Mr Johnson highlights important points, but I don't think it's helpful to frame the argument as such an extreme either/or -- as the title of this article suggests.
I grew up in a mining region in Minnesota, and ever since the beginning (1900s) economic development and environmental degradation have gone hand in hand. There have been drastic changes in the landscape due to open pit or strip mining. At the current time, a major highway Interstate #53 is being rerouted because the mining company owns the mineral rights beneath it. A long time ago, a contract was made that if the company decides to take the minerals, the change of the roadway must be done at taxpayers' expense. This project involves a bridge over an old mine pit, and it will be one of the most expensive bridge projects ever.
The citizens of the region mostly support mining because they believe it is essential to sustaining their economic base. It pays for food, shelter, medical care, and everything. It's darn hard to say no to mining because mining has lifted people economically. There is plenty of evidence that mining has had a negative impact on health. For instance, mesothelioma occurs at a rate greater than the average population, and this happens because of the mining. From the beginning, miners have suffered safety risks and health impacts, and so do the people that live near the taconite plants.
Environmental justice is a good term to consider. The mining, fracking, and pipelines are not happening in the expensive neighborhoods. We don't dump hazardous waste in certain places. How do we make this more equitable and ensure that everybody has a healthy environment?
Right now, mineral development continues to be a controversial issue in northern MInnesota. A copper sulfide project is proposed, and lots of people rightly are opposed to it. I'm opposed to it. This project would be adjacent to the pristine wilderness of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, a federal reserve. It could ruin the BWCA and drinking water in three major watersheds. Sulfide contamination and acid run off endangers waters across the continent because the project lays on a three way continental divide, with waters flowing to Hudson Bay, St. Lawrence Seaway, and the Mississippi River.
A super wealthy corporation is very hard to stop. The resources they can devote to getting policy changes far exceeds the ability or influence of any individual person. Corporations are highly organized. They own the means of production and make a big profit. They are formidable, and this power has been abused. They do exploit both the environment and the workers. A community should not rely on one corporation to provide jobs. We've seen how unstable this is, and we see that the corporation or company does not take care of people as well as they should.
It is absolutely necessary to organize individuals in such a way to meet the challenges, to create a situation of equal influence and power. I would like to see a focus on small capitalism: economic development of small business that would provide a diverse economic base. The way through this incredibly complex issue is not by either / or statements. We have to acknowledge that human habitation and concomitant economic development usually causes changes to the environment. The challenges are energy and mineral use. We must find a way to both sustain ourselves AND maintain healthy ecosystems that support life.