A Message from Nature | Mining law protecting our waters at stake

MenomineeRiver
The Menominee River, a sacred body of water to the Menominee Tribe, is threatened by risk of pollution by the Back Forty mine. Photograph taken by Ken Lund.

ADELANA AKINDES | akind001@rangers.uwp.edu

Wisconsin already faces a plethora of water issues, but a new threat is on the horizon, and it won’t be kept at bay for much longer. The reason no one hears about mining in Wisconsin is because it currently doesn’t exist. After a long history of mining that resulted in environmental hazards, the “Prove It First” law was passed in 1998 that helped prevent harmful mines from further operation. However, development company Aquila Resources has its sights set on mining in Wisconsin, and a slew of Wisconsin senators and legislators has successfully assisted them in eradicating this law.

The thing is, mining was never banned outright. In order to operate a mine, though, a company would need to prove it wouldn’t be detrimental to the surrounding environment. However, they couldn’t just give empty promises. A company interested in mining would need to give a real citation of a mine that has successfully operated and shut down without contamination. Since the law passed, no mining company has been able to find one such example.

Sulfide mines are especially harmful, and they’re what Aquila Resources, a company with no prior mining experience, is interested in. The company is looking to mine gold, copper and zinc. Three sites—Back Forty, Bend and Reef—are all being proposed, the latter two would be right in the middle of Wisconsin. Instead of citing a safe sulfide mine, they have wooed Wisconsin leaders to do away with the precautionary law altogether, and it worked. AB 499 and SB 395, bills created for the sole purpose of undoing the Prove It First law, were passed on November 7.

It’s virtually impossible to not cause harm to the environment with this kind of mining. Waste rock treated with harsh chemicals would be abundant compared to the metals being mined for, and their deposits are highly likely to leach into ground and surface waters. Harmful chemicals such as sulfuric acid would be a byproduct of this activity, and all life in its proximity would be in danger. The mines are around for a short period of time compared to its aftermath.

Out of the three proposed mines, the Back Forty Mine, set to be located in Michigan right near the Wisconsin border, is the most controversial. The Menominee Nation, the indigenous people of Wisconsin who have resided in the area for thousands of years, was never consulted about the mine. If they were consulted, perhaps Aquila Resources would have found out about the sacred burial sites in the proposed mining location. They may have learned about the Menominee creation story, which is within the mouth of the Menominee River itself. The sacred heritage of the Menominee people is at risk of irreversible desecration because of a short-term mining venture.

The people proposing the mining projects and the people who would benefit the most economically from its operation do not live where the mines reside. Even the senators of the Green Bay area, which is the area of Wisconsin closest to the Back Forty mine, have voted against the new bills. The people who live near the mines are going to suffer the most. Sulfide mines still remain a hazard to the environment, life, water, lands and people; a few measly bills do not change that fact.

Adelana Akindes is a junior majoring in environmental science and is treasurer of Parkside Environmental Club(PEC).

 

AB190 threatens all Americans

Joseph Canning | canni001@rangers.uwp.edu

Immigration has been a touchy subject in the United States for its entire history, but there are times when discussion regarding immigration flares into outright nativism. The recently proposed Wisconsin Assembly Bill 190 and Senate Bill 275 are emblematic of this country’s renewed nativist fervor fueled by reckless populism and misplaced fears.

The proposal

Both AB190 and SB275 make many of the same proposals, but each one is associated with a different house of Wisconsin’s government. Both were the result of collaboration between state Republicans in an attempt to manufacture a clone of Texas’ maligned SB4 bill that was halted in late August.

The bills threaten government subdivisions subordinate to the state government (i.e. local governments) with accumulating daily charges of up to $5,000 that come out of shared funding if they do not comply with laws and detainers ruled by US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. Additionally—and most controversially—the propositions permit and encourage public employees, including local law enforcement, to question immigrants on whether they have legally entered the country. These measures effectively turn any government employee into an ICE agent.

Legislating Injustice

Both bills are unjust: they trample on the privacy, dignity, and what tatters remain of the constitutional right of every citizen—immigrant or not—against unreasonable search and seizure. These proposals are completely counter to the lofty ideals held by the men who penned the Bill of Rights; they go against the greatest values instilled in the American spirit.

One’s constitutional rights as an American are something that should be treated with reverence and guarded closely. Americans’ rights have never been infringed upon so casually since the World Wars as they are in today’s age of terrorism, and any sign of them being eroded further warrants a fierce response.

Setting the precedent

Even if one is not themselves illegally present in this country, AB190 and laws of its essence should not be waved away as irrelevant to them. Precedent is commanding in lawmaking: politicians are adept at adaptation and appropriation. Again, AB190 is itself a derivative of SB4. The spirit of the law is something that must be upheld yet is much more ill-defined than is convenient.

The importance of precedence in law should also not be dismissed as a slippery-slope—it is a very real phenomenon.

Even though an individual may not be the target of legislation passed today, political change is inevitable and often unpredictable. A decade ago, who saw the thunderous resurrection of American populism on the horizon?   People change, policy changes, the zeitgeist is fleeting, but the decisions we make today based on it will resound forever.

After Vegas, A Reassessment of Values

JOSEPH CANNING

|canni001@rangers.uwp.edu

Joey

On the horrific night of Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, the worst mass shooting in the history of the United States sent the country’s citizens reeling and struggling to understand why this disaster had occurred. In less than an hour, one man had left 58 people dead and nearly 500 injured.

This tragedy, though shocking, was decades in the making. It was never a question if such a massacre would happen, but—rather—when our country’s ill-conceived laws and misconceptions regarding firearms would finally reach a breaking point.

How could this happen?

The United States is the nation in which the most mass shootings occur in the world, according to a 2016 study conducted by the University of Alabama, yet it is only third in total population.

Additionally, as stated by data from an independent research organization called the Small Arms Survey—the U.S. has the most privately-owned guns per capita in the world. It also has the most total firearms by many millions.

Well, once you see the plain facts of American gun violence, the question of how the seeds of the Mandalay Bay Massacre were planted is easily answered: the exceptional way Americans idolize guns allows firearms to be in the hands of violent individuals.

A deadly obsession

For most Americans guns are cool; they have a sort of sexy, rough-and-tumble, John Wayne-esque appeal that speaks to the American national identity, but it is about time we—as a society—work to reform that identity.

So many Americans see the ideal citizen of their nation as a rugged individual, a freedom-fighter, and it is true that guns grant individuals tremendous power, but this image breeds violence. Yes, we are a nation born in conflict; however, that conflict stemmed from the injustice and unfairness of British rule centuries ago. We just need to move on.

Despite the typical American paranoia, the government is not going to begin cracking its whip as soon as stricter gun restrictions are passed. Our political system certainly has problems, but it is amazingly resilient when compared to any other country in the world. Even though it can be hard to believe at times, we do have a well-oiled democracy.

Fears are grossly misplaced

Another component of American individualism is pride in civil rights. It is puzzling to consider then that Americans refuse to yield any gun ownership rights after decades of increasingly costly mass shootings, yet they are perfectly willing to sacrifice their rights in the face of the relatively benign, infrequent threat of foreign terrorism.

Perhaps now, after such a thoroughly reported and abrupt showcase of the damage easy access to firearms has wrought, Americans will finally reassess their idolatry of guns.

DNR Sec. no better than predecessor

JOSEPH CANNING | canni001@rangers.uwp.edu

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Dan Meyer

On Monday, September 25, 2017, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced that Republican, and former Northwoods area representative Dan Meyer would be Wisconsin’s new Secretary of Natural Resources.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is responsible for the conservation and protection of the state’s wildlife, land, water resources and public health.

In a statement on his website regarding Meyer’s appointment, Walker said, “he understands the balance between protecting our natural resources and supporting economic prosperity in our state.” However, the DNR during Walker’s governorship has never taken this balance of priorities into consideration before.

A broken institution

Meyer’s predecessor, Cathy Stepp, was also a Republican state representative. She came under sharp criticism for the reduction of various regulations as well as the removal of educational materials previously provided by the DNR.

Fines for environmental damage or misconduct reached a 30-year low during her time as secretary. It is highly unlikely Wisconsinites all decided to become tree-huggers, and her administration was infamous for its failure to enforce its own policies.

Water regulations were ignored an appalling 94 percent of the time during Stepp’s administration according to the Legislative Audit Bureau, a nonpartisan state organization that ensures the effective oversight of state policy.

Following the litany of controversy, Stepp finally announced her resignation in August after being offered a position in the Environmental Protection Act (EPA).

Business before nature

The gross mishandling of state environmental protections by Republicans has historically been fueled by business interests and other financial considerations. Stepp, for example, co-owned a construction company with her husband; her allowance of development on wetlands directly benefited her financially.

Governor Walker has had many of the same accusations of profiteering and conflict of interest thrown at him since he first assumed his office, so it is no surprise that his replacement for Stepp is yet another wealthy businessperson.

Meyer has already announced his intentions to the River News, a local Northwoods paper, that he will remain committed to benefitting the private sector which he feels is being neglected, though he gave no details.

Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) reported that at his first DNR meeting, the new secretary asserted the Northwoods offer enough opportunities for recreation, but that it was hard to make a living there. His address to the board was brief, and he was again reluctant to discuss any details regarding future plans.

More of the same

Meyer is a perfectly conservative option for a secretary who is determined to solve problems that do not exist and to allow Wisconsin’s environment to suffer so the affluent can profit from business enterprises like Foxconn. Walker and his cohorts will go as far as to endanger public health to stuff their own pockets.

U.S. must stand up for the Rohingya

Joey

JOSEPH CANNING  | canni001@rangers.uwp.edu

In the final weeks of summer, a barrage of disasters has shaken the Americas, dominating news feeds and social media. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hammered the Caribbean and American South, but a tragedy unfamiliar to most Americans has been unfolding in Southeast Asia.

Unconscionably underreported in the west, heinous violations of human rights in Myanmar have been allowed to continue unhindered.

The victims

The Rohingya—a mostly Muslim population—form a large ethnic minority in Buddhist Myanmar and are the victims of what the UN and HRW have both recognized as ethnic cleansing. According to international children’s aid organization UNICEF, some 400,000 Rohingya men, women, and children have been forced into neighboring Bangladesh by Myanmar’s military as of September 14.

The violence and terror follows an August 25 attack on several Myanmar police posts by Rohingya insurgents, who use violence to try to win better rights for their people. Enraged, the military has taken it upon themselves to unleash a outpouring of violent reprisals against the civilian Rohingya population.

An ugly reality

Justifying their actions as a necessary response to terrorism, military gangs freely roam the country raping, killing, and robbing from the Rohingya. Entire villages have been burned to the ground.

Refugees reported to CNN that land mines have now been placed along Bangladesh’s border.

These appalling reprisals are not unprecedented: the Rohingya people have faced a long history of oppression and discrimination in Myanmar.

The country’s law has barred the Rohingya from citizenship, tracked their movement, and even attempted to limit their reproduction since the 1970’s.

Myanmar’s civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has stunned the world with her indolence in reigning in the military’s rampage.

A popular elected leader, she was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her commitment to democracy, but now she appears unsympathetic and complacent in the face of calamity.

Outcry in the east

Since word of the military crackdown first broke in late August, the Muslim world has shown vocal solidarity in their condemnation of the ethnic cleansing.

More than a million protesters rallied in Grozny, capital of the majority Muslim Russian subject of  Chechnya. Protests have also erupted around many Myanmar embassies.

International Muslim leaders were quick to label the situation in Myanmar as genocide and Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan promised the delivery of 1,000 tons of foreign aid. Interestingly, the Taliban expressed their sympathies as well.

America remains silent

On the morning of September 14, the EU joined the Muslim world in condemning Myanmar’s crimes. America’s leaders should be showing similar conviction to pressure Myanmar’s military.

Even if our leaders refuse to respond, one can always write to local and state leaders to urge them to do so. Donating to organizations such as the UNHCR and Red Cross also aid those most in need of respite. No people should be allowed to be swept aside as the Rohingya are.