The Sundance Kid that is. As you may know, I'm quite moved by letters from my favorite activist causes and I got to say, it does tickle my vanity a bit when none other than the infamous outlaw calls me "Dear Friend". All jokes aside though, what Robert Redford really wanted to talk to me about was the sadly NOT infamous Pebble Mine. And since he might not have your address (God only knows how he has mine...) I'm here to tell you all about it.
The odds are that unless you are on an environmental causes mailing list, have seen the excellent documentary Red Gold, or have a small-time fisherman friend you may not have heard about Pebble Mine. Though it's a cause celebrity, it's not exactly a cause celebre. Yet.
The proposed Pebble gold and copper mine would be one of the biggest (if not the biggest!) open pit mines in the world. Its proposed location lays on top of the watershed of the salmon rivers that lead into Bristol Bay, possible the last place on earth where the salmon run remains pristine. It is, by and large, an intact eco-system, where people are, mostly, just one more mammal part of the natural order of things.
Pebble would require massive industrial infrastructure, including but not limited to, five damns to retain its waste water, bigger in scale than China's Three Gorges Dam. In addition to this, the waste water pools and the damns that would hold them would be located in an area prone to earthquakes.
Now does this sound like a good idea?
Right. So why is the EPA letting this project go ahead? Aren't they here to protect us, the American People, and the natural resources we jointly hold from exploitation by large corporations with dubious motives? Yes. The italics do stand for sarcasm. The EPA might, for all its interest and efficiency in protecting the environment, stand for The Environmental Plundering Agency, just as BLM should really be an acronym for The Bureau of Land Mismanagement and DNR The Department of Nature Rape.
As Red Gold rather eloquently points out, it would be an entirely different thing if the mining industry had a damn near spotless record, or even a good record for managing the catastrophes it incurs. Perhaps then it would be fair to consider Northern Dynasty's (the multi-national corporation planning the mine) pleas for an unbiased review of their plans. The environmental impact of previous open pit mining projects and the utter lack of interest in cleaning up the messes they've collectively created, don't exactly reassure one of their good intentions. For all its history, mining has been a dirty business in one way or another, but recently these companies have only ramped up the scale of their indifference to the environment.
Red Gold follows the lives of a variety of folk connected to the watershed, but also lets the industry and its representatives have their say. In fact some of the more succinct reasons to oppose the mine come from the mouths of the company's employees, most notably a mining engineer giggling to himself about how really the mine is a rich gold deposit, but the company is ostensibly using the excuse of mining copper, more important for instance, to all of our every day electronics, as a reason to open Pebble.
While the movie covers a lot of the ground and presents different viewpoints, it is sponsored by fishing interests and must be taken in with a grain of salt. That grain of salt however, does not negate the films central premise of the compromised motives of the EPA, the absolute foolishness of putting the fate of our collective lands in the hands of multinational corporations.
I heartily recommend the film to anyone, not just because of the information it deposits about the proposed mine, but also for its uplifting portrayal of the lives of folk who oppose it, a diverse collection of people from Native fishermen, to newcomers from the lower 48. It is a beautiful film, both in spirit and cinematography and in spite its serious topic, it manages to elate rather than depress the viewer.
Though Pebble may appear a problem on a smaller scale than, say the Keystone XL-pipeline (Yippee! We Won! Something good can happen when good people get together and believe in it!), perhaps a problem concerning only Bristol Bay, Alaska, or the Northwest (we know and love a lot of fishermen down here), it is fundamentally part of the same attack that large corporations are mounting against communities, city governments, public lands, freedom and safety of private citizens and fundamentally, our society as a function of representative democracy.
On a spiritual plain, Pebble is just another facet of the same battle that we're fighting against the Tar Sands Pipeline, or West Virginia mountain top removal mining. Here is a decision we, the people, and our representatives have to make right here, right now. It isn't one of those environmental, human or spiritual atrocities that we can lament in retrospect. It is happening at this very moment and unlike the past calamities, so clear now with the 20/20 vision of hindsight, we can stop it.
So if you can, watch the film, check out the information and then just sign here, here or write a letter to your representative. (We here in Washington have certainly been proud of the work State Senator Maria Cantwell has done on the issue.)
Though I know that they are not always you guys' favorites (judging from the amount of comments)I'm planning to post about some serious topic such as this each friday from here on out; be it simplicity (I finally made headway on my food post while I was ill), environmental causes, or musings on some social topic. These posts could take the form of reviews on documentaries we've watched, book recommendations, or discussions like we did with the first simplicity post.
These ideas and the actions that they inspire are just as much part of my view on life as everything else you see on this log, and to be able to share them here with you is important to me.
Thoughts, questions, comments?