Sunday, June 17, 2012

Oppose the Pebble Mine

Centuries ago, the residents of Easter Island (Rapa Nui) erected the iconic huge stone heads that we all know. These massive stone heads were quarried, carved and eventually rolled on palm tree trunks to their mounting places. These heads now sit on a barren windswept island a thousand miles from anywhere. They sit as quiet reminders of a long departed culture. 

Easter Island was once home to a affluent people. Their lives were rich from the bounty the land and surrounding seas provided. So rich that they had time for the excesses that often come with successful societies. For the islanders, the stone heads provided a way to compete with rival clans... to show off, if you will. But in their zeal to outdo their peers, they cut down all the palm trees on the island such was the importance of their statues.

This was not a very foresightful society. Their excesses and ignorance destroyed their environment and ultimately their culture. The Rapanui’s demise is a textbook example of the senseless absurdities and ultimately self destructive practices of which humans can all too often immerse themselves. Their egos drove them to seek status through these adornments and in the process they destroyed what sustained them. It should not be a surprise to us. You’d think we would learn from them and be wise enough not to repeat the mistakes of these “primitive” people. You would think we would not ignore the warning signs and continue such practices until nothing is left.

But alas, in Alaska, the Pebble Mine is pushing hard to mine gold in one of the most important spawning grounds for Pacific salmon in the world. This Pebble Mine is not just a mine. It would be the world’s largest open pit mine, situated just upstream of a renowned salmon fishery that bolsters a $300 million economy on its renewable resources. These resources have been the livelihood and lifeblood of thousands of native Alaskans for centuries, and still is today.

In the mine owner’s greed and blind pursuit of wealth they justify their actions because such a mine is “good for the economy”. The Pebble Mine owners (Canada's Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. and London-based Anglo American) seem perfectly willing to do exactly the same thing the Easter Islanders did, namely destroy their all important resources for adornment and a trivial need for status.

I believe this project is absurd and should be halted immediately. The Pebble Mine will ultimately poison the Bristol Bay fishery. It will destroy both the sport and commercial fisheries that are sustained by this important spawning area. This mine will be bad for us as a species for if we can’t say no to the Pebble Mine, what can we say no to?

I applaud those who fight this project especially the many jewelry companies who have agreed not buy any gold coming from the Pebble Mine. More than 30 jewelers now oppose the mine and their boycott represents sales of more than $6 billion in annually. Companies who oppose the mine include Zales and Tiffany & Co. I urge all my fellow anglers, hell anyone who loves this earth, to back these companies. Let them know you approve of the stand they have taken... it will matter!

The opposition to the mine is shared and best summed up by these representatives of the sport and commercial fishermen:
Robin Summers, representing Trout Unlimited, said: 
“We’re not anti-development, but in this case, the risk of a catastrophic disaster simply outweighs the potential benefits. If ever there was a case where the EPA was justified in using its powers to prevent a project from happening, this is it.”

Bob Waldrop, with the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, said: "The area's salmon, which come back year after year, are worth much more. All the other river systems that supported huge salmon runs, the Columbia, the Sacramento, the Fraser, have collapsed."
"This one stands alone," Waldrop said of Bristol Bay. In 2008, commercial fishermen were paid between $160 million and $180 million for Bristol Bay salmon.
"Pebble is bad business," Waldrop said. "Why risk fish for fashion?"
Amen Robin and Bob!

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