And nobody knows…or nobody cares…
– Wallace McRae (“Things of Intrinsic Worth”)
My blood boiled after reading the April 26, 2013, L.A. Times piece, “In Montana, ranchers line up against coal,” (LA Times) not because Wally McRae is my friend, not because he’s been battling corporate coal miners since the mid-‘80s, but because it sounds so terribly familiar to our own thirteen-year rock and gravel battle on Dry Creek.
On the one side are the corporations, governments, towns and municipalities who expect to benefit from the growth derived from a one-time extraction of value, and they run the show. On the other are the Enviros and a few ranchers doomed to lose a generational livelihood of harvesting the renewable resources of grass and water with cattle. And with the loss of that livelihood, we all lose those elements of character and common sense that can only be acquired with hands-on experience of living with the land—things of intrinsic worth.
It’s really not a political battle of Democrats vs. Republicans, because the two parties are on the same side, because economic growth equates to votes, especially in hard times. Most of us involved in agriculture get paid once a year, and whether building a herd of cows or planting trees, we have to think in longer terms. Corporations think quarterly and local governments are always looking for the quick fix that growth promises, little thinking that after the infrastructure is in place, the opportunities for employment go away, leaving them poorer than before without the economic infusion that came from agriculture based on renewable resources.
Whether fracking in New England, oil exploration in the mid-West, or mining coal in the Powder River Basin, we’re all to blame for ravaging the earth for old energy sources when feasible alternatives are now available. Hauling coal nine miles through Wally’s ranch to be shipped overseas is more than an issue of eminent domain, but rings unpleasantly of Chinese Colonialism to me—but alas, now part of the price of a capitalistic planet.