December 19, 2011 by Barbara With
Dear Ms. LaBarre,
I was recently at the mining hearing in West Allis where we both had a chance to speak. Isn’t democracy great that we can both drive down from the north (albeit I had a few more hours on the road from Madeline Island than you did from Hayward) to have our voices heard.
I was happy for you that you got to be first up in the queue, just in time for all the news cameras. I listened to you talk very eloquently for why you think we need mines in northern Wisconsin. You seem like a good citizen of the state. In fact, I am sure if I lived in Hayward and needed some plumbing done, I might very well call upon your company to help. I love Hayward, have enjoyed your community for years on my way through from the island.
However, I was not so privileged to have the news cameras by the time I was allowed to speak 7 hours later. And you were long gone so you did not hear my testimony. In fact, you missed much of the testimony of those of who stand to be directly affected by these mines. So I wanted to take the time to explain to you a few things so perhaps we, as neighbors, could come together in understanding why there will be no mines in northern Wisconsin.
Now before you get upset, just listen for a few minutes. I was there when Sandy Pasch kindly and gently explained that this bill removes protection from the water. Your response was that you just disagreed with her.
Shirl, with all due respect, to me that sounded like an alcoholic, when confronted about her drinking, denying a problem exists. That kind of response is why people do interventions on others that they love. Because they are hurting themselves and each other by being in such enormous denial of the dangers that drinking is causing.
In this case, that you “disagree” will not change all the facts: there are no non-polluting iron ore mines; that the St. Louis River, because of MN mines, has 100 miles of dead zone where nothing grows, including the wild rice that people like Bad River depend on to live. That the water is contaminated by iron ore mines, and that the proposed mine in the Penokees will ruin the entire area’s watershed. What that means is, Bad River’s wild rice will die, and the fish will become inedible, which means the fishing industry in Lake Superior will eventually die as it is in the Gulf of Mexico right now because of the oil spill. (Do you like oysters? Well the Gulf spill killed most of the oysters in the Gulf, among the other fish down there.)
What it means for me and my family and friends on Madeline Island, who get our water from the Penokee Watershed, is that my well will become contaminated and eventually I will not be able to drink from it. Our economy on the island will whither and die. You think Hayward’s economy is poor? Come to the island where we have about 6 weeks a year for a tourist season before there is no other way to make money except working for the town, the ferry line or the local coffee shop.
A mine will mean our tourism will be extinguished because the entire south shore of the island faces directly at where the proposed mines will be. This means we will be subjected to blasting of 2 – 4 on the Richter scale 4 to 5 days a week, a 24 hour a day glow on the horizon, and quite likely Cline will build a coal burning power plant to power the mine. Would YOU rent a home on the shores of Madeline if you would be subjected to blasting all day long on the scale of a large earthquake?This means air pollution from the possible coal burning plant, on top of the what the mine will produce, will cloud our air and make it dangerously unhealthy to breathe. This means my home value will plummet even greater than it has, and there will be nothing for me anymore here except a house I can’t sell, water I can’t drink and air that is dangerous to breathe and no way to make a living. It also means that my grandchildren will never be able to enjoy the clean water I now have in my well, or the beautiful water in Lake Superior, or the unparalleled quiet we value here.
For you to tell me I am an “environmental extremist” is not only wrong, but terribly unfair. What if it were your home value, your water, your air and your neighbors being threatened, and I told you that you just had to live with it? What if you had this very real threat and I told a committee that I just “disagree” with the very real threat to your lives and the safety of your children? How would you feel?
And please explain to me how any number of jobs can justify destroying the Bad River Indians? Do you realize what life will be like for them if this mine goes in? It’s ten miles from their homes, and all the pollution will flow directly into their water, their lives. Are you willing to buy land there right now, before the mines goes in? Would YOU be willing to live that close to the mine? Imagine the unbearable noise from the blasting…can you imagine how little your home will be worth sitting at the foot of a 4 mile open pit iron ore mine? And what will they eat when they can no longer harvest the wild rice and eat the fish?
How can you, with any good conscience, tell me that you “disagree” and you are going to be actively working for this mine, when it will destroy the rest of us? I know you disagree, but your disagreement of the truth does not make it go away.
No number of jobs justify the genocide of Bad River Indians, or the destruction of my town’s entire economy. If you still disagree with this, then you show your true colors clearly. And for me, someone who ignores these horrific possibilities in favor of your own personal profit is either greedy, uneducated or evil. You did not strike me as that kind of person, but what else am I to think, if I plead the truth and you tell me I am wrong? Sorry to be so frank but if you were in our shoes, you might not disagree.
So please, I tell you first, there will be no mines for these reasons. We who live on the watershed and on the shores of Lake Superior have said the same things: this land and water are not ours, we are the stewards and protectors of it. We are gaining momentum and power, and we will stand strong to not allow these mines to come because they will destroy this region forever.
We will lay down our lives for this because without the water and air we have no lives up here. The mines will kill us. Sorry, your disagreement will not change the truth. And I cannot afford your disagreement. Will you be willing to die to get the mines in? Will you be willing to lay down your life?
I didn’t think so.
Second, why not join us? We have many ideas for economic development for our region that you and Hayward could share in that won’t kill your neighbors. But don’t look to our state government to help us right now. They are doing everything they can to deny economic growth so they can claim the mines are the answers. We were all set to bring wind power in, but they decided it was too dangerous.