Monday, March 10, 2014

Permitting Pollution

Minnesota Public Radio asked the following question – “Are you confident the proposed PolyMet mine would avoid polluting Minnesota’swater?

My answer follows.  

Having worked for 30 years in the environmental field, I have come to understand that environmental regulations are not designed to prevent industry from polluting; they are actually designed to permit industries to pollute.  The goal of the writers of these permits is of course to encourage the mine operators to manage the pollutants as best they can, so as to not cause any immediate threats to the surrounding ecosystem out of which the mine will be carved. 

But pollution will occur despite our best attempts to manage it; even if there were no accidents, no equipment failures, or no operational negligence along the way.  Therefore, as long as a mine is permitted to occur, it will pollute.  And those pollutants will get into the people, plants, and animals that depend on that ecosystem for their life. 

The process will begin when the land which is to be mined is cleared off all life that exists there.  Runoff from the now denuded and disturbed landscape will begin to be carried off the site by stormwater and wind, despite permit requirements that require the mine to "control" this runoff with best management practices. 

The equipment used to clear the site, and mine the mine, will pollute the air when the fossil fuels that power the equipment is burned in the engines the move the equipment.  The pollution laden exhausts will then expand into the atmosphere, where the pollutants will dissolve or be suspended in the moisture in the air, where eventually some of them will fall to the ground and run into our surface and ground waters.

As the mining process continues, the overburden from the mine will be stockpiled, and when the rains and the winds contact it, sediments containing minerals and heavy metals that have been sealed in the earth will be exposed to the biosphere, and the pollutants they contain will again continue to run off the site, again despite any best management practices or treatment required by a permit.  Sure these practices will again prevent some pollution from running off site, but no best management practice or treatment system is 100% effective.  And the reality is that any treatment system used to treat the runoff will require more fuel to operate it, resulting in more pollutant containing exhaust to be released into the air.  

Eventually the mine will reach the groundwater levels.  And when the natural biological and physical filtration system that took billions of years to be placed is removed from the site, some of the sediments containing minerals and heavy metals that are mobilized in the mining process, and some of the equipment fuel or lubrication fluids that spill in the mine will find their way into the groundwater, again despite any requirements that the permit specifies to minimize these impacts or cleanup the spills.

And then when the mining process is finished, and hopefully the mine is “reclaimed” the metals and minerals and sulfates that will remain will continue to leach into to the groundwater and stormwater that contacts them.  And again, any treatment systems or management practices required by a permit will only remove a portion of the pollution they contain, the rest will be released back into the surrounding ecosystem and the now permanently changed ecosystem of the “reclaimed” mine. 

So the only way to be confident that the proposed PolyMet mine would avoid polluting Minnesota’s water, would require the concluder to not understand the permitting and mining process.

The question I have – is pollution of our ecosystem worth the benefits of some short-term jobs, some metals to make some more stuff, some tax money for the state, and potentially huge profits for the mining company?

 If your answer is “yes”, I would ask – is this the best we can do?   

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Keynote Address at The Nobel Peace Prize Forum, March 1st, 2014

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Keynote Address at The Nobel Peace Prize Forum, March 1st, 2014, Minneapolis, MN 

Brothers and sisters.  Indeed, I am very honored to have this opportunity to talk. I always consider myself, as one of the seven billion, humanity, human beings.  Wherever I go, and meet people, firstly I look, there are human brothers and sisters.  I myself was just like them – emotionally, mentally, physically – so that kind of attitude.  Recalling my own experience when I was young, sometimes I consider myself firstly Tibetan, then Buddhist, then Dalai Lama.  So that kind of attitude actually creates more anxiety.  And much anxiety sometimes creates pretension.  And pretension sometimes creates hypocrisy. No use.  
So originally, I sort of come to closer, the basic level, the reality, we are the same human being.  Then I can easily communicate with the audience.  So through that way, we can touch heart to heart.  So on the human level no differences, no barrier.  
Secondary level, so then of course I am Tibetan, I am Buddhist, like that.  Then there are differences. If there are too much emphasizes on secondary level of differences, then the concept of we and they, become stronger.  There is actually, the social problem.  Make division, we and they, and telling lies, cheating, exploit, bullying, finally killing!  
So today’s world, 7 billion human beings, reality each person’s future depend on rest of humanity, humanity, humanity – peaceful, happy, more prosperity.  Each individual yet makes some benefit, not a problem, the humanity level. How can individual really be happy person?  Difficult.  
So the human right, the concept of human right, also now very much now everyone want that.  Any person, all have same right, because all want happy life, do not want suffering, and everybody have right to achieve happy life.  So I think, the very concept of human right, is actually very much related with sense of oneness of 7 billion human beings.  Then also I think that human right, of course animals also have their right.  Even flowers, plants also have their own right to exist.  
But then we human being, we have this, I think unique thing – creativity.  So for human development, human creativity is the key factor.  So in order to utilize fully, about individual creativity, see you need freedom, you need right.  I think human right, or right or freedom, does not mean negative sight, harming, killing, or bullying – no.  I think basically we take for granted, we human being, we come from our mother.  We’ve grown up, with mother’s affection.  So basically 7 billion human beings all have experienced, joyful, joys, when our mother shown us affection.  
So children who received maximum affection, I think their experience remained general intent.  Unfortunately some cases, unwanted children, lack of, I mean receive lack of affection, I think whole life, deep inside, some kind of suspicion, fear.  Known as outwardly successful, but deep inside, some kind of insecure, sense of insecurity there.  So whole life, become an unhappy person.   So we, therefore hundreds of human beings we have, you see that sort of state, a mental attitude.  
So our basic nature is more gentleness.  Some would call human right.  I think they for granted, use human right, and more disturbances, and more sort of, complications or troubles.  I don’t think, isn’t it?  So then, then in order to carry, our basic, our experience loving kindness.  It seems now clear, when we were very young, the experience of affection was very, very alive, very necessary.  Necessary for us, necessary.  
Then gradually, grownup, say I think teenage, teenage, firstly joined school.  I think unfortunately our existing education system, very much oriented about material value.  Not much talking about basic human value.  So, education only talk about, materially successful, or like that, materialistic sort of life.  Then the whole generation, will come from that, their whole sort of way of thinking, more immediately sticks about that oriented.  
So unfortunately, I think model society, I think develop materialistic culture, materialistic way of life.  So our basic sort of, the good points, the good qualities, then dormant, become dormant.  So that’s why I think among 7 billions, basically all happy, potentially showing affection to other.  And further more we are social animal.  Even animal, have mind quite simple, but because of the nature, see they also have some sense of the community, a sense of responsibility, work together.  Even like bees.  
I have some interest about bees because I love honey.  So sometimes I jokingly telling people, I too much consume honey.  So from the Buddhist viewpoint, my next life may become one bee.  Though fortunately - unfortunately now, accordingly to a medical checkup, in recent years, now they advise sugar, although no danger, but still as a precaution, better to reduce, sweet thing.  So then recently, in India, at a checkup, then they advised me that now I should not take honey.  So now I think they liberated the danger of my rebirth in bee, I think they did it.  
So you see look, you see that, we are social animal.  So sometimes our smart brain brings aggressive, greed, intolerance, you see then.  And then mean time, you see this, good quality is not further deployed, I think that’s why. I think merciless people, understand it.  All come from their mother.  All receive it, the maximum, mostly the maximum sort of affection.  But eventually you become such a person you see, no concern at all about others being, others right, others life!  
So now, already some my friends, some scientists, some educationists, really seriously talking, discussing, research work, how to introduce in modern education system.  Then the problem, modern ethics and also the value of affection in these, if you base it on religious faith, then it become narrow, the boundary.  Of course every religious sort of tradition, major tradition, all carry same message – message of love, compassion.  I read that - message of tolerance, forgiveness, all these there.  But then because of, you see, different philosophical views, it cannot be universally.  
So we need a new method, promotion of compassion, promotion of human value, which can be universally acceptable.  So now here India’s tradition, secular, secular concept.  For over 3000 years in India, secular means respect all religions, all religious traditions.  And also respect non-believer.  So the model of Indian’s constitution, based on secular.  
So in the West, you see some people, have this, sort of have this view, or opinion, that secular means little bit disrespect of religion.  That’s not the case in India.  So I think that secularly to promote these typical human value, I think are relevant.  Of course here you, discuss these things, think more.  And anyway, we really need effect of effort, to promote, effort see, mainly through awareness, through education – from kindergarten up through university level.   These deepen our value in order to become happy individual, happy family, happy community, happy humanity.  
And to your physical health also it is very much needed.  Some scientists, medical scientists, through their sort of research, now they found - constant fear, constant anger, hatred – actually eating our immune system.  On the other hand, a more compassionate mind, very, very helpful to sustain these, human system.  And it is quite clear; a more compassionate mind brings self-confidence, inner strength; than that of an individual’s fear, mistrust.  So fear, distrust is the basis of anger, jealousy, these things; so therefore it is quite clear.  
Then to further develop basic human values, the various religious traditions, over thousand, over three thousand years, all those great spiritual teachers, or masters, they said, they all you see, concerned with basically these human values – how to promote, how to strengthen.  Then you see, each spiritual leaders, at different time, different location, they used different philosophical views.  This is my view.  
Basically in India, 3000 years, theistic religions, non-theistic religions.  Theistic religion accept creator; non-theistic religions no concept of creator, but rather self-creation.  Within non-theistic religions, again we see different philosophical views.   Within theistic religions, also you see these differences.  Even, I think, three brothers traditions, I think, Judaism, Christianity, Islam; there are, within these philosophic families there are differences.  So therefore, it is very important to look at what is the purpose of these different philosophical views – say, at aiming, or promotion of basic human values, which brings happy life.  
Then there are no differences, no conflict; different area, even different climate, different way of life.  So at least there is some sort of, I think mental level, a little different mental disposition.  So we need different way of approach to promote these values.  So one is we look at the real purpose of these different religions traditions.  Then, we see, harmony, easily come; appreciate all different philosophical views. So obviously, many sincere practitioners’ – Christianity, Islam, Judaism – they are wonderful people. 
I think that as a matter of fact, I think the Christian brothers, sisters, I think they really made the greatest contribution, regarding education, and health of entire world.  In some remote area, I think you usually see people that don’t prefer to remain because of poor facility.  But these dedicated Christian practitioners, really sacrifice their own comfort, but still devoted to serving poor communities education and health.  All that sort of enthusiasm come from their faith.  I know Mother Teresa, a really dedicated lady.  And her followers, also you see, really dedicated people.  All their, such people, such determination, come from their faith.  So all religious tradition have the same potential, so their philosophy differences ok.  
Sometimes I, not disrespect, something like a super market, a religious supermarket.  The variety of philosophical views is helpful to a variety of people.  If one sort of shop, or restaurant, only selling one type of meat, day by day, month by month, I think customer, in particularly religious, more variety, more and more customers come.  
So similarly, I think different __ we need different way of approach.  So there if you look from that way, there harmony on the basis of mutual admiration, mutual respect, mutual learning.  Then can develop, that’s the real basis of harmony.  Harmony, not just a few nice greetings, no it’s not that way.  From here, admission, respect, appreciation – so that we can develop.  So that’s my main talk.