Thoughts on People vs Corporations: Mining Ed.
Just got in from one of those "public's opportunity to comment on an ongoing government action" thingees, and I'm both uplifted and disheartened. Uplifted to realize how many people really do care enough to show up for a boring, unsexy three hour gov't hearing, and to speak out for the environment. Disheartened to realize that corporations really do run our government, no matter how much we want to believe otherwise. Mining is a "hot" news topic these days, and this post is being filed away for a future 'I told you so' moment I have no doubt we'll someday have over the mine in question. It won't surprise you at all to hear that essentially, it's yet another case of short term corporate profit winning out over logic, common sense, science, popular will, and long term environmental concerns. And economic concerns, as that is understood to affect all, and not a few, people in this state.
Here's the deal: a pristine, and undeveloped (except logging decades ago) area of northern Michigan is the target, and a very bad company wants to put in a sulfide mine. The supporting view is that it will "bring jobs and tax revenue to Michigan." But that isn't really grounded in fact, and the citizens of this state know it. Too bad one of the bureaucrats told me that he didn't really care and that the mine would likely go in anyway.
The fine details will be over at my other blog shortly, I'll link to it later. Instead, I'll share my impression that while our current system is in place to do little more than serve corporate interests, it's great to know that I am not alone in 1) understanding that and 2) being willing to stand up and say something about it and 3) ultimately being committed to changing it. The corporation is going to get its way on this one, but I think it will be one of the last decisions of this type that are made by Faceless Unelected Bureaucrats in this state. Environmentalism is really starting to become a populist crusade.
I love the Interwebs for many reasons, not the least of which is because it allows everyone, from Granny to DFH to suit-wearing white guy, to easily download arguments and facts that they themselves may not have at instant command. That's what I heard tonight, for almost three hours straight. Citizen after citizen reading from prepared notes, environmentalist websites, legal decisions and court cases via Lexis/Nexis and whatnot...it was great. I learned so much about this issue in such a short time, ha ha, it was like a really engaging comment thread that sometimes happens here at Corrente. Bottom line: the pro-corporate media machine obviously isn't convincing some people, and environmentalism is officially Mainstream and Acceptable. How do I know this? Because out of everyone in the room tonight, only a couple of folks there were more Freaky than me.
People are tired, at least in this state, of being told that "Jobs! Revenue!" are the only things that matter. They also understand that there is a difference between corporate media-endorsed promises of Jobs! For You! and actual, paying, reliable, sustained, employment that doesn't sell out your grandkids' futures. Wow, who'da thunk that the Little People could be so sophisticated? Not the SCLM (which has utterly ignored this issue here), that much is clear.
What really, really struck me about what was said: in almost every case, people couched or prefaced what they had to say (No new mines!) with some rather sophisticated and well-researched reasons why in economic terms, this particular mine is a bad idea. People clearly grok that the bullshit of "privatize everything" is just that, hurtful and shortsighted bullshit. At the same time, they seemed to understand that this is how the SCLM will frame this issue. "Do you want 000s of new jobs, or to save the spotted owl?" But obviously this group of citizens came prepared for that. The most important moment was when one DHF-looking longhair got up and read from a piece by an Econ professor from a conservative department. You'll love the title: "Mining Company's Promise of Prosperity a Flat Out Lie." Despite his lack of camera-readiness, the DFH nailed it, and people applauded him. Later, a man who seemed to embody the stereotype of Exurban White Guy got up and flat-out called the government reps a bunch of pussies, sell-outs and cronies, albeit in nicer terms.
He got a standing ovation from the fairly large audience in the room.
Only one person, a mining engineer who claimed to have no relationship with the company in question, said he thought it was a good idea to allow mining.
I guess I'm rambling, because I know that unless you live in this state it's sort of a boring issue, and what I'm more interested in has to do with the fact that people seemed, well, pissed off and well informed. That speaks highly of our Movement. I know that people who show up for this type of thing are likely to be "high information" types, but still- I was told that over the course of four hearings in two locations on the matter, 0000s showed up. One of the gov't employees said that it was "overwhelmingly" one-sided. Against. That tells me more about demographic/political realities than 100000000 hours of NPR or a brazillian pages of the NYT.
One parting shot: when lying liars are your friends, it's hard not to seem like one of them. The mining corporation in question has a looooooooong track record of fraud, corruption, environmental destruction, safety violations...blah, blah, you know the deal. So for this bunch of Faceless Unelected Bureaucrats to pretend like there is any good reason to give them this permit is...laughable. When you run with thieves and liars, people will assume you yourself are so.
I'm too Romantic in my dreams of Revolution, but I'm also not wrong in believing that lots and lots of people have a similar dream, all the time. America is waking up, and here in the land of disappointed continual Neo-poverty, it's becoming increasingly clear, and stridently meaningful. Look out, cronies. Tar and feathers could be in your future.