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‘Enough,’ indeed: There’s no one female view on mining and the environment

SIDE LAKE, MINN. — In a recent Community Voices piece about the PolyMet draft environmental impact statement (EIS), Elanne Palcich beseeched women to stand up and say “Enough.”

So I stand before you and say “Enough!”

For my fellow women scientists and engineers, I cry “Enough!” Our female minds are rational, fact-based and view the world statistically, graphically and independently from the influence of male colleagues. We are well-educated, experienced professionals who are able to dispassionately review the PolyMet draft EIS. We operate under strict ethical codes of conduct as well as consciences that were formed in the generation of the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts. We understand risk assessment, risk management and accept our responsibility to minimize the consequences created by a consumer-driven society. We are working as professionals in industry, earning solid wages and the respect of our male coworkers as we battle together the challenges created by a global economy.

For my mining colleagues, men and women, I cry “Enough!” Mining has created our civilization and is the reality of a world requiring industrial-scale agriculture, water and wastewater treatment and simple, quality-of-life goods such as structurally sound houses. If it cannot be grown, it has to be mined. We are not able to select where the Earth’s minerals are found, but we are able to select as responsible citizens and consumers where and how we want these minerals to be mined.

We live in a global economy
The raw materials of civilization can be forged in Northern Minnesota, where there are environmental regulations and fair wages — or the mines can exist only in foreign countries with limited, if any, regulations to protect workers, their families and their ecosystems. We operate and live in not only a global economy, but also a global environment. Air currents and the hydrological cycle guarantee that contrary to the bacchanalia of Vegas, what happens in China most definitely does not stay in China. 

For those of us who live and breathe facts, I cry “Enough!” The facts are that while PolyMet may be headquartered in Canada, the employees making up the majority of the current workforce are Rangers who have their roots here and who will stay here whether or not this project moves forward.

The fact is that we live in a global economy in 2009. Other countries such as China are developing rapidly and either Rangers benefit from China’s growth through the sale of our resources or we choose to become dependent on a service-based economy that may not prove to be more sustainable for the Range in the long-run than a resource-based economy. The fact is that there are those of us who do not see destruction when we see a mine. We see the construction of homes, bridges, modes of transportation, communication devices and medical instruments. We recognize and applaud wise utilization of the Earth’s resources for the improvement of society.

Not going ‘along for the ride’
For my nieces who refer to their mom’s 1-ton, horse-trailer hauling, diesel-burning pick-up as the “chick truck,” I cry “Enough!” There are a lot of us women who refuse to be “along for the ride” in our lives. We are intelligent, we are strong, we are resourceful, we are independent and yes, we are feminine. Stereotypes may save time, but are painfully antiquated. The opportunities for my nieces as they grow up are abundant courtesy of the women who have refused to be labeled or placed in a teeny-tiny box of expectations. I would be honored to have them follow in my footsteps as an environmental professional on the frontlines, using technology and common sense to find a way to balance civilization’s need for mineral resources with the corresponding need for environmental stewardship.

For the men who are often unfairly lambasted, I cry “Enough!” You are protective husbands, fathers and neighbors who lace up your steel toes everyday to contribute your talents at the mines and contribute to your family’s financial well-being. Even with the recent economic downturn, you are still solid husbands and fathers providing emotional support for your family. You work alongside increasing numbers of young women where you mentor us and pass along your hard-earned knowledge to us. You encourage your wives and daughters in their career choices or cheer them on as stay-at-home moms.You are our teammates at home and in the workplace. Your children are the future of the Range and you strive to ensure that they have the ability to live and work here someday and raise your grandchildren. The children are yours too.

For the future of the Iron Range as more than a tourist destination, I cry “Enough!”

Julie C. Klejeski is an environmental professional on the Iron Range.

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