apathy have tipped the balance of our representation in Washington in support of a Republican Party it’s founders would not recognize today. Choosing to exercise our vote for either party seems an exercise in disillusionment.

In our hearts we know building a wall is not the answer—nor is demonizing others. We question whether proposed tax cuts will really help the average Northland Family and why the majority in Washington seems relentless in its effort to weaken our current health care system (the backbone of rural health care.)

Our foot soldiers in the battle for justice and the war on poverty grow weary, beaten down by those who argue— giving a hand up or creating an even playing field—gives rise to socialism. Struggling to redefine itself— the Democratic Party must also take responsibility for the situation in which we find ourselves today. Inspired as a kid by President John F. Kennedy I’ve always thought of myself as a Democrat.

I’m not ready to give up that thought. But I know the party of my youth can no longer conduct business as usual. It too must redefine itself as the party of new ideas; one willing to boldly fight the opposition on its terms—quarterbacked by new leadership with convictions mirroring its members. It must be done quickly.

Faced with the probability of multi-million dollar mid-term campaigns, lack of money in the high stakes game of politics must not be a barrier for qualified leaders of the future. Nor should our gender, sexual orientation, race or religious belief.

Water is life

Hummingbirds floating above a feeder faded pink by the sun… in a cloudless sky framed by giant cottonwood trees…in the distance the rhythmic sound of a creek snaking its way through McElmo Canyon; for the next few days this is my piece of heaven on earth.
Pecking away on my laptop I’m sitting in the shade steps from our cabin at the Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch. My husband is working nearby cleaning and repairing an old saddle  retired by a long ago cowboy to one of the many storage sheds on the ranch. I should be precise here. For him working with saddles isn’t work, it’s fun. This will be his third saddle since we started vacationing at the ranch.


Once or twice a year we pack up the car in Minnesota and make the long drive through Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado. Climbing to the top of Wolf Creek Pass our anticipation of the days ahead climbs right along with the altitude. As Gary guides the car along the hairpin curves we chatter about our destination; how big are the long horn calves? Will Bessie Mae’s surprise litter of puppies look like her? What about the mountain lion spotted in the canyon?
Questions soon to be answered when we settle in at the ranch and catch up with the owners and our friends Ming and Garry.

During our multiple visits over the years we learn this magical environment is dependent on limited water supplies that must be rationed and respected. Observing the day-to-day lives of the men and women who call the canyon their home I can say without a doubt their’s is hard work—a labor of love— requiring an eye to the future if their life is to be sustainable.

I’m struck by the similarities of ideals shared by these ranchers and our Native American friends and neighbors in Minnesota as they work to protect natural resources as an investment in the generations that will follow in their footsteps.

Many might view this piece of heaven in in the Four Corners in stark contrast to the abundance of water and lush forests back home in Minnesota. In a state where weekends mean a trip to the family lake cabin and the waining days of summer bring fall colors and the harvest of the wild rice crop… it’s hard to imagine that our ten thousand lakes and rushing rivers will ever go dry or that our fresh water supplies will ever become contaminated.

But the truth is—whether we live in the land of endless sky blue water or the land of enchanted canyons dependent on rationing and respect… our water is under threat. Our water must be protected. Water is life.DKJA6iyX0AYNvec